John A. Grim of Yale University explained that the term “indigenous” is a generalized reference to the thousands of small scale societies who have distinct languages, kinship systems, mythologies, ancestral memories and homelands. Much of these indigenous cultures were found in North America long before the European settlers arrived. Some of these cultures had their own way of living and unique ways of worshiping their gods and practicing rituals.
Diversity in the belief of the divine, their spirituality and nature would be the most identifiable aspect, wherein some believe in reincarnation, concept of dual divinity and the “interrelationship of the microcosm of the body with the macrocosm of the larger world” (Grim, 2006), while others believe in kinship in animals and humans. The advent of modern civilization proved to be devastating to these indigenous cultures when natives where forcibly converted to Christianity leading to high suicide rates due to the suppression of their religion and culture.
Many were sold into slavery and forced to live in reservations, therefore limiting their freedom to interact with nature leading to the death of some of their rituals and customs. With the passage of time, some of these indigenous beliefs were incorporated into the different contemporary religions were today’s respective native families attend to. Personal convictions consist of the combination of traditional beliefs with Christian elements.
Some existing Native American tribes still practice rituals, rain dances, chanting and drum beating within the context of Christianity. No matter how great the difference in religious practices between life then and the contemporary times, indigenous people still believe that the past still lives in the present; as John Grim puts it, that central to indigenous traditions is an awareness of the integral and whole relationship of symbolic and material life.
Ritual practices and the cosmological ideas which undergird society cannot be separated out as an institutionalized religion from the daily round of subsistence practices. Sources: 1) Native Religions Development (2006), www. religioustolerance. org [internet] http://www. religioustolerance. org/nataspir. htm Date Accessed: 17 January 2007 2) Grim, John A. (2006), Indigenous Traditions and Ecology (web page) http://environment. harvard. edu/religion/religion/indigenous/index. html Date Accessed: 17 January 2007