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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
56 / A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
Indigenous People & Animals
by Allen and Linda Anderson
The bond between animals
and indigenous people is as
long and strong a relationship
as any on earth. Animals have
provided for the physical needs
of humans throughout history.
Their roles as companions and
guardians are accepted as es-
sential. But the evidence of ani-
mals as spiritual partners with
humanity hasn't been as well
documented. It always seems to
come as a surprise to scientists
when they find that animals have
played vital roles in the religious
traditions and spiritual lives of
ancient peoples.
Why would remains of dogs
be buried in tombs with people?
Dody Fugate, assistant curator of
the Museum of Indian Arts and
Culture in Sante Fe, New Mexi-
co, says she thinks it is because
animals' and ancient Native
Americans' lives were inextri-
cably intertwined. In an article
by Stefan Anitei of softpedia.
com, Fugate is quoted as telling
National Geographic News, "I'm
suggesting that dogs in the New
World in the Southwest were
used to escort people into the
next world."
A Native American legend
portrays dogs as freely choos-
ing to become companions to
people. About 12,000 years
ago, friendlier wolves who were
shunned by their pack, began to
wander into Native American
camps. Because dogs welcome
pack leadership, they fit in well
with the indigenous people's hi-
Soon Native Americans were
breeding dogs to fulfill roles as
loyal protectors, hunters, find-
ers of missing people, and pack
animals who pulled heavy loads.
Along the way dogs became
children's playmates and fam-
ily members with names to fit
their personalities, talents, and
personalities. ("The History of
Dogs and Native Americans,"
Dogs and other animals took
on spiritual roles in Native Amer-
ican culture when shamanism,
an ancient healing religion, be-
gan teaching about power ani-
mals or totems. Tamara Warta
writes in "Find Your Power Ani-
mal and Change Your Life" (June
16, 2008,,
"The animals are truly believed
to be a help and healer to any-
one who seeks them out and are
considered to be a major path
toward spiritual and emotional
Shamanism explains that ev-
eryone is thought to have power
animals, or animal spirits, that
live in the soul and protect and
imbue us with their wisdom.
Two of the most powerful to-
tems are the horse and the owl.
To find your power animals you
must meditate for as long as it
takes in order to grasp which
ones have a special purpose
in your life. You don't choose
your totem, though. Warta says,
"Shamanism teaches that pow-
er animals actually select you,
meaning you can't pick a bear
simply because you like bears."
Animals have always been
part of the indigenous African
experience. They're often viewed
as mysterious creatures to be
feared and conquered for their
power. Although modern cities
make Africa a continent of con-
trasts, tribal customs continue
to hold sway over even the most
sophisticated citizens. Some of
these traditions involve longheld
beliefs about animals.
Years ago, we received the
story below "God's Love and
the Snake" from Samuel Dufu
of Tema, Ghana, West Africa. It
is included in our book "Angel
Animals: Divine Messengers of
Miracles," New World Library.
"I was born in 1939 and lived
in a farming community town-
ship in the then Gold Coast, now
Ghana. When I was three years
old, I remember my grandmoth-
er carried me on her back every-
where she went. One day, she
set me down under an orange
tree on her farm. She plucked
some oranges, cut them up, and
put them in a bowl. I played with
the fruit while Grandmother
worked 30 feet away, weeding
the patches of plantain, cassava,
and corn.
"As I sucked on the juicy or-
anges, I threw the peels away a
few feet from me. With a child's
curiosity my eyes scanned the
tufts of nearby vegetation until
I noticed something moving in
the brush. As if out for a leisure-
ly stroll, a long, yellowish snake
came toward me and stopped
where I'd thrown the peels.
I was fascinated by my visi-
tor and tossed more slices to
him. The snake reciprocated my
friendship by staying around and
sucking on the sweet fruit. This
interaction went on for about 10
minutes before my grandmother
overheard me jabbering to my
new playmate.
"Grandmother approached
me stealthily. She was astound-
ed to see a deadly snake, slowly
sucking on oranges, within biting
distance of her precious grand-
child. At lightning speed, she
screamed and whisked me away.
My new friend bolted, probably
wondering, as I did, what had
caused all this commotion.
"All the way home, my grand-
mother's scolding made it clear
that snakes are one of our dead-
liest enemies. Because I had
known no natural fear and even
made friends with the fruit-lov-
ing snake, a rumor started and
spread throughout my family
that I was endowed with spe-
cial powers as a snake charmer.
A few years later, I was taught
at school and through the oral
tradition of our tribe that snakes
are dangerous. I then realized
the grave danger I'd been in as
a toddler and developed a great
fear of snakes.
"Because of the special spiri-
tual education I've had over the
last 20 years, I now understand
that divine love was at play be-
tween two souls -- the snake
and me. This love left no space
for fear. The snake advanced,
knowing that I had no intention
of harming him but that I only
offered love by sharing what I
I entertained and encouraged
the snake to stay because I had
no fear he would bite me. We
both enjoyed a friendly moment
until my grandmother introduced
fear into the harmonious atmo-
sphere. This led to my replacing
love with mistrust and hate. My
experience with the snake has
taught me that indeed, love con-
quers all. So it also is with the
human family."
Whether it is the study of Na-
tive American, African, or any
other indigenous tradition,a
common thread emerges: peo-
ple throughout the world look
to animals for the wisdom to
replace fear with love.
Allen and Linda Anderson are
founders of the Angel Animals Net-
work and authors of a series of books
published by New World Library about
the spiritual connection between peo-
ple and animals. The Angel Animals
Network 2010 True Story Contest is
now accepting true stories of animals
helping children, parents, & families
deal with difficult situations and cir-
cumstances. Enter the new contest and
subscribe to the free, online "Angel
Animals Story of the Week" newslet-
ter at become
fans of Angel Animals on Facebook
and follow @angelanimals on Twitter.
If you wish the world to
become loving and
compassionate, become
loving and compassionate
yourself. If you wish to
diminish fear in the world,
diminish your own.
These are the gifts you
can give.
-- Gary Zukav,
The Seat of the Soul