Religion Among the American Indians

Louis C. Kleber describes how, for the American Indians, ‘medicine’ was a spiritual belief as well as a curative.

For the American Indian, religion was a unique and unifying feature of his life; one that pervaded his very existence. It was, in a sense, a conscious awareness of grandeur and power of nature tied to a mystical belief in his oneness with creation. As the Navahos sang in the Songs of Talking God:

‘Now I walk with Talking God...

With goodness and beauty in all things around me

I go;

With goodness and beauty I follow immortality.

Thus being I, I go.’

The European settlers were never able to understand fully or overcome the faith of the Indian who was tolerant of other beliefs and had no missionary zeal. He might adopt some of the white man’s ways, but the Indian way remained. This duality was manifested during the American Revolution when George Washington ordered General John Sullivan to ‘not merely overrun but destroy’ the territory of those Iroquois tribes that sided with the British.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.