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Can We Wear Native American Symbols?

LR writes: "A First Nation person told me that, although a lot of native Christian people use native art (totem poles, dances to the spirit world, symbols of eagles, ravens, whales, wolf) etc., these are not of God, not sanctioned by God and should be avoided (and burned if you have them). She said these represent old pagan beliefs (God is all creation, when a raven speaks to you it is sharing of creation). Is there a problem wearing a sweater with a large eagle native form on the clothes, and such?"

totem poleNo, wearing a sweater with an eagle native form on it is not a problem. It only becomes a problem when you attribute some kind of power to that symbol. Then you're wandering into the realm of idolatry.

The Catechism teaches: "Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, 'You cannot serve God and mammon.' Many martyrs died for not adoring 'the Beast' refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God" (No. 2113).

This applies to all of the practices you mentioned - the totem pole, dances to the spirit world, symbols of eagles, ravens, whales, etc.

However, as this publication from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe explains, "the Church encourages inculturation of the Native traditions which are in harmony with the Catholic faith and speak to Native Americans in special ways" (emphasis added).

The bottom line is that it all depends on how the person is using these rituals and art and if they are appropriating a power that belongs to God to anything other than Him.

 

 

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