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Native American Beliefs and Customs

Native American Beliefs and Customs

Their story would have started some 40,000 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It was at this time that coming from Asia, they would have settled in America. An ice bridge then connects Siberia to Alaska. While pursuing herds of mammoths, groups of nomadic hunters unknowingly passed from Asia to America. Over the millennia, American Indians settled everywhere from North to South. Native American beliefs are incredibly rich, from religious celebrations, honors, communications, rites, dances and much more…

At the origin of all religions, we find the same respect for the earth and nature. Never will a religion preach that man is equal to God and must dominate nature. Submission to nature is common to all civilizations.

All around them nature presented itself as a spectacle, the American Indians knew how to respect and love it. They knew how to listen to him with enough humility to discover the links which unite animals, men and plants. Secret links that tradition has preserved until today.

“The American Indians lived in communion with nature. For them, there were spirits in trees, spirits in plants, spirits in flowers. This is what the Catholics wanted to destroy. Our people were destroyed. and martyred beyond the limit. A true holocaust. ”

Religious festivals

Their life is punctuated by religious festivals. The mask is the central element of the dance. When the dancer wears it, he forgets his personality for a while and devotes himself completely to the spirit that invades him.

“The rites and dances of the American Indians explain the importance they give to their roots, to the links that bind them to the environment. American Indians are much more concerned with the spatial dimension than the temporal or historical dimension. always to celebrate the place which saw the birth of the clan or the place which allowed it to develop. ”

Certain tribes buried their dead with all the objects which had belonged to them such as their jewels, their weapons, their pottery.

“Burial was seen as the completion of the human cycle. Man was born from the earth and when he died he returned to where he came from. The earth is seen as the foster mother. nature are linked. The same blood irrigates his sons. ”

The Mounds (huge necropolises covered with earth) built by the American Indians of Mississippi are huge collective graves. These are tombs reproducing the shape of the belly of a pregnant woman. It is a way of honoring motherhood.

“After death, we choose the form in which we want to return by becoming a spirit. One will say: I love trees, he will say:” I will be a cedar and the tribe can use me. Another who likes to walk in the mountains will say: “I will turn into a deer like that, they can use my antlers, my leather, my hooves, eat my flesh”. All spirits come back in one form or another. And the important thing for them is to serve other generations because we are part of the same family. When we venture into the great outdoors, we find ourselves among our brothers and sisters who watch over us. Nature loves us, she has always loved us. ”

“If I had to change something, I will speak to Westerners and I will advise them to reflect on their mistakes and I will tell them that instead of buying us feathers, magic filters or sacred objects that they go and recharge their batteries. to their own history. ”

Today American Indians are Catholics and Protestants but the majority have kept a deep respect for certain sacred places. They still associate the beliefs of their ancestors with their religion. They think Jesus is the sun for example.

Native American beliefs and reverences for the circle of eternity

The American Indians have always honored the circle, symbol of eternity is the form in which the advice of the elders is held. It is the shape of the sun and that of their tent, the tipis.

“All our power came from the sacred circle. As long as the circle was not broken our people prospered like a flowering tree. They stood in a circle and drew their vitality from the four quarters of the circle. The east gave them light. and peace. The South gave him heat The West gave him rain The North thanks to the invigorating wind gave him strength and endurance. ”

“The American Indians regard the teepee as a gift from God. Sometimes when you look at the horizon after the storm, you see a rainbow in the east and sunbeams in the west. if the earth was held by threads that weave a mantle to warm men. When the Indians saw this, they said, “Let’s make our house in this image. “The teepee is arguably the most important object of our culture. We need to be as strong as the stakes of our teepees, they tilt, they flex, but they still hold up.”


Each tribe had its language, its traditions, its social organization. But all of them had the same respect and the same filial love for nature.

“Animals, plants and men were blood brothers. The Shammans (sorcerers) knew all the secrets of the universe. They made sure that the harmony of the world was respected.”

To communicate with each other, the Indians have agreed on a language that all understand: sign language.
Each tribe had its particular sign which allowed it to present itself. But curiously the tribal identifications were preceded by the American Indian signifying gesture: they rubbed their hands twice back and forth. Then they introduced themselves:
* The Comanches imitated the sliding of snakes.
* The Cheyennes made the gesture of cutting their fingers.
* Crows imitated the flight of crows.
* The Pawnees made the V sign.
* The Nez-Percés passed their index fingers under their noses.

They could then discuss, trade. It was above all an imitative language based on the imitation of the object we are talking about.
Gradually, the American Indians added a symbolic level.
“We do not see the world as you see it and that is due to the language which structures our thought. If you use a language where this distinction between living and dead does not exist but where the difference is between animated and inanimate then everything will appear alive to you. The world is alive around us. ”

Sign language is only used among the Plains American Indians. They trade a lot together and have to find a convenient way to understand each other, negotiate, buy and sell. At the turn of the century, the development of English among all the indigenous peoples of North America brought down the language barrier and made this mode of communication completely obsolete.

Painting on faces and bodies is a practice that combines social communication and individual freedom of expression. Here are a few examples: I have already killed an enemy – I have accomplished a heroic feat – I am going to war – I am in mourning – For a rain to water the corn. The tradition of makeup continues today in meetings. There, the American Indian dancing makes the link between his tragic past and his uncertain future. Over a thousand meetings are held in the United States each year. We come to dance, compete for prizes, meet between tribes, in song, dance and party.
Houses, costumes, hairstyles, crafts, food, each American Indian tribe develops its own know-how which testifies to the originality of its culture and carries a precise meaning.

Among the American Indians there is a strict division of labor. Some tasks are reserved for women: such as baking bread in the oven. On the other hand, man hunts and builds. For example a sweat lodge which is covered with a canvas to keep the vapors of hot stones sprayed with water. The vapors heal, allow to dialogue with the spirits, to obtain visions.

Native American Beliefs for Deities (God / Goddess)

The diversity of the North American Indian tribes was manifested in that of their beliefs and the spirits in which they believed. Although the different tribes sometimes shared common rituals, the spirits were more often specific to them.

In the case of North American Indian religions, we cannot speak of deities as such. Indeed, the Greek categories that have been applied to pantheistic religions do not quite agree with animist religions such as those of the North American Indians.


Tabal-dak: Androgynous creative spirit of the Abenaki, he created humans. From the dust of his hand he will create two brothers: Gluskab and Malsumis. These two brothers have the possibility of creating a better world, but only Gluskab tries it out. Malsumis is more inclined to do evil.


Ysun: The Creator for the Apaches, Ysun is a very powerful spirit but without a form of its own, an immaterial entity whose influence extends to all living things.


Manitou: Supreme Spirit of the Algonquins. Under the name of Kije Manito (Gitche Manitou) which means in the Algonquian language “great spirit”. He is the creator of all that exists on Earth. But the term Manitou has been able to qualify other entities such as those which appear for example in dreams. The representation of the spirit varied from tribe to tribe: The Mascoutins, for example, prayed to it before the hunt as ruler of the animals. The Innu (Montagnais) venerated him as the protector of the caribou.


Iktomi: Creator of the Earth.


Asagaya Gigagei: Thunder spirit of the Cherokee, Asagaya Gigagei is summoned by shamans when they need to heal.


Maheo is the Manitou of the Cheyennes.


The Great Spirit is at the origin of the universe and all that surrounds it (plants, animals, humans …) and dominates it, it is also called Manitou in the Algonquin language.

Oranda / Orenda: A spiritual power revered by the Iroquois, Oranda is an abstract entity whose manifestations multiply in the living world and can be present to varying degrees in any being, human or animal.
Gohone: Deity who personifies winter.
Like all spirits of the seasons, he is a servant of Adekagagawaa (the Great Spirit), a demiurge personified in the sun.


-Estsanatlehi: The creator of humans. Like the fertility goddesses of many mythologies, this entity is old in winter and regains youth in spring. She is the wife of the spirit of the sun Tsohanoi.
-Hastsezini: The god of fire.
-Tonenili: Spirit of the rain, the “sprinkler” has fun with men by using his “water pot” but is benevolent when circumstances require; for example, when he managed to save the first Navajo from the clutches of the dreadful water monster, with the support of his ally Hastsezini, the Spirit of Fire.
-Tsohanoai: Spirit of the Sun, he wears his incandescent attribute on his back and stores it for the night in his house by hanging it on his wall (west).


-Tirawa: Called “The Vault of Heaven” among the Pawnees, Tirawa distant and all-powerful spirit is the creator of the world. With his wife, Atira, he held counsel in heaven and distributed his instructions to other spirits; it is he who married the sun (Shakouroun) and the moon (Pah), gave them the first mission to warm the earth, for the second to provide sleep and rest, and who placed their child (a boy) on the earth , so that one teaches him the life, offering to him for companion the girl born of the stars. Tirawa, although very revered, could show himself in an uncertain mood, since he caused the flood and almost made mankind disappear in a fit of anger …
-Atira Wife of Tirawa.
-Pah The moon, wife of Shakouroun (the sun).
-Shakouroun The sun, husband of Pah (the moon).


Wakan Tanka / Waconda / Wakanda: Supreme Source of Wisdom, generous and all-powerful spirit of the Sioux, the one who enlightens the shaman.

Spirits shared by various tribes

-The crow or Chulyen, Hemaskas, GuGuyni, Nankil’slas, Kwekwaxa’we, Txamsem, We-ghyet, Yhel according to the tribes, joker spirit, who sets traps, spirit of cunning.
-The coyote or Akba-Atatdia, sometimes called “the old man”, according to the tribes.
-The great hare or Manabhoszo Kivati, Kwatyat, Xelas Manibhozo, Wisaaka, also spirit of cunning and change.

Sources: PinterPandai, Reader’s Digest

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