Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Native North American Religions
Michael F. Steltenkamp
Just as there is no single American Indian “language” and “culture,” so there is no single American Indian “religion.” There once existed a diversity of Native peoples whose 2 million descendants today represent the heirs of many languages, cultures, and religious practices that still define Indian country. This world of experience included sacred ritual practices that Native peoples regarded as an essential part of secular, everyday life. Such practices were part and parcel of what it meant to be human within the varied cultures that differed from one another. Time has altered the cultural context that sustained traditions of the past, and most contemporary Indians live very much like non-Indians. However, Native peoples still refer to a “traditional religion,” even though there was no religion, per se, that was common to all groups (nor did the word “religion” exist within the hundreds of Indian languages that were once spoken). As ...