Native American Religion

Early Native American religions were quite different from those found in Europe. They were a form of spirituality passed from one generation to the next orally rather than a written set of beliefs or strict doctrine. The various Native American cultures such as the Iroquois, Dakota, and Apache all had unique spiritual beliefs. However, there were common themes that made the beliefs seem unified to Europeans.

One common theme among the various tribes is the existence of a creation story. The story itself, however, varies from tribe to tribe. The Inuit creation story describes a race of giants that give birth to the goddess of the sea. The Seneca creation story is longer and is completely different. While some tribes may share narrative similarities, they are not merely variation on a theme.

Much as the creation stories are different, the other sacred stories that define a people are also different. Unlike the stories that defined those that came to America from Europe, such as the Bible, the Native Americans had no such unifying text. Sacred texts among Native Americans were not specifically available. Instead, they passed on their spiritual traditions and stories orally. Fortunately, many of those stories were transcribed and are now available in written form for members outside of the community to learn from.

It is evident that while there are definite spiritual beliefs and practices inherit in Native American culture; there is no one religion that defines all of these cultures. These differences make the study of Native American spirituality, or religion, compelling.

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