Native American Culture

Native Americans had different lifestyles ranging from semi-nomadic, nomadic, and static. They were divided into tribes across North America, and most of their cultures and beliefs were similar. Native America lived in North America before the coming of the European more than 12,000 years ago. The European arrived in the 15th century A.D, featured by the landing of the Cristopher Columbus’ ships. Europeans came to alter their lifestyle and culture. Native Americans had a primitive culture, where they only used tools and weapons made of stone. They did not change their learning from the stone age to the iron age culture. The culture of Animism determined the traditions and religions of the Native American. The belief of Animism was commonly shared among the Indian Tribes of North America and the indigenous people. The Religion of Animism was based on spirits (Katz, 2008). Souls were believed to exist in natural objects and the universe. Human beings were not the only creatures with spirits but also treed rocks and animals. Geographical features and natural phenomena like mountains and thunder were said to possess the spirits. Native Americans believed that spirits controlled rain, sun, and natural forces due to a lack of science. The religion was based on worshipping rain, sun, plants, and animals. Also, they carried out ceremonies, festivals, and prayers to their gods.

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Despite having an Animistic religion, Native Americans had a great spirit called Wakan Tanka, who they believed upon. The Native Americans had various ways in which they appeased their spirits, who acted as their gods. It was a cultural rule that all young men who would attain a certain age should participate in a festival or ceremony that encompassed self-harm, fasting, observing an animal that would be a spiritual friend, and going into a trance. (Katz, 2008). San Dance was the most traditional ceremony; young men would hang themselves on the central pole that signified the sun by their nipples. The performance of the Mandan Buffalo Dance among the Native Americans was believed to bring buffalo to them.

The Native American tribes had gender-differentiated roles, and both men and women had decision making powers. The matrilineal system was shared among many of the tribes like the Southeast Muskogean and Haudenosaunee tribes. Maternal lines determined the hereditary leadership and property ownership. Children belonged to the clan of the mother, and that’s where they would acquire status. Women-owned property and men joined them in their mother’s house. It was a way of ensuring total responsibility for men in child-rearing and protected the women during conflicts. (Katz, 2008). The mother’s brothers were the children’s role models in the clan. Chiefs were selected from the mother’s clan, recommended by women elders. There were peace and war chiefs; peace chiefs were hereditary while war chiefs were identified depending on their powers on war. The role of men included negotiating with other tribes, waging war, and hunting.

The Plains Indian Sign Language was used in communication. The language was used in trading in central and western United States, central Canada, and northern Mexico. The word could also serve other functions like oratory, storytelling, and carrying out ceremonies. The language was critical since it could be used by deaf people in their regular daily use. Between 1810 and 1820, there was the invention of the Cherokee syllabary by Silversmith. The language had very many biases since it was tough to read the scripts. The symbols of the language were similar to Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic languages. But, there was a big difference in the relationship between sounds and symbols. The use of the words has created a cultural relativism. The languages were used to convey truth, share beliefs, and religions, and spread ideas. The cultural relativism brought tribes together through shared beliefs and faiths. Some practices and beliefs were shared among the tribes that created a good relationship among the tribes.

Native Americans participated in hunting, Agriculture, and wild food gathering. They planted maize, beans, squash, tobacco, sunflower, and cotton. Different regions had different gender roles in agriculture. Hoes were used by men to prepare the land, and women would participate in the planting, harvesting, and weeding. The area was cleared frequently to pave the way for rotation farming. The first tradition was planting corn next to beans. (Katz, 2008). The significance of the culture was to use corn as a support for beans climbing and also using beans to replace nitrogen obtained by corn from the ground. Maul, hoe, and dibber were the commonly used tools by Native Americans. The significance of the scraper was to till the land, prepare the area for planting, and also used for weeding. The tool used as a digging stick was the dibber. It was used for planting seeds. The maul could be utilized in clashing the corns into the mash. Native Americans had the tradition of hanging men by their nipples when they came of age, at the pole. The ritual was known as the Sun Dance, where the pole signified the sun.



Katz W. L. (2008). “Africans and Indians: Only in America.” William Loren Katz. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved May 6, 2009.