Native American religions are the spiritual practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This article focuses on Native North Americans. Traditional Native American ceremonial ways can vary widely and are based on the differing histories and beliefs of individual tribes, clans, and bands. Early European explorers describe individual Native American tribes and even small bands as each having their own religious practices. Theology may be monotheistic, polytheistic, henotheistic, animistic, shamanistic, pantheistic or any combination thereof, among others. Traditional beliefs are usually passed down in the forms of oral histories, stories, allegories, and principles, and rely on face to face teaching in one's family and community.
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.
In the United States, an American Indian tribe, Native American tribe, Alaska Native village, tribal nation, or similar concept is any extant or historical clan, tribe, band, nation, or other group or community of Native Americans in the United States. Modern forms of these entities are often associated with land or territory of an Indian reservation. "Federally recognized Indian tribe" is a legal term of art in United States law with a specific meaning.
Monotheism is the belief in one god. A narrower definition of monotheism is the belief in the existence of only one god that created the world, is all-powerful and intervenes in the world.
From the 1600s, European Catholic and Protestant denominations sent missionaries to convert the tribes to Christianity. Some of these conversions occurred through government and Christian church cooperative efforts that forcibly removed Native American children from their families into a Christian/state government-operated system of American Indian boarding schools (aka The Residential Schools) where Native children were taught European Christian beliefs, the values of mainstream white culture, and the English language. This forcible conversion and suppression of Indigenous languages and cultures continued through the 1970s.
Native American boarding schools, also known as Indian Residential Schools were established in the United States during the late 19th and mid 20th centuries with a primary objective of assimilating Native American children and youth into Euro-American culture, while at the same time providing a basic education in Euro-American subject matters. These boarding schools were first established by Christian missionaries of various denominations, who often started schools on reservations, especially in the lightly populated areas of the West. The government paid religious orders to provide basic education to Native American children on reservations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the last residential schools closing as late as 1973. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) founded additional boarding schools based on the assimilation model of the off-reservation Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
As part of the US government's suppression of traditional Indigenous religions, most ceremonial ways were banned for over 80 years by a series of US Federal laws that banned traditional sweat lodge and sun dance ceremonies, among others.This government persecution and prosecution continued until 1978 with the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA).
A sweat lodge is a low profile hut, typically dome-shaped or oblong, and made with natural materials. The structure is the lodge, and the ceremony performed within the structure may be called a purification ceremony or simply a sweat. Traditionally the structure is simple, constructed of saplings covered with blankets and sometimes animal skins. Originally, it was only used by some of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, notably the Plains Indians, but with the rise of pan-Indianism, numerous nations that did not originally have the sweat lodge ceremony have adopted it. This has been controversial.
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Public Law No. 95-341, 92 Stat. 469, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1996, is a United States federal law, enacted by joint resolution of the Congress in 1978. Prior to the act, many aspects of Native American religions and sacred ceremonies had been prohibited by law.
Some non-Native anthropologists estimate membership in traditional Native American religions in the 21st century to be about 9000 people.Since Native Americans practicing traditional ceremonies do not usually have public organizations or membership rolls, these "members" estimates are likely substantially lower than the actual numbers of people who participate in traditional ceremonies. Native American spiritual leaders also note that these academic estimates substantially underestimate the numbers of participants because a century of US Federal government persecution and prosecutions of traditional ceremonies caused believers to practice their religions in secrecy. Many adherents of traditional spiritual ways also attend Christian services, at least some of the time, which can also affect statistics. Since the 80 years of those prior legal persecutions ended with AIRFA, some sacred sites in the United States are now protected areas under law.
Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organizations involved.
The Earth Lodge Religion was founded in northern California and southern Oregon tribes such as the Wintun. It spread to tribes such as the Achomawi, Shasta, and Siletz, to name a few. It was also known as the "Warm House Dance" among the Pomo. It predicted occurrences similar to those predicted by the Ghost Dance, such as the return of ancestors or the world's end. The Earth Lodge Religion impacted the later religious practice, the Dream Dance, belonging to the Klamath and the Modoc.
The Wintun are members of several related Native American peoples of Northern California, including the Wintu (northern), Nomlaki (central), and Patwin (southern). Their range is from approximately present-day Lake Shasta to San Francisco Bay, along the western side of the Sacramento River to the Coast Range. Each of these tribes speak one of the Wintuan languages. Linguistic and archaeological evidence suggests that the Wintun people probably entered the California area around 500 AD from what is now southern Oregon, introducing bow and arrow technology to the region.
Achomawi, are the northerly nine tribes of the Pit River tribe of Native Americans who live in what is now northeastern California in the United States. These nine autonomous bands of the Pit River Indians historically spoke various dialects of one common language, and the other two bands spoke dialects of a related language, called Atsugewi. The name "Achomawi" means river people and the band historically inhabited the Fall River Valley and the Pit River from the south end of Big Valley Mountains, westerly to Pit River Falls.
The Pomo are an indigenous people of California. The historic Pomo territory in Northern California was large, bordered by the Pacific Coast to the west, extending inland to Clear Lake, and mainly between Cleone and Duncans Point. One small group, the Northeastern Pomo of the Stonyford vicinity of Colusa County, was separated from the core Pomo area by lands inhabited by Yuki and Wintuan speakers.
The Ghost Dance movement of the late 1800s was a religious revitalization movement in the Western United States. Initially founded as a local ceremony in Nevada, by the Paiute prophet Wodziwob, the movement did not gain widespread popularity until 1889–1890, when the Ghost Dance Religion was founded by Wovoka (Jack Wilson), who was also Northern Paiute. The Ghost Dance was created in a time of genocide, to save the lives of the Native Americans by enabling them to survive the current and coming catastrophes, by calling the dead to fight on their behalf, and to help them drive the colonists out of their lands.
Wodziwob was a Paiute prophet and medicine man who is believed to have led the first Ghost Dance ceremonies, in what is now Nevada, sometime around 1869.
Wovoka, also known as Jack Wilson, was the Paiute religious leader who founded a second episode of the Ghost Dance movement. Wovoka means "cutter" or "wood cutter" in the Northern Paiute language.
In December 1888, Wovoka, who was thought to be the son of the medicine man Tavibo (Numu-tibo'o), fell sick with a fever during an eclipse of the sun, which occurred on January 1, 1889. Upon his recovery, he claimed that he had visited the spirit world and the Supreme Being and predicted that the world would soon end, then be restored to a pure state in the presence of the Messiah. All Native Americans would inherit this world, including those who were already dead, in order to live eternally without suffering. In order to reach this reality, Wovoka stated that all Native Americans should live honestly, and shun the ways of whites (especially the consumption of alcohol). He called for meditation, prayer, singing, and dancing as an alternative to mourning the dead, for they would soon resurrect. Wovoka's followers saw him as a form of the messiah and he became known as the "Red Man's Christ."
Tavibo had participated in the Ghost Dance of 1870 and had a similar vision of the Great Spirit of Earth removing all white men, and then of an earthquake removing all human beings. Tavibo's vision concluded that Native Americans would return to live in a restored environment and that only believers in his revelations would be resurrected.
This religion spread to many tribes on reservations in the West, including the Shoshone, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Sioux (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota). In fact, some bands of Lakota and Dakota were so desperate for hope during this period of forced relocation and genocide that, after making a pilgrimage to the Nevada Ghost Dance in 1889–1890, they became more militant in their resistance to the white colonists. Each Nation that adopted the Ghost Dance way provided their own understanding to the ceremony, which included the prediction that the white people would disappear, die, or be driven back across the sea. A Ghost Dance gathering at Wounded Knee in December 1890 was invaded by the Seventh Cavalry, who massacred unarmed Lakota and Dakota people, primarily women, children and the elderly.
The earliest Ghost Dance heavily influenced religions such as the Earth Lodge, Bole-Maru Religion, and the Dream Dance. The Caddo Nation and several other communities still practices the Ghost Dance today, though usually in secret.
Also known as Tschida, the Indian Shaker Religion was influenced by the Waashat Religion and founded by John Slocum, a Squaxin Island member. The name comes from the shaking and twitching motions used by the participants to brush off their sins. The religion combines Christianity with traditional Indian teachings. This religion is still practiced today in the Indian Shaker Church.
The Longhouse Religion is the popular name of the religious movement known as The Code of Handsome Lake or Gaihwi:io ("Good Message"), founded in 1799 by the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake (Sganyodaiyoˀ).This movement combines and reinterprets elements of traditional Iroquois religious beliefs with elements adopted from Christianity, primarily from the Quakers. Gaihwi:io currently has about 5,000 practicing members. Originally the Gaihwi:io was known as the "new religion" in opposition to the prevailing animistic beliefs, but has since become known as the "old religion" in opposition to Christianity.
Mexicayoal (Nahuatl word meaning "Essence of the Mexican", "Mexicanity"; Spanish: Mexicanidad; see -yotl ) is a movement reviving the indigenous religion, philosophy and traditions of ancient Mexico (Aztec religion and Aztec philosophy) amongst the Mexican people.
The movement came to light in the 1950s, led by Mexico City intellectuals, but has grown significantly on a grassroots level only in more recent times, also spreading to the Chicanos of North America.Their rituals involve the mitotiliztli. The followers, called Mexicatl (singular) and Mexicah (plural), or simply Mexica , are mostly urban and suburban people.
The Mexicayotl movement started in the 1950s with the founding of the group Nueva Mexicanidad by Antonio Velasco Piña. In the same years, Rodolfo Nieva López founded the Movimiento Confederado Restaurador de la Cultura del Anáhuac,the co-founder of which was Francisco Jimenez Sanchez who in later decades became a spiritual leader of the Mexicayotl movement, endowed with the honorific Tlacaelel . He had a deep influence in shaping the movement, founding the In Kaltonal ("House of the Sun", also called Native Mexican Church) in the 1970s.
From the 1970s onwards Mexcayotl has grown developing in a web of local worship and community groups (called calpulli or kalpulli)and spreading to the Mexican Americans or Chicanos in the United States. It has also developed strong ties with Mexican national identity movements and Chicano nationalism. Sanchez's Native Mexican Church (which is a confederation of calpullis) was officially recognized by the government of Mexico in 2007.
The Peyote Religion legally termed and more properly known as the Native American Church has also been called the "Peyote Road" or the "Peyote Way", is a religious tradition involving the ceremonial and sacred use of Lophophora williamsii (peyote).Use of peyote for religious purposes is thousands of years old and some have thought it to have originated within one of the following tribes: the Carrizo, the Lipan Apache, the Mescalero Apache, the Tonkawa, the Karankawa, or the Caddo, with the Plains Cree, Carrizo, and the Lipan Apache being the three most likely sources. In Mexico the Huichol, Tepehuán, and other Native Mexicans use peyote. Since then, despite several efforts to make peyote ceremonies illegal, ceremonial peyote use has spread from the Mexico area to Oklahoma and other western parts of the United States. Notable Native American Church (NAC) members include Quannah Parker, the founder of the NAC, and Big Moon of the Kiowa tribe.
This section may need to be rewritten to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards, as it is unclear what are different versions of the faith, and what are simply different names. Change over time appears to be mostly disregarded. Important elements are not explained (At least some are covered in the references.). See Talk:Native American religion#Waashat Religion. (January 2018)
The Waashat Religion is also called the Washani Religion, Longhouse Religion, Seven Drum Religion, Sunday Dance Religion, Prophet Dance, and Dreamer Faith. The Wanapam Indian Smohalla (c. 1815–1895) used wáashat rituals to build the religion in the Pacific Northwest. Smohalla claimed that visions came to him through dreams and that he had visited the spirit world and had been sent back to teach his people. The name waasaní spoke to what the religion was about; it meant both dancing and worship.He led a return to the original way of life before white influences and established ceremonial music and dancing. Smohalla's speaking was called Yuyunipitqana for "Shouting Mountain".
The Dreamer Faith, and its elements of dancing, foreshadowed the later Ghost Dances of the plains peoples. –to–our–heritage religion. Believers thought that white people would disappear and nature would return to the way it was before they came. To achieve this, the Natives must do the things required by the spirits, like a Weyekin. What the spirits wanted was to throw off violent ways, cast off white culture, and not buy, sell or disrespect the Earth. They must also dance the Prophet Dance (wáashat).It was a back
The religion combined elements of Christianity with Native beliefs, but it rejected white-American culture. ...They aspire to be Indian and nothing else."This made it difficult to assimilate or control the tribes by the United States. The U.S. was trying to convert the Plains tribes from hunter-gatherers to farmers, in the European-American tradition. They wanted to remake the Natives but found a problem with those who followed the Dreamer Cult: "Their model of a man is an Indian
Prophets of the movement included Smohalla (of the Wanapam people), Kotiakan (of the Yakama nation) and Homli (of the Walla Walla).Their messages were carried along the Columbia River to other communities. It is unclear exactly how it started or when Christianity influenced the earlier form, but it is thought to have something to do with the arrival of non-Indians or an epidemic and a prophet with an apocalyptic vision. The Waashat Dance involves seven drummers, a salmon feast, use of eagle and swan feathers and a sacred song sung every seventh day.
The sun dance is a religious ceremony practiced by a number of Native American and First Nations Peoples, primarily those of the Plains Nations. Each tribe that has some type of sun dance ceremony has their own distinct practices and ceremonial protocols. In many cases, the ceremony is held in a private and is not open to the public. Most details of the ceremony are kept from public knowledge out of great respect for, and the desire for protection of, the traditional ways. Many of the ceremonies have featured in common, such as specific dances and songs passed down through many generations, the use of traditional drums, the sacred pipe, praying, fasting and, in some cases, the piercing of the skin.
In Canada, the Plains Cree call this ceremony the Thirst Dance; the Saulteaux (Plains Ojibwe) call it the Rain Dance; and the Blackfoot (Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani) call it the Medicine Dance. It is also practiced by the Canadian Dakota and Nakoda, and the Dene.
Leaders in Native religions include Popé, who led the Pueblo revolt in 1675, Quautlatas, who inspired the Tepehuan Revolt against the Spanish in 1616, Neolin, Tenskwatawa, Kenekuk, Smohalla, John Slocum, Wovoka, Black Elk and many others.
From time to time important religious leaders organized revivals. In Indiana in 1805, Tenskwatawa (called the Shawnee Prophet by Americans) led a religious revival following a smallpox epidemic and a series of witch-hunts. His beliefs were based on the earlier teachings of the Lenape prophets, Scattamek and Neolin, who predicted a coming apocalypse that would destroy the European-American settlers.Tenskwatawa urged the tribes to reject the ways of the Americans: to give up firearms, liquor, American style clothing, to pay traders only half the value of their debts, and to refrain from ceding any more lands to the United States. The revival led to warfare led by his brother Tecumseh against the white settlers.
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act is a United States Federal Law and a joint resolution of Congress that provides protection for tribal culture and traditional religious rights such as access to sacred sites, freedom to worship through traditional ceremony, and use and possession of sacred objects for American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native Hawaiians. It was passed on August 11, 1978.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Pub.L. 101-601, 104 Stat. 3048, is a United States federal law passed on 16 November 1990 requiring federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American cultural items and human remains to their respective peoples. Cultural items include funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (also known as RFRA), is a 1993 United States federal law aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion. It was held unconstitutional as applied to the states in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision in 1997, which ruled that the RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress's enforcement power. However, it continues to be applied to the federal government - for instance, in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal - because Congress has broad authority to carve out exemptions from federal laws and regulations that it itself has authorized. In response to City of Boerne v. Flores, some individual states passed State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007. Article 31, in particular, emphasizes that Indigenous Peoples have the right to their cultural heritage, including ceremonial knowledge, as protected intellectual property.
Crow religion is the indigenous religion of the Crow tribe, Native Americans of the Great Plains area of the United States.
The Ghost Dance was a new religious movement incorporated into numerous Native American belief systems. According to the teachings of the Northern Paiute spiritual leader Wovoka, proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits to fight on their behalf, make the white colonists leave, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to Native American peoples throughout the region.
Indigenous music of North America, which includes American Indian music or Native American music, is the music that is used, created or performed by Indigenous peoples of North America, including Native Americans in the United States and Aboriginal peoples in Canada, Indigenous peoples of Mexico, and other North American countries—especially traditional tribal music, such as Pueblo music and Inuit music. In addition to the traditional music of the Native American groups, there now exist pan-tribal and intertribal genres as well as distinct Native American subgenres of popular music including: rock, blues, hip hop, classical, film music, and reggae, as well as unique popular styles like chicken scratch and New Mexico music.
The Caddo Nation is a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes. Their ancestors historically inhabited much of what is now East Texas, Louisiana, and portions of southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. They were descendants of the Caddoan Mississippian culture that constructed huge earthwork mounds at several sites in this territory. In the early 19th century, Caddo people were forced to a reservation in Texas; they were removed to Indian Territory in 1859.
Handsome Lake was a Seneca religious leader of the Iroquois people. He was a half-brother to Cornplanter, a Seneca war chief.
The Arapaho are a tribe of Native Americans from the western Great Plains, in the area of eastern Colorado and Wyoming. Traditional Arapaho music, described by Bruno Nettl, includes sacred and secular songs. Traditional music uses terraced descent type melodic motion, with songs consisting of two sections, each with a range of more than an octave and scales of four to six tones.
The Ghost Dance War was an armed conflict in the United States between the Lakota Sioux and the United States government from 1890 until 1891. It involved the Wounded Knee Massacre wherein the 7th Cavalry massacred around 300 unarmed Lakota Sioux, primarily women, children, and elders, at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. The Ghost Dance War ended when Sioux leader Kicking Bear surrendered on January 15, 1891.
Smohalla (Dreamer) was a Wanapum nineteenth-century dreamer-prophet associated with the Dreamers movement among Native American people in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia Plateau region.
John Slocum (Squ-sacht-un) was a member of the Squaxin Island Tribe, Coast Salish, and a reputed holy man and prophet who founded the Indian Shaker Church in 1881.
The eagle bone whistle is a religious object, used by some members of Native American spiritual societies in sacred ceremonies. They are made from bones of either the American bald eagle or the American golden eagle, and are considered powerful spiritual objects.
The Native American Church (NAC), also known as Peyotism and Peyote Religion, is a Native American religion that teaches a combination of traditional Native American beliefs and Christianity, with sacramental use of the entheogen peyote. The religion originated in the Oklahoma Territory (1890-1907) in the late nineteenth century, after peyote was introduced to the southern Great Plains from Mexico. Today it is the most widespread indigenous religion among Native Americans in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, with an estimated 250,000 adherents as of the late twentieth century.
Lophophora williamsii or peyote is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline. Peyote is a Spanish word derived from the Nahuatl, or Aztec, peyōtl[ˈpejoːt͡ɬ], meaning "glisten" or "glistening". Other sources translate the Nahuatl word as "Divine Messenger". Peyote is native to Mexico and southwestern Texas. It is found primarily in the Chihuahuan Desert and in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potosí among scrub. It flowers from March to May, and sometimes as late as September. The flowers are pink, with thigmotactic anthers.
Native American civil rights are the civil rights of Native Americans in the United States. Native Americans are citizens of their clanic nations as well as the United States, and those clanic nations are characterized under the Law of the United States as "domestic dependent nations", a special relationship that creates a particular tension between rights retained via tribal sovereignty and rights that individual Natives obtained as U.S. citizens. This status creates tension today, but was far more extreme before Native people were uniformly granted U.S. citizenship in 1924. Assorted laws and policies of the United States government, some tracing to the pre-Revolutionary colonial period, denied basic human rights—particularly in the areas of cultural expression and travel—to indigenous people.
"John Wilson the Revealer of Peyote" (c.1845–1901) was a Caddo-Delaware-French medicine man who introduced the Peyote plant into a religion, became a major leader in the Ghost Dance, and introduced a new peyote ceremony with teachings of Christ. John Wilson's Caddo name was Nishkû'ntu, meaning "Moon Head."
A ceremonial pipe is a particular type of smoking pipe, used by a number of Native American cultures in their sacred ceremonies. Traditionally they are used to offer prayers in a religious ceremony, to make a ceremonial commitment, or to seal a covenant or treaty. The pipe ceremony may be a component of a larger ceremony, or held as a sacred ceremony in and of itself. Indigenous peoples of the Americas who use ceremonial pipes have names for them in each culture's indigenous language. Not all cultures have pipe traditions, and there is no single word for all ceremonial pipes across the hundreds of diverse Native American languages.
The Recognition of Native American sacred sites in the United States could be described as "specific, discrete, narrowly delineated location on Federal land that is identified by an Indian tribe, or Indian individual determined to be an appropriately authoritative representative of an Indian religion, as sacred by virtue of its established religious significance to, or ceremonial use by, an Indian religion". The sacred places are believed to "have their own 'spiritual properties and significance'". Ultimately, Indigenous peoples who practice their religion at a particular site, they hold a special and sacred attachment to that land sacred land.
Big moon peyotism was introduced as a variant of the Peyote Religion in the 1880s that incorporated Christian, Caddo, and Deleware religious symbols with the consumption of peyote intertwined from Caddo and Deleware rituals. The plant itself, peyote, had been used for spiritual practice by the Mescalero Apache in the 1880, and their use of it influenced other tribes like the Comanche and Kiowa. Peyotism inquires all of the same traits found in other religions such as a doctrine, a ritual, and ethics. The doctrine includes the belief of the actuality of power, incarnation, and spirits. It soon spread all over the Indian Territory while its native people were searching for spiritual help. Peyotism at this point, was a spiritual path that was soon to be taken in Indian Territory. Around 1890, the Caddo, Deleware and Quapaw tribes became the first practitioners of peyote. Black Wolf, a practitioner from the Caddo tribe, brought the religion of little moon peyotism to the Osage people. Black Wolf had intrigued enough of the tribe that his peyote prayers and rituals had truth and value, so the people sent him to heal a sick person in their tribe. His prayers and rituals could not save their life, so peyotism was not being spread for a while. After the native people's dry spell towards peyotism, it returned to the Osage tribe around 1898
Spirit Dance is one of the dances of the Waashat religion, a native religion in the Pacific Northwest of North America.
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