Native American Religion Essay

Native American Religion Essay

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When Europeans first set foot upon the shores of what is now the United States they brought with them a social structure which was fundamentally based around their concept and understanding of Western European Christianity. That the indigenous peoples might already have a thriving civilization, including religious beliefs and practices, that closely paralleled the beliefs and practices of European civilization, was a concept not considered by these early explorers and settlers. This European lack of cultural understanding created tensions, between Native Americans and Europeans, and later between Native Americans and Euro-Americans, that eventually erupted into open warfare and resulted in great bloodshed between cultures. For the Lakota peoples of North America, cultural misunderstanding culminated with Euro-American misinterpretation of the purpose of the Native American Ghost Dance with its related religious beliefs and the massacre of peaceful Native American Lakota people as they were attempting to flee to the safety of the Agency at Pine Ridge Reservation near Wounded Knee Creek in what is now the state of South Dakota.

When contact was made with indigenous peoples, Europeans discovered that the languages of the indigenous peoples did not include words for religion or for God as Europeans understood these concepts. These Europeans considered themselves a civilized and pious people who lived according to the ways and teachings of the Christian Bible and believed that this was the only proper and correct code of conduct. Believing that the lack of Native American words to identify and describe God and religion meant that these concepts did not exist within the culture and society of the indigenous peoples, the European...


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...itor footnote number 8, Joseph Epes Brown, The Sacred Pipe Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 6.
Editor footnote number 9, Joseph Epes Brown, The Sacred Pipe Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 6.
Editor footnote number 9, Joseph Epes Brown, The Sacred Pipe Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 6.
Colin G. Calloway, First Peoples, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008), 306.
Ibid., 310.
Ibid., 313.
Ibid., 340.
Colin G. Calloway, First Peoples, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008), 312.
Gregory E. Smoak, ghost dances and identity, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 154.
Ibid., 114.
Ibid., 120.
Ibid., 114.

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