Christian Native Americans not only have their way of celebrating Jesus Christ and his teachings, but they also enjoy sharing their worship times with others and teaching them their ways.
November is Native American Heritage Month, a commemoration some churches in the Florida United Methodist Conference embrace each year, including Wesley Memorial UMC in St. Petersburg.
“We are trying to do another drum circle Sunday this year, but we are having trouble getting on their calendar,” said Pastor John Ekers. “The traveling drum goes between Florida and Georgia, and it is in high demand.”
The month serves as both a celebration of Native Americans and a chance to tell their story.
“Every day is a good day to learn about Native People, communities, and issues,” according to First Nation, a nonprofit organization meant to spread the truths about Native Americans. “During this month, we invite allies to learn more about the contributions of native people to American society.”
Native American Heritage Month dates to 1915, when Red Fox James, of the Blackfoot Nation, rode a horse from state to state seeking approval from 24 state governments for a day to honor the American Indian.
“I think it’s important that we recognize all the diversity that we have,” said Ekers. “We are all God’s children, and we need to accept that and rejoice in that.”
People at his church learned new ways to celebrate Christ, and he urges other congregations to try it as well.
“We had had a small drum circle maybe ten years ago, and this last year they brought the big traveling drum,” he said. “That helped people in understanding and recognizing the Native American traditions. We’ve always had one or two members who were Native Americans, and it is good to recognize some of the differences.”
Christa Berger, who attends Wesley UMC, brought the drum group to the church last year to tell others of the Native Americans’ love for Jesus and how they incorporate their Christianity with their tribal customs.
Ekers took advantage of the lessons, even attending a sweat lodge.
“In a sweat lodge, there is the fellowship you would have around the campfire,” he said. “Then, you get into the tent, and they put the sweat rocks in.
“It’s kind of like a sauna. It is all done in a quiet, meditative, religious environment. You were not in there to joke around, but to reflect and meditate and metaphorically let the steam cleanse you.”
During the sweat lodge, the Native Americans talk about how they recognize Jesus and how they tell their stories of faith. They share stories about the eagle and why its feathers are important to their people. They also tell stories of the drum, Ekers said.
Native Americans consider the eagle and its feathers a symbol of the highest, bravest, strongest and holiest. Members of the tribe receive eagle feathers as an honor.
The beating of the drum symbolizes the connection between Mother Earth and God, Ekers said.
As the drum vibrations go through those listening, it symbolizes making a connection with Mother Earth, Ekers said. “With the Earth and with God.
The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church offers help for any church looking to incorporate the message this month. Visit https://www.flumc.org/newsdetail/november-is-native-american-heritage-month-12970881.
15th Annual Native American Gathering
Please join us, April 17-19, 2020 at the picturesque and relaxing Camp Horizon located at 7369 Sunnyside Dr. Leesburg, FL 34748. Come and be blessed through uplifting Native style worship, music, inspired teaching, and great fellowship. Guest speakers are Barry Lee and Barbara Andrews-Christy of Spirit Wing.
SPONSORED BY: The FL Conference United Methodist Churches, The FL Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), The American Indian Christian Circle—Thonotosassa, FL, The American Indian Christian Circle—Lake County, FL, The GA-DU-GI Christian Circle—Plant City, FL. Nene Hutke Ceremonial Grounds—Tallahassee, FL
Click here to register for the 15th Annual Native American Gathering. Deadline to register is April 4, 2020.