Monday, June 18, 2007


As Native Americans gathered Sunday morning beneath the scorching sun, Georgina Roy, an Ojibwa, lit the sage branch, sending sweet smoke from the sacred herb around the prayer circle. Then Roy brought the burning sage before each person. One by one, they used their hands to bring the scent closer to their faces, washing their minds and bodies with smoke meant to purify and bless their souls.

There was no sign of it here -- no crosses, no holy water, no images of Christ -- but this prayer meeting was sponsored by a center affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Anawim Center, a Chicago-based center for Native American prayer and spirituality, does not seek to impose the Catholic faith on the Indian community. Instead, it helps maintain spiritual traditions such as smudging, the purification ritual performed Sunday at the DuPage County Fairgrounds.

The interfaith prayer service was part of a powwow celebration, attended by Native Americans from across the Midwest and parts of Canada, held this weekend for the center's 25th anniversary.

The Anawim Center is managed by the Chicago archdiocese and primarily serves Catholics, but non-Catholic Indians also use it as a place to speak their native language, honor elders and preserve Indian culture.

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