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Native American Rituals and Ceremonies | RITES AND TRADITIONS

Pow wow native american rituals

Pow wow Native American Rituals

Native American Rituals

There are similarities between Native American rituals and spirituals for their traditions, including creation myths, roles or supernatural beings in folklore, oral traditions, history and legends. In addition, traditional ways of life and rituals are often associated with religion and spirituality. Native American ritual activities such as hunting, clan membership and other aspects of daily life are often associated with spiritual interpretation. This article aims to explain similar themes and practices, but should not be considered a complete article.

The territory also contains the memory of previous generations; this information is transmitted, in the mother tongue, through oral tradition, history and legends. Rite is a religious or other solemn ceremony or act

Another subject of transmission of traditional knowledge concerns the toponyms of the territory and their living environment, which are very descriptive.

The majority of their traditional activities also teach us about the use of natural resources, their material culture and their way of life. In other words, their identity.

In a certain way, since the time of the first contact, as much in the way of transcribing the names (or first names) as in the content of the legends or in the description of the other cultural traits which are specific to them, the Atikamekw recognize themselves quite simply. throughout history from the earliest times of cohabitation. For example, regarding their surnames and other surnames, although changes or modifications were made by missionaries and others at the time, the names of ancestors are recorded there.

With the advance of non-Aboriginals towards their territory of activity and the multiple developments that have taken place there, the Atikamekw, like all other indigenous nations, have had to adapt to the constraints. Hence the fact that some nations are in talks about their territory and their self-determination with the two levels of government.

Note: The information contained in the content is only part of the characteristics of the Atikamekw man and his living environment (territory). In addition, at the risk of undermining a certain spirit of colonialism, words or names foreign to the French language (such as the word Atikamekw) do not agree in gender or number.

There are at least three stories in the Atikamekw oral tradition (TOA). The first is about the beginning of time (Nipinatcac representing time, and Kiwetinisiw space), the second about the organization of the elements of nature (Legend of Wisaketcakw), and the third about the order of things or elements after the onset of a flood (earth, water, animal resources, humanity, human tools). This latter story was told, among others, to Nicholas Perrot around 1760, and even today the Atikamekw oral tradition teaches these bits of primary and fundamental history to younger generations.

On the subject of the oral tradition or cultural transmission of the elders to the young, here is an extract from the report of the visit of the elders of Manawan to the museums: “… they must be able to see and touch the teaching objects, as in the case of resources (basket or bark canoe), the quality of which has undergone changes over the years due, among other things, to pollution. “Transmitting history and knowledge through oral tradition is to ensure a link with the past that will support the young person in his life today while helping him in terms of prospects.

Atikamekw legend about the creation of the Earth and the expansion of the land (transcription from the film “Spring”)
It was all water before Earth was created. The animals lived on a raft. The Big Hare was their leader.

One day the animals said to the beaver “dive in, bring back some soil, even just a grain of sand to start”. The beaver dives for a long time, comes back half-dead, with nothing. The otter does the same, same result. To everyone’s laughing, the muskrat offers itself, dives, comes back to the surface the next day, its stomach in the air, a grain of sand between its claws.

The grain grows. The Big Hare turns around. The small earth is growing. When she has grown very old, the fox visits her and declares her perfect. The Big Hare disagrees. He is always at the center of the earth, trampling her so that she will grow again and again. You can hear it when you go down into the caves.

The animals leave one good morning to inhabit this land. Many die in search of their territory. It is the Great Hare which, from the corpse of these animals, gives birth to Men. The bear gives men to the bear clan; the fox to the fox clan, the deer to the deer clan.

And so on…


The recourse to the symbol is no less obvious if we analyze the ritual prayers for beneficial or therapeutic ends and the songs of the healing “shamans”. When the Navajo officiant prays for the rain to fall, which will make the corn grow, he calls on the mountains framing the horizon: “the mountains of La Plata and their jet set, Mount Taylor and its turquoise set”, and so on. The spirits confused with the summits reign over the various plant or animal species, over the minerals. Cardinal points, winds, colors appear associated, as attested by another prayer entering into one of the other Navajo rituals intended to heal the sick: “From the east, from the abode of the black wind which came to blow on me, everything been remediated. From the south, from the abode of the blue wind that has come to blow on me, everything has been restored. From the west, from the abode of the yellow wind [ditto]. From the north, from the home of the white wind [ditto / idem]”.

Privileged beneficiaries of personal powers granted through a dream or a vision by protective spirits, the shamans received a song allowing them to cure a specific disease. No doubt this is in theory an improvisation, since the words would have been taught by the mind itself, but, in fact, the text, very short, conforms to traditional prototypes, and the attitudes remain classic: to blow on the patient, sucking the evil through his body, reincorporating the soul. Punctuated by the rattle of a calabash or basketry, the song concludes that the patient is saved. Certain other formulas are used by therapists whose exercise does not involve possession by the mind, nor pseudo-mediumistic maintenance.

American authors call these medicine-men healers to differentiate them from shamans: “Ah! said a Cherokee from Alabama, for example, you rushed to listen to me, red otter; you reside in the land of the sun; now you have come to rest on the white cloth and with it you will take away the evil. “He said in another case to the spirit-serpent:” Ah! come, come, come, come, you who live up there, you who gave the white bones, you brought them down; where the body is, you made them attach. The patient is cured, quickly. Note that these two texts are borrowed from the recipe book of a Cherokee medicine man who, exceptionally, invented writing around 1820.

Finally, part of the literature, since obeying immutable prototypes, are the harangues pronounced by the chiefs, the priests, during the solemnities: funerals, social celebrations, etc.

Pow wow

A pow wow is a gathering of North-Natives. It was traditionally a religious event (shamanism) or the celebration of warlike exploits. Today, there is a real “circuit” of pow-wows which have become festive events and an opportunity for Aboriginal people to bring their cultural heritage to life. The powwow represents a celebration of meeting and is seen by the Aboriginals as a special time for everyone to get closer to the core and to share with family and friends. A modern pow wow is a specific type of event for Tribal American people to meet and dance, sing, socialize, and honor their cultures.

Pow wows may be private or public. There is generally a dancing competition, with many types of traditional dances, often with significant prize money awarded. Pow wows vary in length from a one-day event, to major pow wows called for a special occasion which can be up to one week long.


The potlatch (giving) is a cultural Native American rituals, often in the form of a more or less formal ceremony, based on the giving. More precisely, it is a system of donations / counter-donations within the framework of symbolic shares. A person offers an object to another according to the importance he attaches to this object (importance assessed personally); the other person, will offer in return another object belonging to him whose importance will be estimated as equivalent to that of the first object offered: “war of riches” rather than “wars of blood”.

Originally, the culture of the potlatch was practiced as much in the tribes of the Amerindian world (the Americas) as in many ethnic groups of the Pacific Ocean, as far as India. This is why the first European colonists were able to considerably despoil the natives who practiced the potlatch, because they exchanged gold for trinkets; the Indians believing in the “potlatch” value of these exchanges thought that these barterings were balanced.

Sun dance

The “looking up at the sun” dance ceremony, often wrongly called the sun dance, is a religious ritual practiced by several Native American tribes in North America. It is one of the most important and spectacular rites among the Plains Indians.

It takes place once a year during the summer solstice, during the full moon, in late June or early July. The celebration could last from four to eight days. It intends to symbolically represent the continuity that exists between life and death and to affirm that death was not an end but the beginning of a new cycle.

Each tribe practices its own rituals and dances, but these ceremonies have many common traits, such as dancing, chanting, prayers, drumming, visions, fasting, and in some cases, self-mutilation of the chest or back.

Originally, the North American tribes that practiced Sun Dance were: Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Hidatsa, Lakota, Plains Cree, Plains Ojibway, Sarasi, Omaha, Ponca , Ute, Shoshone, Kiowa and Blackfoot.

The Sun Dance ritual could vary from tribe to tribe. For those who made their living from buffalo hunting, the Sun Dance was the most important religious ceremony. This rite celebrated the rebirth of the participants and their families as well as the renewal of the terrestrial world. The ritual included sacrifices and adepts voluntarily inflicted suffering on themselves in order to ensure harmony among living beings and to renew their attachment to their community, to their culture and to their faith in the spirits that rule the world. This ritual is still practiced today. Formerly it was also intended to promote the return of bison herds.

Conservation of ancient rituals

In Manawan (Canada) for example, the majority of people still practice many traditional activities passed down from generation to generation. Although still very present in the lives of the people of Manawan, certain activities are practiced less and less, due to the lack of interest of young people in learning them. But, in order not to lose these, some young people have become aware of the need to keep them and show them to other young people, whether in educational or extracurricular activities.

List of traditional activities

Atikamekw Nipin / Summer (28 activities)

  1. Pakitahwaniwon: net fishing
  2. Pamatahonaniwon: territory surveillance expedition
  3. Pokwane manikwasaniwon: birch bark sampling
  4. Ponapaniwon: dead line fishing
  5. Tikinakanikaniwon: baby carrier manufacturing
  6. Kitikaniwon: preservation and protection of resources
  7. Kisisawaniwon minic: baking blueberries in paste
  8. Masko atoskaniwon: bear hunting
  9. Matceatohonaniwon: return expedition to the hunting grounds
  10. Manin otapaniwon: harvesting spruce roots
  11. Cowerimawsowin: ceremonial activities
  12. Mos atoskaniwon: moose hunting
  13. Mowisonaniwon: picking blueberries
  14. Nta notcinaniwon: picnic
  15. Natarapaniwon: lifting a fishing net
  16. Notcirewaniwon: partridge hunting
  17. Wakinaskwaniwon: snowshoe casting
  18. Wepahapaniwon: angling
  19. Wecitorinaniwon: repair of canoes
  20. Wikwamotekaniwon: making bark baskets
  21. Akotcorakanikaniwon: manufacture of net floats
  22. Askoswekamonaniwon: moose hunting (canoe)
  23. Asekaniwon: tanning of skins
  24. Actorinaniwon: making bark canoes
  25. Arapikaniwon: making fishing nets
  26. Ickipitatanatikokaniwon: making fur barrels
  27. Osekwaniwon: baking blueberries in paste
  28. Onikamikaniwon: deforestation of portages

Takwakin / Fall (36 activities)

  1. Pakitahwaniwon: net fishing
  2. Kakewkwaniwon (pasanawan): smoking moose meat
  3. Kitohoswaniwon: call the moose (call)
  4. Cakweciw onihikaniwon: mink trap
  5. Masko atoskaniwon: bear hunting
  6. Masko mitekaniwon: preparation of bear fat
  7. Mackikiwapokaniwon: preparation of medicinal plants
  8. Matcewotaniwon: return to the hunting grounds
  9. Mamanaskonaniwon: removal of fir branches (tent)
  10. Manitaniwon: cutting firewood
  11. Manikaniwon: construction of shelters (housing)
  12. Manin otapaniwon: harvesting spruce roots
  13. Natarapaniwon: lifting of fishing nets
  14. Natowirewaniwon: partridge hunting
  15. Nato amiskwaniwon: beaver hunting
  16. Namekosikaniwon: lake trout fishing
  17. Nanto maskwaniwon: bear hunting (outside the burrow)
  18. Nanto Amiskwaniwon: search for beaver colonies
  19. Notcihimiskwaniwon: beaver hunting (lookout)
  20. Wapoc akotaniwon: laying hare snares
  21. Wikwamotekaniwon: making bark baskets
  22. Akwapasawaniwon: smoking fish
  23. Akwane manikwasaniwon: birch bark sampling
  24. Akotcorakanikaniwon: manufacture of net floats
  25. Asekaniwon: tanning of skins
  26. Atcitcikonaniwon: food reserve
  27. Amirikaniwon: whitefish fishing
  28. Anaskaniwon: tent lining (fir branches)
  29. Aripikorikaniwon (arapikorikaniwon): braiding of hare skins
  30. Aiin atoskaniwon: trap for fur animals
  31. Ickipitatanatikokaniwon: making fur barrel
  32. Otakohikatew: Beaver Canoe Hunting
  33. Onihikanatikokaniwon: preparation of wooden traps
  34. Oractakaniwon tisorakana: preparation of traps
  35. Orekahikiwamaniwon: pitching of tents
  36. Owihakohikaniwon: baiting traps

Pitcipipon / Pre-winter (28 activities)

  1. Pakitahwaniwon: net fishing
  2. Piciw akotaniwon: laying of lynx snares
  3. Ponapaniwon: dead line fishing
  4. Cakweciw onihikaniwon: mink trap
  5. Tcikaha asamatikwaniwon: snowshoe wood cutting with an ax
  6. Manitaniwon: cutting firewood
  7. Natarapaniwon: lifting a fishing net
  8. Natoswaniwon: moose hunting
  9. Natowirewaniwon: partridge hunting
  10. Nanto pikototokwaniwon: search for rotten wood
  11. Nanto asamatikwaniwon: search for wood for snowshoes
  12. Nikikw atoskaniwon: otter trap
  13. Notcihimiskwaniwon: beaver hunting (lookout)
  14. Notci wackeciwaniwon: deer hunting
  15. Wapictani onihikaniwon: marten trapping
  16. Wapocowanicikaniwon: preparation of hare skins
  17. Wakinaskwaniwon: snowshoe casting
  18. Wakoci (mikeci) akotaniwon: laying of fox snares
  19. Wapoco akotaniwon: laying hare snares
  20. Wacapaniwon: sinew cut
  21. Wikasikaniwon: clothing manufacturing
  22. Asamikaniwon: snowshoe making
  23. Ackimaniwon: snowshoe braiding
  24. Aiin atoskaniwon: hunting for fur animals
  25. Eckaniwon: beaver hunting with keg
  26. Ickipitatanatikokaniwon: making fur barrel
  27. Irapatcitcikanikaniwon: manufacture of equipment / tools
  28. Otapanaskokaniwon: manufacture of sleds

Pipon / Winter (39 activities)

  1. Pakekineskisinikaniwon: Making moccasins
  2. Pakitahaniwon: fishing with nets
  3. Pasanawaniwon: preparation of smoked meat
  4. Piciw akotaniwon: laying of lynx snares
  5. Pokonikaniwon: butchering animals
  6. Kitinikaniwon: animal welfare
  7. Cipahatanatikokaniwon: making fur barrels
  8. Tcikekicitaniwon: degreasing of skins
  9. Matahikaniwon (pakekin): thinning of skin
  10. Manitaniwon: cutting firewood
  11. Mitcikawinikaniwon: manufacture of mittens / gloves
  12. Mokaripakanikaniwon: making snow shovels
  13. Natarapaniwon: net lifting
  14. Natisorakaniwon: lifting of traps
  15. Natoswaniwon: moose hunting
  16. Natowirewaniwon: partridge hunting
  17. Nanto maskwaniwon: bear hunt
  18. Nanto asamatikwaniwon: wood harvesting for snowshoes
  19. Notwapocwaniwon: hare hunting
  20. Notwakociwaniwon (Notcimikeciwaniwon): fox hunting
  21. Nosihwe otcekaniwon: pecans hunt
  22. Wapictani onihikaniwon: marten trap
  23. Wapoc akotaniwon: laying hare snares
  24. Wakinaskwaniwon: snowshoe casting
  25. Wacapaniwon: sinew cut
  26. Wecihi asamaniwon: snowshoe repair
  27. Wikasikaniwon: clothing manufacturing
  28. Akotcorakanikaniwon: manufacture of floats for nets
  29. Asamikaniwon: snowshoe making
  30. Asekaniwon: tanning of skins
  31. Ackimaniwon: snowshoe braiding
  32. Arapikaniwon: making fishing nets
  33. Aripikorikaniwon: braiding of hare skins
  34. Eckaniwon: beaver hunting with barrel
  35. Ickipitatanatikokaniwon: making fur barrels
  36. Ickipitataniwon: sharpening of skins
  37. Otapanaskokaniwon: manufacture of sleds
  38. Osawapasikaniwon: smoking animal skins
  39. Ositaskwatikokaniwon: making ax handles

Sikon / Pre-spring (30 activities)

Pakotinikanikaniwon: preparation of sugar loaf
Pasanawaniwon wias: preparation of smoked meat
Pikitenakanikaniwon: making bark containers
Pikiwisikanikaniwon: making maple taffy
Pisawakahikanikaniwon: raw sugar preparation
Tako asamatakaniwiw worsew: partridge hunting (on snow crust)
Sakapwaniwon: beaver on a spit
Sisipaskotokaniwon: granulation of maple sugar
Cakweciw onihikaniwon: mink trap
Mos atoskaniwon: moose hunting (after spotting)
Nato maskwahonaniwon: bear hunt (burrow)
Naminaskaniwon: preparation of maple syrup
Nahactakaniwon tisorakana: storage (storage) of traps
Nikikw atoskaniwon: otter trap
Notwapocwaniwon: hare hunting
Notapwaniwon: tasting of maple syrup residues
Notcicipaniwon: duck hunting
Notcimwakaniwon: loons hunt
Notciniskawaniwon: bustard hunting
Notcihimiskwaniwon: beaver hunting (lookout)
Notci kinocewaniwon: pike hunting
Wapictani onihikaniwon: marten trap
Wecitorinaniwon: repair of canoes
Akokatcic atoskaniwon: groundhog hunting
Amiskw onihikaniwon: beaver trap
Amitciwewotaniwon: transport of equipment in the mountains for sugars
Ickipitatanatikokaniwon: making fur barrel
Ickipitataniwon: Sharpening (stretching) of skins
Osekwaniwon (irinatikwapo): cooking maple water
Orikihikaniwon: tapping maple trees

Miroskamin / Spring (45 activities)

  1. Pakitahwaniwon: net fishing
  2. Pikiwikaniwon: preparation of spruce gum
  3. Ponapaniwon: dead line fishing
  4. Kisisowaniwon mickekominan: cooking atocas
  5. Kiweatahonaniwon: Return Expedition to Summer Sites
  6. Tcicaskohikaniwon: skin depilation
  7. Tcimanikecinaniwon: making small bark canoes (crafts)
  8. Masko onihikaniwon: bear trap
  9. Mackikiwapokaniwon: preparation of medicinal plants
  10. Manaskonaniwon: picking fir branches
  11. Manawaniwon: egg picking
  12. Manikaniwon: shelter construction
  13. Manin otapaniwon (monotapaniwon): root sampling
  14. Manihikiskiwaniwon: tree gum sampling
  15. Mikon mawitcihakaniwiw: feather collection
  16. Mokocaniwon: (Ceremony) Festivities
  17. Nta notcinaniwon: picnic
  18. Natarapaniwon: lifting of nets
  19. Natowirewaniwon: partridge hunting
  20. Natci pikototokwaniwon: picking rotten wood
  21. Nameskaniwon: great peach
  22. Namewokaniwon: sturgeon fishing
  23. Nanto pikototokwaniwon: search for rotten wood
  24. Nanto maskwaniwon: bear hunting (outside the burrow)
  25. Nahomwakwaniwon: loons hunt
  26. Notcihimiskwaniwon: beaver hunting
  27. Notci kinocewaniwon: pike hunting
  28. Notci mickekominaniwon: picking of atocas
  29. Wapoc akotaniwon: laying hare snares
  30. Wapowanikaniwon: making blankets
  31. Wepahapaniwon: angling
  32. Wecitorinaniwon: repair of canoe (s)
  33. Wikwamotekaniwon: making bark baskets
  34. Apikwecimonikaniwon: making pillows
  35. Apicimonikaniwon: making mattresses
  36. Apowikaniwon: making oars
  37. Akwane wikwas maninikatew: birch bark sampling
  38. Akotcorakanikaniwon: manufacture of floats for nets
  39. Asekaniwon: tanning of skins
  40. Actorinaniwon: making bark canoes
  41. Anaskaniwon: tent lining
  42. Ickipitatanatikokaniwon: making fur barrels
  43. Osawapasikaniwon: smoking of skins
  44. Otcockw onihikaniwon: muskrat trapping
  45. Orekahikiwamaniwon: pitching of tents

These examples above give us an idea of ​​the use of resources (essences and animals) for only two of the six seasons among the Atikamekw.

Native American Heritage : culture, ritual and ceremony, belief, custom and symbol

Sources: PinterPandai, WikipediaReader’s DigestMediumBritannica, Legends of America

Main photo description: a pow wow session begins with the Grand Entry and, in most cases, a prayer. The Eagle Staff leads the Grand Entry, followed by flags, then the dancers, while one of the host drums sings an opening song. This event is sacred in nature; some pow wows do not allow filming or photography during this time, though others allow it.. Pow wows vary in length from a one-day event, to major pow wows called for a special occasion which can be up to one week long.

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