Native American Culture – The Great Spirit

Native Americans are traditionally very spiritual people, and most tribes revere “The Great Spirit”. This is an English translation of The Creator, a deity or “God”. Native American culture to this day honors and is mindful of The Great Spirit, and Native American blankets like the Pendleton Rio Canyon blanket (pictured) pay homage to the presence of The Great Spirit in all living things.

What is The Great Spirit?

While some Native Americans have come to consider The Great Spirit and the Abrahamic God to be one and the same (and even a result of European colonialization), for others there has always been a belief in a Great Mystery and force in and amongst everything in the Universe.

The concept of a universal spiritual force represents a god of creation and eternity. It speaks through chosen individuals or mediators and provides guidance to humans.

Many tribes have different names for The Great Spirit, for example:

  • Wakan Tanka – Sioux Great Spirit
  • Manitou – Iroquois Great Spirit
  • Apistotoke – Blackfoot Great Spirit
  • Maheo – Cheyenne Great Spirit
  • Tirawa Atius – Pawnee Great Spirit

The Great Spirit is perceived as both male and female, separate but one divine deity, though some tribes refer to it as “Father”, “Grandfather”, or “Old Man”.

The Mother Earth aspect of The Great Spirit harks back to Neolithic Goddess culture. Women shared equality with men and the Divine Feminine was the source of animal, vegetation, and human life.

In the post-Goddess era, the masculine hierarchy thrived, yet among Native American tribal culture, the masculine and feminine are far more generally balanced than for most Western religions and cultural traditions. Women in Native American culture enjoy an influence and respect exceeding that of almost any other culture worldwide.

  • The Great Spirit is seen by the Lakota Sioux, for example, as an amalgamation of Father Sky (the dominant force), Mother Earth, and an array of Spirits who oversee human life and the elements.
  • The Shoshone call their creator god “Tam Apo” which translates as “Our Father”.
  • Some tribes represent the Supreme Being as an animal, most often a wolf, having human thought and speech.

Other Native Religious Concepts

American Indian religions feature certain other distinct beliefs and traditions:

  • Mythological anthropomorphic animals imbued with spirits.
  • Spirits inhabit everything from the stars to rivers, mountains, rocks, fire, air, animals, insects, lakes, and the earth itself.
  • Belief in reincarnation into human or animal form.
  • Ghosts walking the Earth among the living.
  • A heavenly afterlife. Those tribes which are based on nomadic hunting culture (e.g., the Plains Indians) tend to favor a belief in a “Happy Hunting Ground”, or an afterlife in a place with a bounty of game. Those which are based on agriculture (agrarian tribes – e.g., the Hopi) tend to believe the afterlife is in a land beneath or inside the Earth, and it is from here that Mother Earth renews life.

Indian Traders has a wide selection of Native American  jewelry and bronze statues which feature the legendary symbolism of the southwestern US American Indian tribes and the animals which are so important to the North American Indians of all Nations. Explore our range today.

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