English Across the Curriculum

Native Americans


Indians did not have one single religion, but they did have many beliefs. They believed in a mysterious force in nature and in spirits that were higher than human beings and influenced their lives.

People depended on them when they searched for food or when people were ill. Some tribes believed in one or many gods – special spirits that were more powerful than others.

Shamans were religious people who had close contacts with spirits. They were often medicine men and treated sick people in a family. They set broken bones and used plants to cure certain diseases. When helping the ill they often moved around their bodies and sang songs.

Many ceremonies were held to help Indians get enough food. The Plains Indians thought that the buffalo dance would help them hunt buffalo. Some tribes held harvest festivals and organised rain dances where they prayed to gods for enough rain.

Music accompanied Native Americans through everyday life. Many tribes sang to the rhythm of rattles and drums. Some tribes used flutes and whistles.

Navajo war dance

Navajo war dance

Image : Edward S. Curtis, Public domain,
via Wikimedia Commons