ATH 346-01

Religions of Native N. America

  • many linguistic and ethnic groups
  • originally there wasn’t a category called Native American or Indian
  • many people considered themselves members of a village or community

regions

  • arctic
  • NW coast
  • SW
  • Plains
  • NE Woodlands
  • SE

Inuit (Eskimo)

  • hunters
    • sea mammals
    • bear
    • caribou, musk ox
  • fishermen
  • some gathering
  • highly mobile
  • nuclear family
  • band – several related nuclear families

pre-contact myths

  • Inung & Sedna
  • controls sea animals
  • Sedna’s hair becomes filthy and she withholds animals
    • taboo
    • incest
    • hunting out of season
  • Inua: sould, men, animals, moon, sun and sea have spirits
  • shaman persuades her to release these to hunters
  • be nice to hunted game; offer it fresh water, if pleased, its soul will want to be caught in the next life

shamanism

  • shamans receive calling
    • hereditary
    • dreams/hallucinations/visions
  • problem: soul loss
    • illness causes mental & physical problems
    • soul stolen by another spirit
  • most Inuit practice xtian today

Iroquois

  • five nations
    • Mohawk
    • Oneida
    • Onondaga
    • Cayuga
    • (Tusc.)
  • Other related groups
    • Huron
    • Wyandot
    • Susquehanna
    • Erie
    • Tuscarora

Myth & worldview

  • universe divided into 3 realms (tree metaphor)
    • sky world: order, goodness, warmth, light, life
    • underworld: darkness, chaos, evil, cold, death
    • in between (middle) world: our world, qualities of both others
  • twin brothers
    • Tarachiawagon (Great Spirit)
    • Evil Spirit
  • Great spirit created good world
    • like sky world
  • Evil spirit created monstrous animals and pests, introduced death
  • cosmic battle

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