Everything’s Connected: A Look At Native Beliefs And Bad US Karma

Featured image: Assets by Ign on Shutterstock and GDJ on Pixabay. Edited in Affinity Designer.

 
 

4 for Now

The US has a long history of bad karma. (I’ve written about some of it here, here, and here.) While a lot of the doomsday chatter has been around climate change (for good reason), the karmic factor goes unheeded or at least, accepted as background noise, to our own detriment.

 

Most of us think we know karma: what goes around comes around.
There’s more to it than that, though.

 

Karma is the Sanskrit word for action, and it refers to the cycle of cause and effect. There are laws that govern it, including:

  • Be humble enough to accept your reality results from your past actions.
  • Everything is connected.
  • Focusing on many things can lead to frustration and negativity.

Good karma doesn’t cancel out bad karma.

 

If you’ve taken an action that has a negative consequence, you must experience it until it’s over. But if you take an action with a positive consequence, you get to experience that in its entirety.

 

The concept (a feature of both Hinduism and Buddhism) comes from India, but many Native Americans embrace similar concepts. While I haven’t explored the belief systems of all 574 federally recognized nations in the US (let alone those in the rest of North America and South America), some beliefs are common, including:

  • Many Native nations have stories teaching humility, respecting your place as part of creation.
  • Everything is connected.
  • Belief systems often focus on a few values (for instance, Four or Seven).
 

The Oglala cosmogenesis story includes a sacred being known as Škáŋ, the source of energy. He was the first cause in the universe. He doesn’t prohibit action, but he will point out the consequences of action. And good deeds cannot counteract wrongs from the past; results must play out.

 

Ceasing to act for the sake of one’s own gain separates you from this cycle.

As Tʿaté (the wind) told Wakanka (Old Woman): “Do right because it is right, and not to gain for yourself, and Škáŋ will know it.”

 

We can see the action-consequence cycle throughout the history of the US:

  • Removing the responsible stewards of the land has resulted in raging wildfires and other symptoms of climate change.
  • Slavery, oppression, and murder of fellow humans have resulted in intergenerational trauma for both the victims and the perpetrators.
  • Supporting and taking part in violence against other people has resulted in situations like 9/11 and January 6th.
 

Another law of karma states history will repeat itself until you learn from it and change your actions. So, let’s try something different:

  • Land Back can lead to positive outcomes for the environment and climate.
  • Antiracism can lead to improved interracial relationships and an end to perpetuating intergenerational trauma.
  • Mutual aid can lead to a stronger sense of camaraderie and healthier communities.
 

Karma is determined not only by your actions but also your intentions. Like Tʿaté said, don’t seek good karma for the sake of getting good karma. Do good because it is good, because you want to do good, and you’ll start building up good karma.

 

4 *Actions* for Later

Monday is Indigenous Peoples Day here in the US. While Indigenous cultures should be respected and celebrated every day, it’s a good reminder of some ways to generate some good personal karma. (Mind your intentions!)

  1. Buy from Indigenous creators.
  2. Donate to Indigenous individuals or organizations.
  3. Listen to Indigenous people, don’t assume you know them through stereotypes and whitewashed tales. (See the bottom of this post for recommended follows.)
  4. Appreciate their culture instead of appropriating it. Learn from credible sources, participate only when invited to do so, and buy authentic goods rather than commercialized reproductions.