Blog Posts - Native American Customs



Prepping for Winter

A good vegetable harvest was important for many tribes, but all Native Americans did not practice agriculture and reap harvests  at the end of a growing season. These tribes still had to provide for winter food, when game was more scarce. Drying foo...

Winter Provision

By October and early November, Native Americans who were growing cultivated crops would have gathered much of their harvest. The task to preserve food for the coming winter was a difficult one, and tribes across the continent met the challenge in a v...

Horror Story

Native Americans did not celebrate Halloween rituals as Europeans did, but they passed on stories about spirits and ghosts. The following story is adapted from the Zuni tale, “Rolling Skull” on angelfire.com, Native American Legends, Myth...

European Fashions

Trade usually benefited both parties in an exchange, since value (of goods traded) is in the eye of the beholder. However, from a strictly economic standpoint, European traders came out well ahead of their Native American counterparts. Except for gun...

Worlds Apart

Though insanity was rare, Native Americans did sometimes have to deal with tribal members they deemed insane. Their methods were less harsh than European ones (see last post) and Native Americans often tried to cure insanity rather than settle for th...

Another New World

Europeans coming to the American continents experienced a new world, but Native Americans also experienced new worlds as these strangers introduced their cultural practices and religious beliefs to them. Some, if not many, of these initial exchanges...

New World Medicine

Europeans who came to the New World welcomed Native American medical knowledge. Though Europeans had commonly used herbs and other plant preparations to cure illnesses, they were not familiar with many of the plants they found in their new home. Nati...

Insanity is Rare

Field researchers found that insanity among Native Americans was rare (see last post) and this finding was backed up by many individual observations over time. In An Account of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations written in 1819,...

Insensitivity the Norm

Native Americans met with cultural insensitivity from almost everyone who arrived in the New World. Though many individual friendships developed over the years, actual government policy from colonial times and continuing after U.S. independence, was...

Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday does not have the same significance for Native Americans as it does generally for others in this country. The fact that European pilgrims survived their first harsh winter boded ill for native peoples who suffered death, dise...

Dancing Controversy

Native American dancing caused controversy for several reasons (see last post). Missionaries saw paganism or sexual immorality in dancing, and also considered it a hindrance to their efforts to convert Indians to Christianity; the Indian Office felt...

Dancing and Morals

Missionaries trying to convert Native Americans to Christianity took particular exception to the traditional dances of native peoples. Some Christian denominations considered dancing immoral for anyone–whites included–but even denominatio...

Onward, Civilization

Besides encouraging native peoples to take up farming, white settlers believed that introducing Christianity would help “civilize” Indians (see last post). Federal policy encouraged missionaries to enter Indian territories to spread both...

Civilizing Indians

From the time of their own arrival, most white settlers to America considered Native Americans savages, or at best, uncivilized. Thomas Jefferson wrote about “civilizing” Indians within a peculiar context–that of helping Americans e...

Give-Away Day

The Indian Bureau’s policy of assimilation always supported ways of changing or eliminating Indian customs. They forced children to go to boarding schools to learn white ways, made Indians on reservations wear “citizen” (white-style...

Early Observations on the West

Though mountain men like Jedediah Smith (see last post) brought their prejudices and world-views with them, they also rejected much of civilized society’s mores and were comfortable interacting with whatever or whomever they found on their jour...

Women’s Food Knowledge

Some Native American women held special positions in tribes (see last two posts), but almost any female possessed food-gathering and culinary skills of great value. When settlers first began pushing West, they found survival on the unforgiving Plains...

Medicine Women

Native American women gathered herbs and created various healing preparations from them in probably every tribe. Some women had a special ability to heal, and became medicine women. Their knowledge went beyond the ordinary, and they devoted a conside...

The Scalp Dance

Women were an integral part of tribal life; they raised and preserved food, cared for children, and accompanied men in battle when necessary. They participated in ceremonies and celebrations as well. Women were sole participants in certain dances, li...

Native American Warrior Women

Native American women not only shared political power with men, they sometimes shared in their tribe’s fighting. Though they were certainly not common, female warriors joined in warfare when necessary. Running Eagle became a Blackfoot warrior a...


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