Ethnic, Spiritual And Cultural Care For Native Americans

Categories: Tradition


Native American refers to a member of any of indigenous groups and races were living in North and South America before the invasion of other communities. The terms Native American, Indian American and Alaska Native refer to one of the smallest racial minority groups in the United States, a group that consists of descendants of the original people indigenous to the North American continent (Flowers 2016). The US Census Bureau defines American Indians and Alaska Natives as "people having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.

With time, these communities have changed their code of conduct but some communities like the Cheyenne, Nevado, and Ponca still indulge in ancient practices and beliefs.

Native American culture refers to the practices, beliefs, customs and social behaviors and norms of original habitats in America that distinguishes them from other groups of people. It defines the practices and lifestyle that the people that inhabited North and South America before cultural diversity.

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These are unique practices and beliefs that are possessed by the people of America before the arrival of mixed cultures from other groups. These communities have their own social, economic, and religious way of life that differed from their neighboring communities. The religious code made different sub-communities to develop differently (Alchin 2017). The range of cultural practices of these communities varies from dietary, dying and death, religious practices, health and nursing practices and many other cultural aspects of the communities.

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Dietary and Nutritional

In current America, most Native American has the same diet as the non-Native American do. The best part of this is that some of the dietary components as fruits which are not indigenous to the Native American now are available to them. The threatening aspect of diversifying the diets have introduced unhealthy lifestyles among the communities that had sustained them for many years. Considering history, most people were engaged in hunting and gathering and subsistence farming (Grinberg 2015). Most of their foods came from farms and animals flesh and steak. The major types of food that are still in circulation and considered healthy by the Native Americans are corns, berries, pumpkin, mushrooms, beans, Acorn mush, from the Miwok people, akutaq, also called "Eskimo ice cream", made from caribou or moose tallow and meat, seal oil, and sometimes fish, whipped together with snow or water, Bannock, a bread of European origin, cooked over an open fire.

Food is one of the most important elements in the Native American community as it's not taken just for nourishment needs. Ceremonies and events are celebrated with food and it is also used for unity as people gather to eat. Most of the native Americans' food does not include fruit which has been an unhealthy practice. Even though it lacks such an important nutritional ingredient, the majority of health researchers and doctors have advised as they tend to contain body friendly chemicals. The Native American dietary lacks some crucial nutritional components in the favorite diets which is alarming and need attention. The community should be educated on the importance of such nourishment ingredients that are important for safe health. Food insecurity is also an observed characteristic of these communities and (Katherine, Wanda, Jeniffer & Angela 2016).

Spirituality and religious beliefs

Native American spirituality consist of many encompasses a set of beliefs that are that are interchangeably applied by different tribes in the community. use God and others use creator interchangeably to refer to the highest being. In daily practices, prayers include using the sacred object and the congregation is usually private and does not include any outsiders. Their beliefs on dying and death vary massively form on the community to community. The Omaha, Ponka, and Apache communities, after death, the properties and belongings of the deceased shall not be touched. In the Lakota people, the body must be prepared by a family or family member before burial. There are a great variety of symbols which and art model which are worship and acts as a sign of holiness (Alchin 2017). These symbolic materials are kept in a respected place where people can converge to worship and make their request to the gods. Some of the spiritual and religious beliefs have prevented many of the Native American community from accessing formal way of life.

The Native American religion encompasses diverse traditional religious practices that were practiced by the first inhabitants of America and still practiced by their descendants. It falls within indigenous religions which refer to the religious practices originating from indigenous communities all over the globe. As at now, most of the Native Americans practice Christianity or blended traditions. There are hundreds of distinct religious lines in what is today called the United States. The Native American religion tends to focus on nature, demographic phenomena, plants, animals, and other natural environmental elements play a very crucial aspect of their religion (Grinberg 2015). Their religion includes a number of ceremonies, practices, and traditions which are performed in regard to some cause. Symbolism is usually a greater part of Amerindians as some tribes worship certain forms of gods.

Treatment of Death

Death as perceived by other communities as a way or channel of ending an earthly life to facilitate a merging and stay with the "Creator" or God and fallen ancestors who passed earlier. In Native American perception of the same, death is not an ending to life. They believe that life is a journey and death is a passage to the next world of less suffering and a fruitful ground. There are several hundred different tribes of native American, and among them, many have extremely diverse forms of beliefs, almost all of them believe that time is circular and life does not end but passes from one world to another (Wigington 2018). Majority of the tribes still believe in reincarnation, they also belie that the soul is a spiritual aspect that moves from one body to another without leaving the world. Other groups believe that when one of their own dies, their soul is transported to the next world to join their ancestors who passed before them. These tribes view death as something not to be mourned but celebrated as one moves from one world to the other. The pattern of their view is perceived to be circular rather than linear where one's life end at the time they die. To traditional Native Americans, organ transplant and autopsy is unacceptable. When a person dies, special women from the family or the ethnic group are selected to prepare a body

Healthcare and nursing.

The use of a traditional healer to restore the correct physical, mental and spiritual state of people is practiced among Native Americans. A healer is a person who is highly respected in the community and some tribes believe that they are chosen divinely. Access to adequate health care has been a problem for many American Indians because of barriers such as poor or no roads, isolated living, lack of adequate transportation or money for gasoline, and lack of health care providers in the area (Flowers 2016). Additionally, a large population of the Native American lives below average standards of living. To address such issues, some commissions were established with the primary goal of improving the status of American Indians health status and introduce educational awareness campaign. There are those communities with traditional healers who are mostly aged people who use herbs and other natural material mixtures as drugs. Healthcare and nursing practices for Native Americans can be improved by improving the cultural competence of the service providers. This will enable them to communicate effectively of the treatment options to the patients.

Purification and cleansing

Purification is a methodology us to cleanse a person and break any haunting spirit. Some procedures are performed on the victim and the act directed the gods and procedure is accompanied by sacrifices to the gods. Some acts involved in purification include emersion in water to cleanse and set a body free from rituals and spirits believed to be evil (Flowers 2016). Such practices are performed by the elderly who are believed to be sacred and the chosen one to communicate with their god. There are other practices e.g. spreading of cedar around a victim's body that is believed to be effective. This has resulted in some community members rejecting modern forms of therapy hence effecting to poor health status.


Native American culture is facing extreme diversity and different ethnic groups are adopting new cultural and religious practices. Even though such revolutions are taking place rapidly, the increment in the Amerindian population has greatly improved having more than 500 tribes and some tribes still stick to their ancestral practices. There are consequential impacts of the rigid cultural practices in the Native American population as some community members would not undergo other medicinal practices due to the feeling that they will be cultural infringers. Cultural diversities is really taking a rapid integration to the interior of the Native American communities but some of the population believe that their ancestral customary activities were set for a greater purpose and still hold to them effectively.

Works cited

  1. Alchin, L. (2017). Native American Religion. History for Kids.
  2. Flowers, N. (2016). Native Americans in the United States. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. Grinberg, E. (2015). The evolution of Native American cuisine. CNN.
  4. Katherine, C., Wanda, A., Jeniffer, C., & Angela, R. (2016). Food Insecurity and Dietary Intake of Native American Youth. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 11(3), 336–344.
  5. Native American Foods. (2021). Native Hope.
  6. Native American Religions. (2022). Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion.
  7. Schultz, M. (2019). Native American culture: beliefs, religion, and rituals. Holidappy.
  8. The Association on American Indian Affairs. (n.d.). Traditional Indian Medicine.
  9. Wigington, P. (2018). Native American Beliefs About Death. Learn Religions.
  10. Wilkins, D. E. (2017). Native American Health in the United States, 1900–1960. In V. B. Shabecoff, P. M. Lerner, & J. S. Brown (Eds.), Public Health in the Americas, 1895-1960 (pp. 87–107). Springer International Publishing.
Updated: Feb 16, 2024
Cite this page

Ethnic, Spiritual And Cultural Care For Native Americans. (2024, Feb 16). Retrieved from

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