The Notion of the Body and the Path to Healing

By Bayu Kristianto.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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A great number of indigenous people in the United States, Canada, and Australia have suffered from pain and humiliation from the boarding school system intended to kill the native and save their humanity. They still continue to suffer from this trauma, and both the individuals and the communities to which they belong have to deal with numerous social ills caused by the broken sense of self and the inability to imagine a livable future. The gravity of the matter manifests in the form of prevalent suicide, the predominance of domestic violence, and widespread alcoholism, which are a testimony to the intensity of the psychological impair- ment. The colonial governments implemented the policy since they were fully aware that the way toward the total destruction of the native had to be directed to the weakest members of the communities, i.e. the children. I argue that what underlined this policy was the repugnance of the human body on the part of the proponents of the boarding school system, which led to the destruction of the native body aimed at saving the soul. The focus of this essay is on how Native American belief systems deem the body as a crucial part of their spiritual understanding. There are a lot of references to the body in multiple and dynamic forms in Native American religious concepts and practices. I will examine these concepts and practices and demonstrate the way toward healing, both for individuals and communities, which Native people have conducted, utilizing a healthy sense of the body, something that is relatively absent within Western religions and philosophy.

Keywords: Body, Soul, Spirit, Trauma, Healing, Boarding School, Belief-Systems, Religious Tradition, Metaphor, Colonization, Survival, Decolonization

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, 2012, pp.41-53. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 345.785KB).

Bayu Kristianto

Ph.D. Student, Native American Studies, University of California Davis, Davis, USA

Bayu Kristianto is an instructor at English Department, University of Indonesia. He received his BA from English Department, University of Indonesia, in 2001. He graduated with an MA degree from SUNY Buffalo in 2006, majoring in American Studies with a focus on Native American religion and philosophy. He is now pursuing a Ph.D. degree at Native American Studies, UC Davis. His research interests include Native American religion and philosophy, Native American history, Cultural Studies (on space and power), Western philosophy, the history of Christianity, and British, American, and Native American literatures. He is working on the notions of the land, the body, and the trickster, and how they are used in Native American literature as decolonizing strategies.