Native Americans: Ghosts & Spirits

Native Americans: Beliefs in Ghosts & SpiritsNative American spiritual beliefs hold rich accounts of ghosts and spirits - that the dead live on and even visit us. Death is typically viewed as a door into the next life, or world, and not something to be feared but embraced.

"We believe that the spirit pervades all creation and that every creature possesses a soul in some degree, though not necessarily a soul conscious to itself. The tree, the waterfall, the grizzly bear, each is an embodied force, and as such an object of reverence." - Ohiyesa, Sioux 1902 (aka Charles Eastman)

The Native American belief in spirit (and ghost) visitation can be found in an amazing speech made in 1854, by Chief Seattle:

"And when the last red man shall have perished from the earth and his memory among white men shall have become a myth, these shores shall swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children shall think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway or in the silence of the woods, they will not be alone." - Chief Seattle, 1854

This incredible Native American idea of spirit interaction with the living, what we call spirits or ghosts, could be understood as meaning that Chief Seattle's people (Suquamish) will be with us, for we are all connected as one, great humanity - brothers. However, his address from 1854 is also haunting as we continue to read his words for he seemed to give a warning that, in the afterlife, ghosts and spirits affect the living:

"The white man will never be alone. Let him be just and lindly deal with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead - I say? There is no death. Only a change of worlds."

We might say that Native American beliefs in the afterlife reveal a hidden, spirit world that interacts with this earthly plane - a greater, underlying connection that exists before our eyes - many remaining unaware of its existence. Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux medicine man, had much to say about the unseen world of Spirit co-existing with the physical world we know:

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when theyrealize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

"The Great Spirit is everywhere; he hears whatever is in our minds and our hearts, and it is not necessary to speak to him in a loud voice."

This idea of a Great Spirit being everywhere and within everything is the meaning behind Black Elk's words. Here are two more quotes from this great Native American:

“Peace will come to the hearts of men when they realize their oneness with the universe. It is everywhere.”

“The Holy Land is everywhere.”

Another example of this idea is reflected in the story of how the great warrior, Crazy Horse, was said to have found his courage and strength. According to the book, Black Elk Speaks, Crazy Horse shared with Black Elk his vision that occurred in the spirit world:

“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.”

Crazy Horse also described his horse floating and moving differently above the field (thus, "Crazy Horse") in his powerful vision. It's been said that he was able to move in and out between the spirit realm and the physical world, able to see both, and so his courage and power was greater than most men.

Let's consider the concept that people can make a choice to move beyond this plane after death of the body but still interact with the living (at times, as loving, guiding spirits often seen in dreams and visions), or consistently remain behind, earthbound and troubled (what we would call ghosts). We can find this choice upon death of the body reflected in Native American beliefs by reading A Speech to the Dead by Native American (Luiseno) Chief Fox:

"Now this day you have ceased to see daylight.
Think only of what is good.
Do not think of anything uselessly.
You must think all the time of what is good.
You will go and live with our nephew.
And do not think evil towards these your relatives.
When you start to leave them this day you must not think backwards of them with regret.
And do not think of looking back at them.
And do not feel badly because you have lost sight of this daylight.
This does not happen today to you alone, so that you thus be alone when you die.
Bless the people so that they may not be sick.
This is what you will do.
You must merely bless them so that they may live as mortals here.
You must always think kindly.
Today is the last time I shall speak to you.
Now I shall cease speaking to you, my relative."

The following are other interesting stories and pictures that have to do with Native Americans, ghosts and spirits:
Spirit Horse Ghost Picture
Native American Ghost in Mirror Picture
Native American Ghost Face Photo
Native American Haunting Ghost Story
Destruction of Native American Culture