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The Kainai Nation - Spiritual Life

Kainai medicine man

It is inaccurate to speak of Kainai spiritual life as an individual element, as this implies that Kainai religious belief was compartmentalized into a separate arena from other daily activities. To the Kainai, spiritual life was life: Kainai spirituality touched every aspect of daily living.

The foundation of Kainai spiritual belief spoke of the relationship between the people and the natural world. The land, with all of its bounty, was a gift given to the Kainai people from the Creator. The Kainai, in turn, respected and protected the gift they had been given, for they knew that everything they depended upon for survival came from the land. All elements of the natural environment, from the plains bison to the rivers to the trees and plants that grew in the valleys and plains, were something to be reverenced. The gift of the land was only to be used as needed. Waste and needless destruction of nature was seen as disrespectful to the Creator, and Kainai stories often recount that such thoughtlessness was followed by a loss of the resources they depended on for survival.

In a manner that was similar among all the Blackfoot Peoples, the Kainai believed that the spirit world was a source of guidance and wisdom, and that Spirit Beings taught the Kainai the proper ceremonies and rites with which humans could contact the Spirits for guidance. Communion with the spirit world was facilitated by those who held medicine bundles. Medicine bundles were small parcels of sacred artifacts that were used in ceremonies to establish the connections with the spirit world.

The Sun Dance, a major spiritual ceremony for the Kainai, was one also practiced by their fellow Blackfoot tribes— the Siksika and Piikani. Each spring, the first sound of thunder on the plains would herald to Kainai spiritual leaders—those who held the medicine bundles—that the time for the Sun Dance was approaching. The holders of the medicine bundles would prepare for this Dance by praying and fasting in sweat lodges. When the time came for the Sun Dance, which was usually around mid-summer, all the Kainai clans would gather at a site that was specially chosen for the occasion and considered was sacred. The Sun Dance was a time to pray and give thanks to the Creator; to the sun, the source of life; and to all living things for providing the Kainai People with the means to sustain their lives.

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