Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 1 December, 2011

Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary walk welcomes all
Condensed by Native Village

South Dakota: Even though the land speaks loudly to him, Dave Snyder hopes Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary will be a place of quiet solitude for others.

Snyder opened Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary in the Black Hills last July. Free of charge, it was created as a place for people to find solace, silence and spiritual renewal.

“The land speaks very loudly to me,” Snyder said. While it may tell of its beauty, it also commands him to honor things that are “beyond belief.” To Snyder, that means beyond religions cultures, dogmas, divisions, separations and differences.

“The interesting thing about all the major religions … is that they’re really all saying the same thing,” Snyder said. “That commonality is what I hope to embrace here.”

The sanctuary takes its theme — Beyond Belief — from the title of a bronze shield sculpted by artist Grant Standard. The shield displays symbols from nine major religions surrounding Mother Earth. This reflects Snyder’s hope that Pathways will serve those of all beliefs while endorsing none.

“It’s universal — what religions are trying to teach,” he said. “This place is about allowing people to be who they are in this space.”

Beyond Belief is bounded on three sides by National Forest Service land lands, and a small lake on the other. The sanctuary’s path moves through an amazing variety of ecosystems in 1 short mile.

Around the first bend is a bronze sculpture that stands 14 feet tall and weighs about 2,800 pounds. Titled “The Invocation” it portrays a Native American warrior astride a horse, holding aloft the sun-bleached skull of a buffalo -– man and creature paying homage to the spirit world.

Snyder hopes to place more bronze sculptures along the pathway, perhaps those of great spiritual leaders in conversation with each other.

For now, there is a bronze angel sculpted by Lee Leuning. A child sits with his head in his mother’s lap. The mother has wings. It is dedicated to Snyder’s own mother, who died at age 25 when Snyder was 2.

As people exit the pathway, they’ll see a prayer of  affirmation: “I leave this sacred space committed to continue walking a path of love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness for myself and all others. I leave with gratitude and a lightened heart.”

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