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Native American Spirituality

Like God/Allah in our traditional western religions, Native Americas believed in The Great Spirit - a powerful universal spiritual force that guides the people in wisdom and survival. Called Gitche Manitou in Algonquian, the Great Spirit is also referred to as the “Creator”.

But an important concept that differs from traditional mainstream western religions is that Native Americas did not distinguish between the natural and the supernatural. On the contrary, Native Americans perceived the "material" and "spiritual" as a unified realm of being—a kind of extended kinship network. Rocks, plants, animals, the sky, etc. were all intrinsically interconnected and gave each other life and power.

Info on Chief Seattle's Speech

Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle was considered an early ecological visionary—his impassioned words regarding the value of nature were based on the beliefs and insights of his people. The magnificent speech he delivered in 1854 was in response to President Franklin Pierce's representative when the United States government asked to purchase land from Seattle and his tribe. It was the speech of a man who had seen his world turned upside down in his own lifetime...The speech eloquently summarizes Native American spiritual belief that property can not be bought and sold—it's God's land and therefore it is everybody's land. In essence: "This Earth is Precious... How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us! "

Native Americans - Interactive Studies

Colorful multimedia presentations replete with animations and music: Native Americans
(online discovery at the Knowledge Tree by Rich Coffey)

Indian Head
  • Maps detailing the evolution and diversity of Native North American Language Groups
  • Broken Promises - The Sad Saga of Deceit by our U.S. Government
  • Sorry Woody Guthrie - This Land Was Theirs… ( the Native America saga in upstate New York) 
  • Recommended Resources - books and websites related to Native American culture and history

Further Info on Native American Spirituality

Historically, Native Americans' lives were shaped by their spiritual beliefs. Most Native people believed that they were connected to every other element of creation. Each animal, tree, or rock had its own spirit through which an individual could establish contact with the spirit world. The survival and well-being of Native people was dependent on maintaining harmony with the earth.

Connecticut RiverAccording to Native American spirituality, everything is imbued with spirit and there is a constant dialogue between all of these manifestations of creation. In order to survive, human beings must understand this dialogue, and they must be careful not to insult the spirits of the wind, or the earth. Native American beliefs stress the mutuality and interdependence between people and other forms of life. There is a mutual respectfulness required when interacting with trees, birds, and plants, as well as natural forces such as the wind and the rain.

Native Americans' creation myths also portray a different understanding about the place humans occupy vis-à-vis their animal, plant and mineral co-inhabitants of the earth. Rather than being given 'dominion' over all other creatures—the animals, plants and minerals are companions to learn from and live with.

Dreams, Visons and Ceremonies...

Many Native American people traditionally believe in a spiritual realm that exists beyond the tangible world. Access to this spiritual world is gained through dreams, visions, and ceremonies. Many Native people also believe in a single creative force. The name for this spiritual force varies from one group to another: it is called orenda (Or-END-a) by the Iroquois, manitou (MAN-e-too) by the Algonquin, and wakan (wah-KON) by the Lakota.

Although most native peoples worshiped an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator or "Master Spirit and believed in the immortality of the human soul and an afterlife -- there were real differences that must be kept in mind between the religious cultures of Indians and early modern Europeans (and Euro-Americans).

The most important idea is that Indians did not distinguish between the natural and the supernatural. On the contrary, Native Americans perceived the "material" and "spiritual" as a unified realm of being kind of extended kinship network. In their view, plants, animals and humans partook of divinity through their close connection with "guardian spirits," a myriad of "supernatural" entities who imbued their "natural" kin with life and power.

By contrast, Protestant and Catholic traditions were more inclined to emphasize the gulf that separated the pure, spiritual beings in heaven. God, the angels and saints were separate from sinful men and women who were tragically mired in a profane world filled with temptation and evil. read more in links below...