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Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality
By Nanci Des Gerlaise
Chapter by Chapter Synopsis
1/A Medicine Man’s Daughter: In this chapter, Nanci describes her childhood on a Métis settlement in Canada, growing up with 15 siblings. Nanci’s life was often filled with terrifying experiences resulting from the family’s history of occultic mystical practices. Her grandfather and later her father were medicine men. The chapter also tells some historical events of the Canadian Native American, such as the Frog Lake Massacre, which was part of the “Northwest Resistance.” Nanci also describes the residential schools, one of which her mother attended as a child, where Native children were taken from their parents’ homes and forced to live in these schools. Often, these children were subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse by the Catholic nun and priest schoolmasters.
2/ Religious Influences: Nanci grew up with a mixture of Roman Catholicism, occultism, and Native Spirituality. From séances and sorcery to the eucharist and rosaries, there was a little of every kind of religious influence in her home. When tragedy strikes Nanci’s family, it is the first time she really begins to evaluate her life.
3/ Life and Work “Inside the Wire”: Eventually, Nanci becomes employed with the Canadian prison system as a correctional officer. This chapter gives the reader a glimpse of what life is like for both officer and prisoner. It also reveals how the prison system accommodates political “correctness” by allowing inmates to perform their religious practices, even if those practices are of an occultic nature.
4/ Light in the Midst of Darkness: Nanci backtracks here and tells about her mother’s passing and how she and her siblings were virtually left to fend for themselves, with some of them ending up in foster homes for a season. After years of hardship, alcohol, prescription drugs, and failed relationships, Nanci is introduced to Jesus Christ, to whom she gives her life and heart. She hopes and prays that her medicine man father might too find salvation before he dies.
5/ A Counterfeit Versus the Real Thing: From here, the book moves from the biographical into the roots and beliefs of Native Spirituality. In chapter 5, Nanci talks about two sources of power (Satan and God) but only One source of truth, and how we, whether Native or non-Native, have a sneaky adversary who seeks constantly to deceive us. Throughout the rest of the book, Nanci quotes many Scriptures that back up her warnings and exhortations. Here, in chapter 5, she talks more about the mixture of Catholicism (works) and Native Spirituality (occultism) and the dangerous consequences of such a combination. She also explains how Native Americans have been very wounded and are bitter because Catholicism was forced upon them for so long, leaving many of them to erroneously equate Catholicism with true Christianity. This chapter has an excellent comparison chart: The Biblical View versus the Native Spirituality View (e.g., Creation, Salvation, Sin, etc.)
6/ New Age Elements in North American Native Spirituality: Chapter 6 is like a mini-encyclopedia of the elements of Native Spirituality and how they coincide with New Age beliefs. This extensive chapter is of utmost value and importance as it unveils the nature behind beliefs like: panentheism, animism, neo-paganism, and feminism. It also talks about the Native Spiritual view of the afterlife, ancestral and animal spirits, and curses while describing things like dream catchers and medicine wheels (which are becoming popular in some mainstream Christian groups). The chapter gives a fascinating history of “Peyote and the Native American Church” and explains what powwows, potlatches, and other activities are. Smudging, sun dances, and sweat lodges are also discussed.
7/False Christs, Plastic Shamans, & Mother Earth: Chapter 7 covers some vital information. It gives an account of the Ghost Dance Messiah (Wovoka), a false christ within the Native American culture, and how he became the “Jesus” to many Native Americans during the Ghost Dance Movement (founded in 1890). Also discussed thoroughly is shamanism. A lot of people don’t realize what shamanism is even though forms of it have been introduced into Christianity and western culture. The chapter tells the stories of two shamans who found Jesus Christ and testify of the Gospel today. It explains what Mother Earth and goddess spirituality are and how the United Nations and even Christian leaders, such as Rick Warren, are playing into the hand of a one-world, end-time world peace.
9/Can Cultures Be Redeemed?: Probably the most controversial chapter, Nanci asks and answers the question (using many Scriptures) “Can entire cultures be redeemed?.” She biblically challenges the Indigenous People’s Movement, a movement that says that God can be found in all cultures and that becoming “Christian” and leaving one’s cultural religious practices behind isn’t necessary. Exposing the teachings of IPM leaders such as YWAM and Daniel Kikawa (Perpetuated in Righteousness), Nanci leaves no doubt that this “Cultural Identity” movement is harmful and goes against the Word of God. She also addresses the issue of missionaries. IPM leaders say they have done no good for the Native Americans. Nanci shows otherwise. She also asks the question, is the God of the Bible the “Great Spirit” or Allah and shows how the Bible identifies the names of God and does not include names used by pagan cultures.
10/Living Waters: This final chapter gives practical and biblical advice to those who have been involved in some type of occultism, mysticism, or Native Spirituality. Using Scripture and suggested ways to pray, Nanci shows how those under demonic oppression from past activities can be set free and given new life in Christ. She talks about the armor of God and how vital it is for the believer’s life.
(From chapter 10) “God is in the process of renewing the mind of a believer and making him aware of what is pleasing and displeasing to Him. A great deal of the New Testament talks about putting to death the evil deeds of the body by the Spirit (Galatians 5, Romans 6, 8, Colossians 3) as well as renouncing and fleeing from the works of darkness. Repentance is a process that really means turning around in the mind and going in the complete opposite direction. And only God’s Word, through the power and illumination of the Holy Spirit, can transform our minds (see Romans 12:2).”
Afterword: It’s clear, by reading Muddy Waters that Nanci loves her Native American people. Her heart is that they might come to know the Savior who rescued her. She has written from this standpoint, with the hope that many will see the difference between the true Gospel and false religion. Here, in the Afterword, she excerpts Egerton Ryerson Young, a young missionary in the late 1800s, who lived among the Cree people of Manitoba for many years.
Terminology: Several terms, such as Métis and Treaty Indians, are defined.
Appendix I: Unequal Contenders in the Spiritual War: Comparison charts between God, man, and Satan.
Appendix II: Names for God: A five-page list of the names used for God in the Bible. A great resource.
Appendix III: The Story of Maskepetoon: A special bonus – the story of a Cree chief from the 1800s, Maskepetoon, who it turns out was connected to Nanci’s family long ago and was, himself, greatly affected by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.