Religious Experience of Lame Deer in the US

Lame Deer is a Native American who shares the journey of a medicine man. He narrates his four days and nights of vision seeking alone in the hilltop as he aspired to be like his great-grandfather. This is his first time being alone since Indian children are always in the company of uncles, relatives, cousins, grandparents, or any relative when their parents are not allowed. When in the company of relatives, they would be sharing stories, playing, and singing songs (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 11). He successfully experiences a vision and is finally a man. The author shares his experience as he seeks to fulfill his cultural and spiritual values and how it is affected by the European religion.


Native Americans’ beliefs and practices affect all aspects of their social life. However, some of these practices are considered illegal by the US government. During Lame Deer’s peaceful stay with his grandmother, a man from the Bureau of Indian Affairs questions why he does not attend school? In school, they are forbidden to talk their language, dress up, and eat like the white-men. (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p.33-34). It is evident that the government did not appreciate the Native Americans’ lifestyle and forced them to conform to theirs.

According to John Deer Lame Deer (1972), all creatures exist for a reason. Living animals are considered part of the family. A buffalo is referred to as a ‘brother’ (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 130). For example, the Woman Buffalo was believed to have brought the peace pipe and taught tribes how to worship. After this, she changed herself into a white buffalo calf. Native Americans believe that there is a deep spiritual connection with nature and the environment. They spend time reflecting on daily issues that form part of their spiritual connections. On the other hand, the white man uses the church and the Bible for a spiritual purpose.

            This book insights on the importance of rocks to the Indians. They are referred to as ‘Inyan’ and are sacred. As a medicine man, the rocks are used to find missing things and warn an enemy or bad luck (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 113). Lame Deer argues that white men also acknowledge the rock to be sacred. He references this from the story of Moses, who went up to the mountain, had a vision, and came back with a written stone (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 282). This brings out similarities in Native Americans’ beliefs and symbols and others. According to Native Americans, holy people can fly, which is similar to the Christian view of holy people who flew or were taken up heaven. However, this does not necessarily lead to a similarity in lifestyle.

The Native American embraces the environment as part of the family. The author describes the white men as full of arrogance, self- love, and disrespectful to nature (Deer &Erdoes, 1972 p. 92). Lame Deer portrays the self-love among the white men through his opinion on how the white-men thought about the Black Hills’ initial treaty. Upon realizing that the Black Hills’ treasures, they forcefully took back the land, took the treasures, and converted it to Disney land (Deer &Erdoes, 1972 p. 93). Further, he insights on how they take away beautiful land, spoil it, and rename it to a recreational spot (Deer &Erdoes, 1972 p. 119). This contrasts the Native American spiritual belief to care and form a deep spiritual connection with it.

Lame Deer further explains to the readers how Western culture has corrupted Native American culture. Alcoholism has slowly created their lives. The white men introduced them to alcohol. However, they did not teach them how to do it. He speculates that the reason Indians drink is to forget; the good old days when the land belonged to them, they are beggars, and nothing worthwhile left for the Indian man (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 77-78). He highlights the challenge of getting a job and those lucky to have one how it has negatively affected their lifestyle as Indians. Due to the harsh economic times, he turns to moonshine, an alcohol drink he considers pocket friendly.

The Native American culture encourages kindness; thus, there was no need for jails. Lame Deer points out that the introduction of civilization by the white men brought about criminals and jails (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 74-75). This had brought about theft and criminals, unlike the days before, where if one lacked something, their neighbor would share what they have. He further argues that civilization has brought too much value on personal belonging as people have to give money to acquire something. 

            Polygamy is a common practice among Native Americans. On the other hand, the white men encouraged monogamy. Lame Deer gives an encounter of the old man had with a missionary who suggested that one of the wives should be chased as it was wrong (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 152). Birth control is also a rare practice among Native American women. Spiritual guidance was sought to determine if a woman is allowed to take an abortion in cases of a deformed baby (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 153). However, this has been changed as the Native Americans fight for survival, thus seeking birth control to avoid having children.

Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and Buddhism are some of the religions in the U.S. These religions advocate different values and beliefs to individuals. They have wild approaches to how one is expected to live. This can bring about confusion, as depicted in the life of Richard Erdoes. (Deer &Erdoes, 1972, p. 271). Thus, this book is a good example that reveals the obstacle that religious diversity brings about in developing and maintaining civilization in the region.


Deer, J., & Erdoes, R. (1972). Lame Deer Seeker of Visions. Simon and Schuster Inc.

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