Native Americans and Their Beliefs In Nature

Native Americans were the people who lived in America before other people from other countries came and took over America. Based on the archaeological evidence, the first Americans came from Asia. They traveled across the bridge between Alaska and Russia.American people developed into hundreds of thriving societies because many people migrated south and east throughout America.

There are four central traditions of Native Americans that is the land is sacred so no one can own the land. The land is very important for life and the land should be treated with respect, lives are organized around cycle of nature, the traditions such as fables, folktales, and sacred stories pass verbally from each generation, and speech making and storytelling are important. Native Americans lived in groups and divided into several tribes which had different territory to live. Native Americans respected nature and they took a good care of earth and only used natural resources what they needed.

Native Americans used myth as an important part of oral tradition of each culture. One of the tribe which used myth was Cherokee. Cherokee people lived in the forests of the great smokey mountain. The Cherokee passed down the myth “How The World Was Made” from generation to generation. Later on an anthropologist, James Mooney, wrote it down and published it in 1891. This story shows a great reverence for the natural world.

In the myth, “How The World Was Made”, the Cherokee people displayed their views about nature by using creatures. Their purpose of giving this myth is to depict their social manner and their belief. From this myth, the relationship between the Cherokee people and nature is clear. The Cherokee respect all creatures in the world. The Cherokee people respect animals because according to this myth, the Cherokee could not exist in the world without animals. Not only the Cherokee people who respected nature but all of Native American’s tribe did. They appreciated nature most. They believe that all of us in the world is a unity and connected to each other.

Native Americans also believed that all nature is alive with spirit. This belief is shown in this myth when all the plants and animals were asked to stay awake for seven days but only few of them could do well. “When the animals and plants were first made–we do not know by whom– they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine (spirit). They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake.” The plants and animals which succeeded got their special characteristic because their own spirit within their selves.

For Native Americans, spirits take the forms of animals, plants, and appear in visions. In their life, this belief is shown when they painted an animal in their weapon or body and the animal became a symbol of their tribe. In this myth, there was a Great Buzzard and it symbolizes strength. “At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the Earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the Earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.” In this quote, we can see the power of the Great Buzzard when he flapped his wings and he created mountain and valley, so then this myth gives a symbol of strength from a Buzzard. The other example is the symbol of Huron people. Their symbol was turtle. The turtle signifies the ancient belief that the world was created on the back of a turtle, the “moss-back turtle,” also known as the snapping turtle. In conclusion, from the myth and its explanation and Native American’s belief, it is stated clearly that they felt close to nature, they respected it, and they also sacred it.



Sources :

Glencoe. Literature The Reader’s Choice, American Literature – Interactive Student Edition, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2002

Picture’s sources:


(Author : Sarah Khansa Agharid)



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