• Lakota Medicine Wheel

Beliefs & Traditions

  • Seven Sacred Rites
  • Seven Lakota Values
  • Four Directions
  • Morning Star
  • Lakota Seasons & Moon Phases
  • Lakota Star Quilt
  • Lakota Tipi
  • Lakota Winter Count

The medicine wheel, originating from  American Indian traditions , is also referred to as Sacred Hoop. The medicine wheel represents the  sacred circle  of life, its basic four directions, and their associated elements. Each direction of the wheel offers its own lessons, color, and animal spirit guide.

Used by the indigenous Plains tribes to represent all knowledge of the universe. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of hope — a movement toward healing for those who seek it.

The Circle The circle represents the sacred outer boundary of the Earth often referred to as the Sun Dance Circle or the Sacred Hoop. It represents the continuous pattern of ongoing life and death.

The Lines The horizontal and vertical lines represent the sun and man’s sacred paths, respectively; the crossing of the two lines indicates the center of the Earth where one stands when praying.

The Feather When included, the eagle feather is a sign of Wak áŋ T áŋka’s – the Great Spirit’s – power over everything. Typically, when someone is presented with a Medicine Wheel with an attached eagle feather, it is to signify a great accomplishment, such as a graduation ceremony or another momentous life event.

The Four Directions The directions, as they are called upon in the medicine wheel, are often associated with a sacred color and each direction has a messenger.  There is o common expression for the color placement on the medicine wheel.  It is found that color placement varies based on individual tribal customs.

Brown Eagle

Direction – East Color – Yellow Messenger – Brown Eagle

The power of the east is closely associated with the sun. It is there that He rises to bring light and enlightenment to all creation. The path of the sun is from east to west. It is thought of as a clockwise direction, and all good things should conform to that pattern. The Morning Star, which is the star of wisdom and new beginnings, comes from the east. East is the home of the Elk people. The sacred color of the east is yellow, and the messenger is that of the brown eagle.


Direction – South Color – White Messenger – Crane

The sacred power of the south is connected with life after death and directs men as they walk toward that awe-inspiring place. Life begins in the south and nourishment of every kind comes from there. Warmth, happiness, and generosity are associated with the power of the south. South is the home of the animal people. The sacred color of the south is white and the messenger is the crane.

 Black Eagle

Direction – West Color – Black Messenger – Black Eagle

The power of the west is the direction in which the sun sets and where the day ends. It is this direction that is connected with the power of the rain and of the water, which is used to purify. Joy and growth always follow the rain and a release from ignorance. West is the home of the powerful Thunder-being who flies in the midst of the thunderstorms as a huge bird. His wings produce the thunder and the lightning flashes from his eyes. It is in this being the one who stands against evil and ensures the respect of the others. The sacred color of the west is often called black, and the messenger is that of the black eagle.

Bald Eagle

Direction – North Color – Red Messenger – Bald Eagle

Winter’s home is in the north. Its power promotes good health and growth. Those who misbehave look to it for correction and for the wisdom needed to walk the straight path again. It is a challenging power, and it promotes endurance. The north is the home of the Calf Pipe Woman and the buffalo people. Its color is red and the messenger is that of the bald eagle.

Black Elk Speaks , John Neihardt, Pocket Books, 1972 Lakota Ritual and Belief , James Walker, University of Nebraska Press, 1980 Oglala Religion , William K. Powers, University of Nebraska Press, 1975 The Pipe and Christ, William Stolzman, SJ, Tipi Press, 1998 Sundancing at Rosebud and Pine Ridge, Thomas E. Mails, Graphic Publishing Co., 1978

  • Current Issue
  • Past Issues
  • Get New Issue Alerts
  • American Academy of Arts 
and Sciences

Indigenous Americans: Spirituality and Ecos

indian sacred spirit

Jack D. Forbes is professor emeritus and former chair of Native American studies at the University of California at Davis. © 2001 by Jack D. Forbes. All rights reserved.

The cosmic visions of indigenous peoples are significantly diverse. Each nation and community has its own unique traditions. Still, several characteristics stand out. First, it is common to envision the creative process of the universe as a form of thought or mental process. Second, it is common to have a source of creation that is plural, either because several entities participate in creation or because the process as it unfolds includes many sacred actors stemming from a First Principle (Father/Mother or Grandfather/Grandmother). Third, the agents of creation are seldom pictured as human, but are depicted instead as “wakan” (holy), or animal-like (coyote, raven, great white hare, etc.), or as forces of nature (such as wind/breath). The Lakota medicine man Lame Deer says that the Great Spirit “is not like a human being. . . . He is a power. That power could be in a cup of coffee. The Great Spirit is no old man with a beard.” 1 The concept perhaps resembles the elohim of the Jewish Genesis, the plural form of eloi , usually mistranslated as “God,” as though it were singular.

Perhaps the most important aspect of indigenous cosmic visions is the conception of creation as a living process, resulting in a living universe in which a kinship exists between all things. Thus the Creators are our family, our Grandparents or Parents, and all of their creations are children who, of necessity, are also our relations.

An ancient Ashiwi (Zuñi) prayer-song states:

That our earth mother may wrap herself In a four-fold robe of white meal [snow]; . . . When our earth mother is replete with living waters, When spring comes, The source of our flesh, All the different kinds of corn We shall lay to rest in the ground with the earth mother’s living waters, They will be made into new beings, Coming out standing into the daylight of their Sun father, to all sides They will stretch out their hands. . . . 2

Thus the Mother Earth is a living being, as are the waters and the Sun.

Juan Matus told Carlos Castaneda that Genaro, a Mazateco, “was just now embracing this enormous earth . . . but the earth knows that Genaro loves it and it bestows on him its care. . . . This earth, this world. For a warrior there can be no greater love. . . . This lovely being, which is alive to its last recesses and understands every feeling. . . .” 3

Or, as Lame Deer puts it:

We must try to use the pipe for mankind, which is on the road to self-destruction. . . . This can be done only if all of us, Indians and non-Indians alike, can again see ourselves as part of the earth, not as an enemy from the outside who tries to impose its will on it. Because we . . . also know that, being a living part of the earth, we cannot harm any part of her without hurting ourselves. 4

European writers long ago referred to indigenous Americans’ ways as “animism,” a term that means “life-ism.” And it is true that most or perhaps all Native Americans see the entire universe as being alive—that is, as having movement and an ability to act. But more than that, indigenous Americans tend to see this living world as a fantastic and beautiful creation engendering extremely powerful feelings of gratitude and indebtedness, obliging us to behave as if we are related to one another. An overriding characteristic of Native North American religion is that of gratitude, a feeling of overwhelming love and thankfulness for the gifts of the Creator and the earth/universe. As a Cahuilla elder, Ruby Modesto, has stated: “Thank you mother earth, for holding me on your breast. You always love me no matter how old I get.” 5 Or as Joshua Wetsit, an Assiniboine elder born in 1886, put it: “But our Indian religion is all one religion, the Great Spirit. We’re thankful that we’re on this Mother Earth. That’s the first thing when we wake up in the morning, is to be thankful to the Great Sprit for the Mother Earth: how we live, what it produces, what keeps everything alive.” 6

Many years ago, the Great Spirit gave the Shawnee, Sauk, Fox, and other peoples maize or corn. This gift arrived when a beautiful woman appeared from the sky. She was fed by two hunters, and in return she gave them, after one year, maize, beans, and tobacco. “We thank the Great Spirit for all the benefits he has conferred upon us. For myself, I never take a drink of water from a spring, without being mindful of his goodness.” 7

Although it is certainly true that Native Americans ask for help from spiritual beings, it is my personal observation that giving thanks, or, in some cases, giving payment for gifts received, is a salient characteristic of most public ceremonies. Perhaps this is related to the overwhelmingly positive attitude Native Americans have had toward the Creator and the world of “nature,” or what I call the “Wemi Tali,” the “All Where” in the Delaware-Lenápe language. Slow Buffalo, a teacher, is remembered to have said about a thousand years ago:

Remember . . . the ones you are going to depend upon. Up in the heavens, the Mysterious One, that is your grandfather. In between the earth and the heavens, that is your father. This earth is your grandmother. The dirt is your grandmother. Whatever grows in the earth is your mother. It is just like a sucking baby on a mother. . . .

Always remember, your grandmother is underneath your feet always. You are always on her, and your father is above. 8

Winona LaDuke, a contemporary leader from White Earth Anishinabe land, tells us that:

Native American teachings describe the relations all around—animals, fish, trees, and rocks—as our brothers, sisters, uncles, and grandpas. . . .

These relations are honored in ceremony, song, story, and life that keep relations close—to buffalo, sturgeon, salmon, turtles, bears, wolves, and panthers. These are our older relatives—the ones who came before and taught us how to live. 9

In 1931 Standing Bear, a Lakota, said when reciting an ancient prayer:

To mother earth, it is said . . . you are the only mother that has shown mercy to your children. . . . Behold me, the four quarters of the earth, relative I am. . . . All over the earth faces of all living things are alike. Mother earth has turned these faces out of the earth with tenderness. Oh Great Spirit behold them, all these faces with children in their hands. 10

Again in 1931, Black Elk, the well-known Lakota medicine man, told us that “The four-leggeds and the wings of the air and the mother earth were supposed to be relative-like. . . . The first thing an Indian learns is to love each other and that they should be relative-like to the four-leggeds.” 11 And thus we see this very strong kinship relation to the Wemi Tali, the “All Where”: “The Great Spirit made the flowers, the streams, the pines, the cedars—takes care of them. . . . He takes care of me, waters me, feeds me, makes me live with plants and animals as one of them. . . . All of nature is in us, all of us is in nature.” 12

At the center of all of the creation is the Great Mystery. As Black Elk said:

When we use the water in the sweat lodge we should think of Wakan-Tanka, who is always flowing, giving His power and life to everything. . . . The round fire place at the center of the sweat lodge is the center of the universe, in which dwells Wakan-Tanka, with His power which is the fire. All these things are Wakan [holy and mystery] and must be understood deeply if we really wish to purify ourselves, for the power of a thing or an act is in the meaning and the understanding. 13

Luther Standing Bear, writing in the 1930s, noted:

The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. . . . The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing. . . . Wherever the Lakota went, he was with Mother Earth. No matter where he roamed by day or slept by night he was safe with her. 14

Native people, according to Standing Bear, were often baffled by the European tendency to refer to nature as crude, primitive, wild, rude, untamed, and savage. “For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and woods were all finished beauty. . . .” 15

Of course, the indigenous tendency to view the earth and other nonorganic entities as being part of bios (life, living) is seen by many post-1500 Europeans as simply romantic or nonsensical. When Native students enroll in many biology or chemistry classes today they are often confronted by professors who are absolutely certain that rocks are not alive. But in reality these professors are themselves products of an idea system of materialism and mechanism that is both relatively modern and indefensible. I have challenged this materialist perspective in a poem, “Kinship is the Basic Principle of Philosophy,” which I will partially reproduce here as indicative of some common indigenous perspectives:

. . .For hundreds of years           certainly for thousands Our Native elders           have taught us “All My Relations”           means all living things           and the entire Universe “All Our Relations”           they have said           time and time again. . . . Do you doubt still?           a rock alive? You say           it is hard!           it doesn’t move of its own accord!           it has no eyes!           it doesn’t think!           but rocks do move           put one in a fire           it will get hot won’t it?           That means           won’t you agree?           that its insides are moving           ever more rapidly?. . . So don’t kid me my friend,           rocks change           rocks move           rocks flow           rocks combine           rocks are powerful friends           I have many           big and small           their processes, at our temperatures,           are very slow           but very deep! I understand because, you see,           I am part rock!           I eat rocks           rocks are part of me           I couldn’t exist without           the rock in me           We are all related! No, it’s alive I tell you,           just like the old ones say           they’ve been there           you know           they’ve crossed the boundaries           not with computers           but with their           very own beings! 16

About a thousand years ago, White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the ancestors of the Lakota, giving them a sacred pipe and a round rock. The rock, Black Elk said,

. . . is the Earth, your Grandmother and Mother, and it is where you will live and increase. . . . All of this is sacred and so do not forget! Every dawn as it comes is a holy event, and every day is holy, for the light comes from your father Wakan-Tanka; and also you must always remember that the two-leggeds and all the other peoples who stand upon this earth are sacred and should be treated as such. 17

Here we see not only the expression of relatedness on a living earth, but also the sacredness or holiness of events that some persons take for granted: the dawn, the day, and, in effect, time and the flow of life in its totality. In relation to all of these gifts, human beings are expected to be humble, not arrogant, and to respect other creatures. An ancient Nahua (Mexican) poem tells us that

Those of the white head of hair, those of the wrinkled face, our ancestors. . . They did not come to be arrogant, They did not come to go about looking greedily, They did not come to be voracious. They were such that they were esteemed on the earth: They reached the stature of eagles and jaguars. 18

Lame Deer says: “You can tell a good medicine man by his actions and his way of life. Is he lean? Does he live in a poor cabin? Does money leave him cold?” 19 Thus, humility and a lack of arrogance are accompanied by a tendency toward simple living, which reinforces the ideal of nonexploitation of other living creatures. A consciousness of death also adds to the awareness of the importance of concentrating on the ethical quality of one’s life as opposed to considerations of quantity of possessions or size of religious edifices. “A man’s life is short. Make yours a worthy one,” says Lame Deer.

Juan Matus, in Carlos Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan, captures very well the attitude of many Native people: “. . .You don’t eat five quail; you eat one. You don’t damage the plants just to make a barbecue. . . . You don’t use and squeeze people until they have shriveled to nothing, especially the people you love. . . .” 20 This kind of attitude is found over and over again in the traditions of Native people, from the basketry and food-gathering techniques of Native Californians to the characters in the stories of Anna Lee Walters (as in her novel Ghostsinger, the stories in The Sun is Not Merciful, or in Talking Indian ).

Respect and humility are the building blocks of indigenous life-ways, since they not only lead to minimal exploitation of other living creatures but also preclude the arrogance of aggressive missionary activity and secular imperialism, as well as the arrogance of patriarchy.

But Anglo-American “ecologists” often have a very narrow conception of what constitutes “ecology” and the “environment.” Does this contrast with the Native American attitude? Let us examine some definitions first. The root of the concept of environment has to do with “rounding” or “that which arounds [surrounds] us.” It is similar to Latin vicinitat (Spanish vecinidad or English vicinity ), referring to that which neighbors something, and also to Greek oikos (ecos), a house and, by extension, a habitation (Latin dwelling) or area of inhabiting (as in oikoumene , the inhabited or dwelled-in world). Ecology is the logie or study of ecos, the study of inhabiting/dwelling, or, as defined in one dictionary, the study of “organisms and their environment.”

Ecos ( oikos ) is “the house we live in, our place of habitation.” But where do we live and who are we? Certainly we can define ecos in a narrow sense, as our immediate vicinity, or we can broaden it to include the Sun (which is, of course, the driving power or energy source in everything that we do), the Moon, and the entire known universe (including the Great Creative Power, or Ketanitowit in Lenápe). Our ecos, from the indigenous point of view, extends out to the very boundaries of the great totality of existence, the Wemi Tali.

Similarly, our environment must include the sacred source of creation as well as such things as the light of the Sun, on which all life processes depend. Thus our surroundings include the space of the universe and the solar/stellar bodies that have inspired so much of our human yearnings and dreams.

Ecology, then, in my interpretation, must be the holistic (and interdisciplinary) study of the entire universe, the dynamic relationship of its various parts. And since, from the indigenous perspective, the universe is alive, it follows that we could speak of geo-ecology as well as human ecology, the ecology of oxygen as well as the ecology of water.

Many indigenous thinkers have considered humans part of the Wemi Tali, not separate from it. As I have written:

For us, truly, there are no “surroundings.”

I can lose my hands and still live. I can lose my legs and still live. I can lose my eyes and still live. . . . But if I lose the air I die. If I lose the sun I die. If I lose the earth I die. If I lose the water I die. If I lose the plants and animals I die. All of these things are more a part of me, more essential to my every breath, than is my so-called body. What is my real body?

We are not autonomous, self-sufficient beings as European mythology teaches. . . . We are rooted just like the trees. But our roots come out of our nose and mouth, like an umbilical cord, forever connected with the rest of the world. . . .

Nothing that we do, do we do by ourselves. We do not see by ourselves. We do not hear by ourselves. . . . We do not think, dream, invent, or procreate by ourselves. We do not die by ourselves. . . .

I am a point of awareness, a circle of consciousness, in the midst of a series of circles. One circle is that which we call “the body.” It is a universe itself, full of millions of little living creatures living their own “separate” but dependent lives. . . . But all of these “circles” are not really separate—they are all mutually dependent upon each other. . . . 21

We, in fact, have no single edge or boundary, but are rather part of a continuum that extends outward from our center of consciousness, both in a perceptual (epistemological-existential) and in a biophysical sense—our brain centers must have oxygen, water, blood with all of its elements, minerals, etc., in order to exist, but also, of course, must connect to the cosmos as a whole. Thus our own personal bodies form part of the universe directly, while these same bodies are miniature universes in which, as noted, millions of living creatures subsist, operate, fight, reproduce, and die.

Anna Lee Walters, the Otoe-Pawnee teacher and writer, in speaking of prayers, notes:

“Waconda,” it says in the Otoe language, Great Mystery, meaning that vital thing or phenomenon in life that cannot ever be entirely comprehensible to us. What is understood though, through the spoken word, is that silence is also Waconda, as is the universe and everything that exists, tangible and intangible, because none of these things are separate from that life force. It is all Waconda. . . . 22

Thus ecos for us must include that which our consciousness inhabits, the house of our soul, our ntchítchank or lenapeyókan, and must not be limited to a dualistic or mechanistic-materialistic view of bios. Ecology must be shorn of its Eurocentric (or, better, reductionist and materialist) perspective and broadened to include the realistic study of how living centers of awareness interact with all of their surroundings.

At a practical level this is very important, because one cannot bring about significant changes in the way in which the Wemi Tali is being abused without considering the values, economic systems, ethics, aspirations, and spiritual beliefs of human groups. For example, the sense of entitlement felt by certain social groups or classes, the idea of being entitled to exploit resources found in the lands of other groups or entitled to exploit “space” without any process of review or permission or approval from all concerned—this sense of superiority and restless acquisitiveness must be confronted by ecology.

The beauty of our night sky, for example, now threatened by hundreds or thousands of potential future satellites and space platforms, by proposed nuclear-powered expeditions to Mars and space-based nuclear weapons, cannot be protected merely by studying the physical relations of organisms with the sky. The cultures of all concerned have to be part of the equation, and within these cultures questions of beauty, ethics, and sacredness must play a role. Sadly, the U.S. government is the greatest offender in the threat to space.

When a mountain is to be pulled down to produce cement, or coal, or cinderstone, or to provide housing for expanding suburbanites, the questions that must be asked are not only those relating to stream-flow, future mudslides, fire danger, loss of animal habitat, air pollution, or damage to stream water quality. Of paramount importance are also questions of beauty, ownership, and the unequal allocation of wealth and power that allows rich investors to make decisions affecting large numbers of creatures based only upon narrow self-interest. Still more difficult are questions relating to the sacredness of Mother Earth and of the rights of mountains to exist without being mutilated. When do humans have the right to mutilate a mountain? Are there procedures that might mitigate such an aggression? Are there processes that might require that the mountain’s right to exist in beauty be weighed against the money-making desires of a human or human group?

We hear a great deal about “impacts” and how “impacts” must be weighed and/or mitigated. But all too often, these considerations do not include aesthetics (unless the destruction is proposed for an area where rich and powerful people live), and very seldom do we hear about sacredness or the rights of the earth. Indeed, we have made progress in the United States with the concept of protecting endangered species, but it is interesting that, for many people, the point of such protection is essentially pragmatic: we are willing to preserve genetic diversity (especially as regards plant life) in order to meet potential human needs. The intrinsic right of different forms of life each to have space and freedom is seldom evoked. (Even homeless humans have no recognized right to “space” in the United States). 23

All over the Americas, from Chile to the arctic, Native Americans are engaged in battles with aggressive corporations and governments that claim the right to set aside small areas (reserves) for Native people and then to seize the rest of the Native territory and throw it open to Occidental Petroleum, Texaco, or other profit-seeking organizations. Often, as in the case of the U’wa people, the concept of the sacredness of the living earth directly conflicts with the interests of big corporations and the revenue-hungry neocolonial governments that support them.

It has to be said that some indigenous governments and groups have also allowed devastating projects to be developed on their territories. Sometimes there has been grassroots resistance to the extraction of coal, uranium, and other minerals, but very often the non-Native government has encouraged (or strong-armed) the indigenous peoples into agreeing to a contract providing for little or no protection to the environment.

In her recent book, All Our Relations, Winona LaDuke focuses on a number of specific struggles involving Native people in the United States and Canada. She points out that “Grassroots and land-based struggles characterize most of Native environmentalism. We are nations of people with distinct land areas, and our leadership and direction emerge from the land up.” 24 LaDuke shows in each of her chapters how different groups of First Nations people are facing up to serious problems and are seeking to address them at the local, community level. They are also forming national and international organizations that seek to help individual nations, in great part through the sharing of information and technical assistance. In the final analysis, however, each nation, reserve, or community has to confront its own issues and develop its own responsible leadership. This must be stressed again and again: each sovereign Native nation will deal with its own environmental issues in its own way. There is no single Native American government that can develop a common indigenous response to the crisis we all face.

Mention should be made here of the work of Debra Harry, a Northern Paiute activist from the Pyramid Lake Reservation who is spearheading an information campaign relative to biopiracy and the dangers of the Human Genome Diversity Project. The collection of Native American tissue samples and DNA/mtDNA information represents a very serious environmental threat, since the discovery of unique genetic material could be used not only for patenting and sale but also for future campaigns of germ or biological warfare. The latter may seem extreme, but Native peoples have reason to be cautious about sharing potentially dangerous information with agencies, governments, and organizations not under their own control. The entire field of biopiracy, the theft of indigenous knowledge about plants and drugs, represents another area of great concern, since Native peoples could find themselves having to pay for the use of their own cultural heritage or for treatment using genetic material of indigenous origin. 25

Many activists are concerned primarily with the environmental responses of Native Americans belonging to specific land-based communities recognized as sovereign by the U.S. or Canadian governments. But in addition, there are millions of Native people who do not have “tribal” governments that are recognized as legitimate by a state. In California and Mexico, numerous Mixtec communities must deal with the hazards of agricultural pesticide, crop-dusting on top of workers, poor housing, inadequate sanitation, poor or polluted water sources, and a host of other issues. The Mixtec have responded by organizing around farm-labor issues, as well as developing their own ways of coping. For example, in Baja California they are often forced to build their own houses on steep hillsides where they must use old cast-off truck and auto tires as retaining walls to provide a level area for living.

Many Native groups, including Kickapoos, Navajos, Papagos, Zapotecs, and Chinantecs, produce a number of migrant agricultural laborers. These workers often remain rooted in home villages to which they may return seasonally. Such persons have a primary responsibility to their families; they cannot be expected to devote much energy to environmentalism, apart from attempting to obtain clean water, healthy food, and sanitary living conditions.

On a positive note, the environmental awareness of many indigenous American groups translates into a high respect for women in their communities. It would be hypocritical to seek to control women or restrict their opportunities for full self-realization while pretending to respect living creatures. This is a significant issue, because a great deal of evidence has shown that when women have high status, education, and choices, they tend to enrich a community greatly and to stabilize population growth. Many traditional American societies have been able to remain in balance with their environments because of the high status of women, a long nursing period for children, and/or the control of reproductive decisions by women. 26 Many of the leaders in the Native struggle today are women.

Many Native homelands are much reduced in size from former years and are often located on land of poor quality. These conditions can create overuse of resources. Human population growth is, of course, one of the fundamental issues of environmental science. Along with the unequal distribution of resources and the taking away of resources (such as the removal of oil from indigenous lands, leaving polluted streams and poisoned soil) from militarily weaker peoples, human population growth is one of the major causes of species loss and damage to ecos. These are major issues in ecology but also must be overriding concerns for economists, political scientists, and political economists. In fact, the tendency in North America to ignore the impact of money-seeking activities upon nonmarket relations is a major source of environmental degradation. The recent effort to “charge” the industrial nations for the damage they have caused to world environments (as a new form of “debt” from the capitalist world to the rest of the world) is an example of how we must proceed. 27

To many of the more materialistic peoples of the world, indigenous people have often seemed “backward” or “simple.” They have seemed ripe for conquest or conversion, or both. The fact is, however, that the kind of ethical living characteristic of so many indigenous groups, with its respect for other life forms and its desire for wholeness of intellect, may be the best answer to the problems faced by all peoples today.

Yet there are some who challenge the environmental record of Native Americans, seeking to prove that in spite of the ideals expressed in indigenous spirituality, Native peoples were actually large-scale predators responsible some ten thousand years ago for widespread slaughter and even species annihilation. This viewpoint, shared primarily by a few anthropologists, overlooks the fact that during the Pleistocene era and later extinctions occurred in Eurasia and elsewhere, and that Native Americans cannot be blamed for a global phenomenon. In any case, indigenous Americans have always belonged to numerous independent political and familial units, each with its own set of values and behavioral strategies. One can hardly assign blame to modern Native people as a whole group when the “culprits” (if there were any) cannot even be identified.

In dealing with the sacred traditions of original Americans and their relationship to the environment, we must keep in mind a common-sense fact: not only do different Native groups have different traditions, stories, ceremonies, living conditions, challenges, and values, but each family or group has its own unique approach to “together-living” or “culture.” We must also factor in time, since different days, years, and epochs have presented different circumstances. In short, humans do not live by abstract rule alone. They live as well through a unique set of decisions informed by inspiration, personality, situation, and opportunity.

Native Americans, like any other group, are capable of acts that might well conflict with the major thrust of their sacred traditions. We must, therefore, differentiate between the concrete behavior of a people and their ideals. But in the case of indigenous Americans, such a distinction is perhaps less important than in other traditions. Why? Because Native Americans often lack a single, authoritative book or set of dogmas that tells them what their “ideals” should be. On the contrary, Native American sacred traditions are more the result of choices made over and over again within the parameters of a basic philosophy of life. Thus, we must look at the ideals expressed in sacred texts (including those conveyed orally), but also at the choices that people actually make.

Nonetheless, I believe that we can make the kinds of generalizations that I have, at least as regards those Native North Americans still following traditional values.

          . . .The Old Ones say outward is inward to the heart           and inward is outward to the center           because for us           there are no absolute boundaries           no borders           no environments           no outside           no inside           no dualisms           no single body           no non-body           We don’t stop at our eyes We don’t begin at our skin We don’t end at our smell We don’t start at our sounds. . . . Some scientists think they can study a world of matter separate from themselves but there is no Universe Un-observed (knowable to us at least) nothing can be known without being channeled through some creature’s senses, the unobserved Universe cannot be discussed for we, the observers, being its very description are its eyes and ears its very making is our seeing of it           our sensing of it. . . .           Perhaps we are Ideas in the mind of our Grandfather-Grandmother           for, as many nations declare,           the Universe           by mental action           was created           by thought           was moved           So be it well proclaimed! our boundary is the edge of the Universe           and beyond,           to wherever the Creator’s thoughts           go surging. . . . 28

Native people are not only trying to clean up uranium tailings, purify polluted water, and mount opposition to genetically engineered organisms; they are also continuing their spiritual ways of seeking to purify and support all life by means of ceremonies and prayers. As LaDuke tells us: “In our communities, Native environmentalists sing centuries-old songs to renew life, to give thanks for the strawberries, to call home fish, and to thank Mother Earth for her blessings.” 29

1 John Fire, Lame Deer, and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 39–40.

2 Ruth Bunzel, “Introduction to Zuni Ceremonialism,” Forty-Seventh Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), 483–486.

3 Some writers have attacked Carlos Castaneda; however, I find that many of the insights in his first four books are quite valuable. Since he was most assuredly a man of Indigenous American ancestry, I am willing to quote him without arguing over whether his works are fiction or nonfiction. Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974), 284–285.

4 Fire, Lame Deer, and Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, 265–266; emphasis added.

5 Ruby Modesto and Guy Mount, Not For Innocent Ears: Spiritual Traditions of a Desert Cahuilla Medicine Woman (Angelus Oaks, Calif.: Sweetlight Books, 1980), 72.

6 Sylvester M. Morey, ed., Can The Red Man Help The White Man? (New York: G. Church, 1970), 47.

7 Black Hawk, Black Hawk; An Autobiography (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1955), 106.

8 John Gneisenau Neihardt, The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, ed. Raymond J. DeMallie (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), 312.

9 Winona LaDuke, All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 1999), 2.

10 Neihardt, The Sixth Grandfather, 288.

11 Ibid., 288–289.

12 Pete Catches, Lakota elder, quoted in Fire, Lame Deer, and Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, 137–139.

13 Black Elk, The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, rec. and ed. Joseph Epes Brown (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1971), 31–32.

14 Luther Standing Bear, Land of the Spotted Eagle (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1978), 192–193.

15 Ibid., 196.

16 Jack D. Forbes, “Kinship is the Basic Principle of Philosophy,” Gatherings: The En’owkin Journal of First North American Peoples VI (Penticton, B.C.: Theytus Books, 1995), 144–150.

17 Black Elk, The Sacred Pipe , 7.

18 Miguel Leon-Portilla, La Filosofia Nahuatl: Estudiada en sus Fuentes (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Instituto de Investigaciones Historicas, 1966), 237–238. My translation.

19 Fire, Lame Deer, and Erdoes, Lame Deer , 155–158.

20 Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 69–70; Fire, Lame Deer, and Erdoes, Lame Deer , 16.

21 Jack D. Forbes, A World Ruled by Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Aggression, Violence, and Imperialism (Davis, Calif.: D-Q University Press, 1979), 85–86. See also Jack D. Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1992), 145–147.

22 Anna Lee Walters, Talking Indian: Reflections on Survival and Writing (Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1992), 19–20.

23 See Jack D. Forbes, “A Right to Life and Shelter,” San Francisco Chronicle , 28 May 2000, zone 7, 9.

24 LaDuke, All Our Relations , 4.

25 Debra Harry is executive director of Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolo-nialism, 850 Numana Dam Road, P.O. Box 818, Wadsworth, NV 89442, USA.

26 Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals , 109–110.

27 This is a proposal made by Third World nations that seeks to “capitalize” the costs of environmental damage.

28 Jack D. Forbes, “The Universe Is Our Holy Book,” unpublished poem, 1992.

29 LaDuke, All Our Relations , 3.

Native American Spirituality

  • Rituals and Ceremonies
  • Sabbats and Holidays
  • Wicca Traditions
  • Wicca Resources for Parents

Creation Stories

Deities and spirits, vision quests and spiritual journeys, the medicine man and shamanism, reverence for the ancestors, the dangers of cultural appropriation.

  • B.A., History, Ohio University

Occasionally, modern Pagans, particularly in the United States, include aspects of Native American spirituality in their practice and belief. This is for a variety of reasons–some people are descended from the many tribes that are indigenous to North America, and so are paying homage to the beliefs of their ancestors. Others, with no discernible genetic link whatsoever, find themselves drawn to Native American beliefs simply because those practices and stories happen to resonate with them on a spiritual level.

It’s impossible to write a summary of Native American spirituality that encompasses all the aspects of the belief systems–after all, there are hundreds of tribes, from all over North America, and their beliefs and practices are as varied as they were. A tribe in a southeastern mountainous area has very different elements to their beliefs than, say, a tribe from the plains of South Dakota. Environment, climate, and the natural world around them all has an impact on how these beliefs have evolved.

However, that being said, there are still some common threads found in many (although certainly not every) forms of Native American practice and belief. Many tribal religions include but are not limited to the following elements:

Most Native American belief systems include creation stories —that is, not only stories of how humankind came to exist, but also of how the tribe came to be, and how man relates to the cosmos and the universe as a whole.

An Iroquois tale tells of Tepeu and Gucumatz, who sat around together and thought up a bunch of different things, like earth, the stars, and the ocean. Eventually, with some help from Coyote, Crow, and a few other creatures, they came up with four two-legged beings, who became the ancestors of the Iroquois people.

The Sioux tell a story of a creator who was displeased with the people who originally existed, so he decided to create a new world. He sang a number of songs, and created new species, including Turtle, who brought mud up from under the sea to create the land. The creator reached into his pipe bag and brought out the animals of the land, and then used the mud to create the shapes of men and women.

Native American religions often honor a vast array of deities. Some of these are creator gods, others are tricksters, deities of the hunt, and gods and goddesses of healing . The term “Great Spirit” is applied often in Native American spirituality, to refer to the concept of an all-encompassing power. Some Native tribes refer to this instead as the Great Mystery. In many tribes, this entity or power has a specific name.

There are a number of spirits that also take their place among the Native American belief systems. Animals, in particular, are known to have spirits that interact with mankind, often to guide people or offer their wisdom and other gifts.

For many Native American tribes, both in the past and today, a vision quest is a crucial part of one’s spiritual journey. It is a rite of passage that marks a significant change in one’s life, and often involves communing alone with nature, connecting with the inner self, and typically includes a vision that is both personal and to be shared with the community at large. This may include sun dances or sweat lodges as part of the process. It's important to note that these types of practices can be disastrous if led by someone who has no training, as evidenced by the case of James Arthur Ray , a non-Native self-help guru who was charged with manslaughter following the October 2009 deaths of three people during one of his Spiritual Warriors retreats.

The term “shamanism” is an umbrella term used by anthropologists to describe a vast collection of practices and beliefs, many of which have to do with divination, spirit communication, and magic. However, in the Native American community, the word is rarely used, because it is typically associated on academic level with Indo-European tribal peoples . Instead, most Native tribes use the phrase “medicine people” to refer to the elders who practice these sacred rites.

Many modern medicine people will not discuss their practices or beliefs with non-Native American individuals, simply because the rites and rituals are sacred and not to be shared commercially.

It is not uncommon to see a strong sense of reverence for the ancestors in Native American practice and belief. As in many other cultures, ancestor veneration is a way of showing honor and respect not only to the members of one’s own family, but to the tribe and community as a whole.

Cultural appropriation is a term that refers to, quite simply, the appropriation of one culture’s practice and belief system by another, but without the true cultural context. For example, NeoWiccans who integrate totem animals , vision quests, and sweat lodge sessions as an homage to Native Americans–but who are not Native Americans themselves, and do not understand the usage of those practices on a cultural level because of it – could arguably be accused of cultural appropriation. For more on this, and the way that different people view this issue, be sure to read Cultural Appropriation.

A great article warning about what to look for if you’re a non-Native who is interested in learning about Native American religions can be found here: Native American Religion .

  • Plastic Shamans
  • Shamanism: Definition, History, and Beliefs
  • Pagan Creation Stories and Myths
  • Power Animals, Totem Animals and Spirit Animals
  • Intro to Paganism: A 13 Step Study Guide
  • Magical Pagan and Wiccan Symbols
  • Pagan Meal Blessings
  • Asatru - Norse Heathens of Modern Paganism
  • Pagan Terms and Definitions
  • NeoWicca Definition & Meaning
  • Wicca, Witchcraft or Paganism?
  • Customs, Traditions and Folklore of Litha
  • The Native American Sun Dance
  • Sacred Sites: The Great Pyramid of Giza
  • The Egyptian God Horus
  • Sacred Places to Visit in the United States

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

Legends of America

Legends of America

Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., native american mythology & legends.

Native American Legends

Native American Legends

Various Tribes Legends and Myths:

The Ark On Superstition Mountains

Totem carving in Alaska

Totem carving in Alaska

Besieged By Starvation

The Division of Two Tribes

The Flood At Santa Fe

The Hidden City of Death Valley

Legend Of Crazy Woman’s Fork

Legends of Indian Territory

Little People of Wyoming & the Pedro Mountain Mummy

The Lost Trail

Native American Legends of Arizona

Navajo Skinwalkers – Witches of the Southwest

Pale Faced Lightning

Blackfoot Legend of the Peacepipe

Blackfoot Legend of the Peacepipe

The Queen Of Death Valley

Riders of the Desert

Sacrifice of the Toltec

The Salt Witch of the Nebraska Plains

Storied Waters of Oregon

Ta-Vwots Conquers the Sun

Teihiihan – The Little Cannibals of the Plains

The Thunderbird of Native Americans

Tamanous Of Tacoma

The Voyager Of Whulge

The Yellowstone Tragedy

Thunderbird Totem Pole

Thunderbird Totem Pole

Wendigo – Flesheater of the Forests

Apache Myths & Legends

Blackfoot Myths & Legends

Cherokee Myths & Legends

Sioux Myths & Legends

Zuni Myths & Legends

Mythology & Sacred Concepts:

Native American Legends

While a Great Spirit constitutes the basis of Indian theory, the tribes believe in multiple deities surrounded by mythology. In accordance with their views of nature and spirit, they constantly appeal to these powers at every step of their lives. They hear the Great Spirit in every wind; see him in every cloud; fear him in sounds, and adore him in every place that inspires awe. While cultures and customs varied among the tribes, they all believed the universe was bound together by spirits of natural life, including animals, water, plants, the sky, and the Earth itself.

Native American culture struggled to survive after the white man invaded their lives. Living through forced moves, war, starvation, diseases, and assimilation, these strong and spiritual people kept their many legends and stories alive. Passed down through the generations, these tales speak of timeless messages of peace, life, death, and harmony with nature.

The sacred beliefs of many tribes are largely formulated and expressed in sayings and narratives resembling the legends of European peoples. There are available large collections of these tales and myths from the Blackfoot , Crow , Nez Perce , Assiniboine , Gros Ventre , Arapaho , Arikara , Pawnee , Omaha , Northern Shoshone , and others. In these, much interesting information can be found. Though each tribe has its own beliefs and sacred myths, many have much in common.

The Deluge by Gustave Dore, 1866

The Deluge by Gustave Dore, 1866

A deluge or flood myth is almost universal in the Plains tribes and the Woodland Indians. Almost everywhere, it takes the form of restoring the submerged earth by a more or less human being who sends down a diving bird or animal to obtain a little mud or sand. Other tales with common threads are the “Twin-heroes” – the Woman who married a star and bore a Hero” and the “Woman who married a Dog.” A star-born hero is found in myths of the Crow, Pawnee, Dakota , Arapaho, Kiowa , Gros Ventre, and Blackfoot. Indian mythologies often contain large groups of tales reciting the adventures of a distinguished mythical hero with supernatural attributes, who transforms and, in some instances, creates the world, who rights great wrongs, and corrects great evils, yet who often stoops to trivial and vulgar pranks. Among the Blackfoot, for instance, he appears under the name of Napiw, also called “Old Man.” He is distinctly human in form and name. The Gros Ventre, Cheyenne , Arapaho, Hidatsa , and Mandan have similar characters in their mythology.

The “Old Man” also appears in the mythologies of the adjoining cultural areas, such as the area between the Plains and the Pacific Ocean. Some tales appear similar but are attributed to an animal character with the name and attributes of a coyote. Under this name, he appears among the Crow, Nez Perce, and Shoshone on the western fringe of the Plains but rarely among the Pawnee, Arikara , and Dakota and practically never among the tribes designating him as human. This hero is given a spider-like character called Unktomi among the Assiniboine, Dakota, and Omaha.

In addition to heroes, many animal tales are to be found, which often explain the structural peculiarities of animals due to some accident. For example, the Blackfoot trickster, while in a rage, tried to pull the lynx asunder, causing it to have a long body and awkward legs. In other cases, the tales narrate an anecdote about the origin of life itself. In some tales, the ending includes how some aspect of life was “ordered to be,” explaining a natural phenomenon or mythical belief.

There are also tales in which supernatural beings appear as well-known animals and assist or grant favors to humans. In the mythology of the Plains tribes, the buffalo is a favorite character and is seldom encountered in the mythology of other areas. The bear, beaver, elk, eagle, owl, and snake are also frequently referred to but also occur in the myths of Woodland and other tribes. Of imaginary creatures , the most conspicuous are the water monster and the Thunderbird . The former is usually an immense horned serpent who keeps underwater and fears thunder. The thunderbird is an eagle-like being who causes thunder.

Migration legends and those accounting for the origins and forms of tribal beliefs and institutions comprise a large portion of the mythology, formulating a concept of the religion and philosophy of various groups.

Compiled by Kathy Alexander / Legends of America , updated May 2023.

— Joyce Sequichie Hifler from her book A Cherokee Feast of Days

Native American Symbols, Totems

Native American Rituals and Ceremonies

Native American Totems

The Role of Astronomy and Mythology In Native American Culture

The Best Luxury Spas in India

India Off the Beaten Path

India for Adventure Travelers

Where to Experience Rural India

The Top Things to Do in India

Palaces & Forts in India

India's Best Surfing Beaches

Volunteer on a Budget in India

7 Cool Sound & Light Shows

India's Most Popular Festivals

India's Best Bike Tours

See India by Motorcycle

India's Top Tribal Tours

Offbeat Tours to Take in India

India's Best Homestays

Palace Hotels in India

India's Coolest Treehouse Hotels

Top Wildlife & Jungle Lodges

The Best Hostels in India

Best Budget Hotels in India

Transport in India: An Overview

India's Major Airports

India's Best Airlines

Domestic Airlines in India

Hiring a Car & Driver in India

Your Intro to Indian Railways

Travel Classes on Indian Trains

How to Reserve a Train Ticket

How to Find & Board Your Train

Tips for Train Travel in India

India's Scenic Toy Trains

12 Indian Etiquette Don'ts

The Top 10 Indian Stereotypes

Tipping in India

What Does the Head Shake Mean?

9 Challenges You'll Face in India

How to Avoid Culture Shock

Top 5 Monsoon Health Concerns

Voltage Information for India

How to Use Your Cell Phone

How to Say Hello in Hindi

Often Misunderstood Hindi Terms

Hindi Language Books

Most Common Indian Scams

How to Handle Begging in India

How to Spot Fake Indian Currency

What to Buy in India

How to Buy a Sari in India

How to Bargain at Indian Markets

How to Get an Indian Visa

India's Visa Types, Explained

Applying for an E-Visa

India's Climate & Seasons

Monsoon in India

Your Essential Packing List

Things to Buy Before You Go

What to Pack for Monsoon

The Best India Guidebooks

How to Save on Your India Trip

The Top Destinations in India

The Most Iconic Sights in India

Which Region Is Right for You?

India's Top Historical Destinations

Romantic Indian Destinations

India's Top Hill Stations

India's Top National Parks

The Best Beaches in India

India's Best Backpacker Spots

India's Most Spiritual Destinations

Spiritual India: 7 Top Destinations You Shouldn't Miss

Where to Best Experience the Spiritual Side of India

indian sacred spirit

Spiritual India, rich in holy places, traditions and rituals , offers much for those seeking knowledge and awareness. Visit these popular sacred destinations of various faiths to maximize your spiritual experience in India.

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

Varanasi is one of the seven sacred Hindu cities with a very ancient history. Known as the city of Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction, it’s believed that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation. The fascinating thing about this mystical city is that its rituals are revealed openly along the many riverside ghats . It's an intense city that attracts Hindu pilgrims and foreigners alike. Plan you trip there with this Varanasi travel guide .

Haridwar, Uttarakhand

Ancient Haridwar (the "Gateway to God") is another of the holiest places in India, and one of the oldest living cities. Located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, it's particularly popular with Hindu pilgrims who come to take a dip in the holy waters of the fast-flowing Ganges River and wash away their sins. Unlike Varanasi, the water is clean and fresh in Haridwar. The evening Ganga Aarti holds ​a special appeal. Another popular attraction is the Mansa Devi Temple. The largest religious gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela , is held in Haridwar as well. Plan your trip there with this Haridwar travel guide .

Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Diy13/Getty Images

Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, is a popular place to come and meditate, do yoga, and learn about other aspects of Hinduism. It’s situated a short distance upriver from Haridwar, surrounded by hills on three sides. Rishikesh lures those seeking knowledge and peace with its numerous ashrams and yoga institutes . It especially draws spiritual-seeking foreigners, while Haridwar holds more significance for Hindu pilgrims. Because of their close proximity, many people come to Rishikesh and Haridwar in the same visit. Plan your trip there with this Rishikesh travel guide . There are  Rishikesh hotels and guesthouses for all budgets  so you can find a great place to stay.​

Amritsar, Punjab

Amritsar, in the state of  Punjab , was founded in 1577 by Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of Sikhs. It’s the spiritual capital of the Sikhs and gained its name, meaning "Holy Pool of Nectar", from the body of water around the Golden Temple. The exquisite Golden Temple attracts pilgrims from all over the world. It looks particularly arresting at night when it’s beautifully lit up, with its imposing pure gold dome illuminated. The Wagah Border is a popular side trip from Amritsar. Plan your trip there with this Amritsar travel guide .

Bodhgaya, Bihar

Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage place in the world. Located in the state of Bihar , it’s here that Lord Buddha became enlightened during intense meditation under a Bodhi tree. The exact spot is now marked by the sprawling Mahabodhi Temple complex. The town is also home to dozens of Buddhist monasteries. Those who are interested will find plenty of meditation and Buddhism courses and retreats on offer. You can visit Bodhgaya on the Mahaparinirvan Express Buddhist Train or plan your trip there with this Bihar travel guide.

Puri, Odisha

flocu/Getty Images

Puri is one of the top places to visit in Odisha , and one of the four holy Char Dham — sacred abodes associated with Lord Vishnu (the Hindu god of preservation) in India. Lord Vishnu is said to descend to earth during times of trouble to eradicate evil and restore cosmic order. He currently resides in Puri, in the form of Lord Jagannath , to provide protection during the Kali Yuga (dark age). Hindus believe that visiting all the Char Dham will cleanse them of sin, so that they can achieve moksha (liberation from rebirth). According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu dines at Puri (he bathes at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu , gets dressed and anointed at Dwarka in Gujarat , and meditates at Badrinath in Uttarakhand ). Hence, a great deal of significance is given to food at the Jagannath temple. Unfortunately, only Hindus are allowed to go inside the temple. However, the surrounding area is fascinating, with many small temples, shops, and an area where thousands of clay pots are stored and transported daily to cook in food for the deities. Explore it on this insightful three-hour guided tour of the Puri Old City conducted by local responsible tourism company Grass Routes Journeys. You can also find out more in this guide to the Jagannath temple in Puri.

Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

Saurabh/Getty Images 

Located around four hours from Chennai in Tamil Nadu , Tiruvannamalai attracts spiritual seekers to its Sri Ramana Ashram and Hindu pilgrims who walk around holy Mount Arunachala and pray at Arunachaleswar Temple , where Lord Shiva is worshiped as the element of fire. Mount Arunachala is called the "most silent place on earth" as its powerful energy has the astonishing ability to quieten the mind. Meditate in a cave up the mountain and discover it for yourself. If you would like to connect with a remarkable guide and healer, Ashok from Bougainvillea Tours is highly recommended.

12 Unforgettable Tourist Places to Visit in Uttarakhand

Badrinath Temple in Uttarakhand: The Complete Guide

The Complete Guide to Rishikesh, India: the Birthplace of Yoga

21 Top Attractions and Places to Visit in Gujarat

Haridwar in Uttarakhand: Essential Travel Guide

15 Top Tourist Places to Visit in North India

16 Best Tourist Destinations in India

Jagannath Temple in Puri: Essential Visitor Guide

Essential Guide to the Ganga Aarti in India

Top 14 Things to Do in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

22 Caves in India for History, Adventure and Spirituality

Guide to Popular Tourist Sites in India by Region

Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra Essential Guide

The Top 16 Temples in Delhi

15 Places to See Magnificent Temples in South India

12 Major Mountain Ranges in India

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

The Sacred Elemental Spirits in Native American Spirituality: An Overview

The Sacred Elemental Spirits in Native American Spirituality: An Overview

Native American spirituality is deeply rooted in the belief that all living things possess a unique spirit or energy. Native American cultures have linked specific elements of nature to certain spiritual qualities, and these qualities hold immense power. The Sacred Elemental Spirits are said to be the keepers of these spiritual qualities that can bring balance and healing to our lives. Today, we’ll explore the power of these spirits and how they can help us during difficult times.

For many individuals, the stresses and complexities of modern life can feel overwhelming. They may struggle to find meaning and purpose, which leads to feelings of emptiness and disconnection. This is where the power of the Sacred Elemental Spirits comes into play. By working with these spirits, we can tap into the foundational elements of life – air, water, earth, and fire – and experience profound transformation. From relieving anxiety and depression to increasing creativity and enhancing personal connection, the Sacred Elemental Spirits offer a powerful tool for achieving balance and fulfillment.

The process of connecting with the Sacred Elemental Spirits can be an individual one. Each person has their unique path and relationship with the spirits. However, there are some common practices that can help people get started. Meditation, spending time alone in nature, and incorporating specific elements of the spiritual realm- such as crystals, herbs, and other ritual items- can all be helpful in developing a deeper connection to the spirits. By remaining open and receptive to the energy of the elements, individuals can unlock transformative experiences that can bring healing and renewal on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level.

In conclusion, the Sacred Elemental Spirits offer a powerful tool for those seeking to deepen their connection with the natural world and to find greater peace and balance in their lives. By understanding and approaching the elements with reverence and respect, individuals can gain access to the transformative powers that these spirits embody. Whether through prayer, meditation, or other ritual practices, a connection with the Sacred Elemental Spirits is something that can bring immense joy, meaning, and purpose to our lives.


Native American spirituality is a rich blend of beliefs and practices that continue to inspire and connect people from all walks of life. Among the various elements that make up this spiritual tradition are the sacred elemental spirits, which are believed to embody the powers of nature and the seasons. From the gentle flow of water to the fiery energy of the sun, these spirits are revered for their ability to sustain and enrich life. In this post, we will explore how the power of the sacred elemental spirits influences Native American spirituality and what we can learn from this ancient wisdom.

The Four Elemental Spirits

One of the primary tenets of Native American spirituality is the recognition that everything in the universe is connected. This includes the four elements of nature: earth, air, fire, and water. In Native American traditions, each of these elements is believed to be inhabited by a spirit that carries unique qualities and symbolisms. Let us take a closer look at these spiritual guardians:

Earth Spirit and Its Significance

The earth spirit represents solidity, stability, and strength. It is the guardian of the physical realm and the foundation on which all things are built. The earth spirit teaches us to be rooted, grounded, and centered in our lives. Moreover, it reminds us to respect and honor Mother Earth, who provides us with the sustenance and sustains life.

Air Spirit and Its Significance

The air spirit represents freedom, breath, and communication. It is the guardian of the mental realm and helps us to connect with the world beyond ourselves. The air spirit teaches us to stay open-minded, curious, and communicative in our interactions. Moreover, it reminds us to appreciate the gift of breath and the air that surrounds us, sustaining our existence.

Fire Spirit and Its Significance

The fire spirit represents transformation, purification, and passion. It is the guardian of the spiritual realm and ignites the spark of inspiration within us. The fire spirit teaches us to embrace change, purify ourselves, and follow our passions with commitment and gusto. Moreover, it reminds us of the cyclical nature of life and how even destructive forces can be transformative.

Water Spirit and Its Significance

The water spirit represents fluidity, intuition, and emotions. It is the guardian of the emotional realm and helps us to connect with others on a deeper level. The water spirit teaches us to go with the flow, trust our intuition, and honor our emotions. Moreover, it reminds us of the importance of paying attention to our inner lives and the healing nature of water.

The Power of Elemental Spirits in Native American Spirituality

As we can see, the sacred elemental spirits play a crucial role in Native American spirituality. They are not just abstract concepts but living entities that embody the power and essence of nature. By working with these elemental spirits, Native Americans seek to harmonize their lives with the rhythm of the natural world and gain access to higher levels of consciousness.

Elemental Spirits in Ceremonies and Rituals

Elemental spirits are invoked in many forms of ceremonies and rituals in Native American communities. For instance, in a sweat lodge ceremony, the fire spirit is honored and evoked to symbolize the transformative power of heat and the purification of the sweat lodge participants. Similarly, in a water ceremony, water spirits are acknowledged to calm and nourish the emotional realm.

Elemental Spirits in Art and Mythology

The power and significance of the elemental spirits are also apparent in Native American art and mythology. From petroglyphs to pottery, these spirits are depicted in various forms, each carrying a unique message and insight. Moreover, these myths enshrine life lessons and offer a roadmap for spiritual growth and healing.

Native American spirituality is an intricate and multi-layered system of beliefs and practices that continue to inspire many. The recognition of the sacred elemental spirits is one of its fundamental principles. Through these spirits, Native Americans honor the natural world and seek to align themselves with its rhythms and cycles. By embracing this ancient wisdom, we can learn to become more attuned to the mysteries of life and discover our unique place in the grand scheme of things.

Native American Spirituality And The Power Of The Sacred Elemental Spirits

The target of native american spirituality and the power of the sacred elemental spirits.

Native American Spirituality targets the engagement of spirits that help them maintain harmony and equilibrium with nature. These Spiritual practices are honored through ceremonies which involve rituals and various offerings related to each element. Of all these elements, the four primary elements hold supreme importance, not only among nature itself but also in the spiritual rituals of Native Americans. Each element represents a different aspect of nature, and connecting with them helps people achieve balance and peace in their lives.To share a personal experience, I have witnessed a few rituals by Native Americans for invoking the spirit of fire. The ceremony was conducted in a remote area where the Firekeepers prepared a sacred place using stones around the pit that symbolized the heart of the Fire. They began chanting and dancing to create rhythm while throwing herbs and tobacco into the fire as offerings from White Eagle, who was the leader that day. After the ceremony concluded, White Eagle spoke privately with a few individuals and talked about Fire’s spiritual purpose in Native American beliefs. The Fire symbolizes warmth, purification, and rebirth of the universe.In conclusion, the facets of Native American spirituality revolve around the powers of the Sacred Elemental Spirits. These Spirits impact the different aspects of nature and every individual’s spiritual journey. They have a strong ethical framework based on the teachings of their ancestors, and their practices are admired by people worldwide for their continuity and relevance. These spirits form a bond between humanity and nature creating an environment full of spirituality, enhanced understanding, and reverence towards all life forms.

Native American Spirituality And The Power Of The Sacred Elemental Spirits are topics that have intrigued and fascinated people for centuries. In this blog post, we will explore some of the key concepts related to Native American Spirituality And The Power Of The Sacred Elemental Spirits.

Question and Answer

Q: What is Native American Spirituality?

A: Native American Spirituality is a term used to describe the religious beliefs and practices of various indigenous tribes in North America. It is a complex and diverse system of beliefs that emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of living in harmony with nature.

Q: What are Sacred Elemental Spirits?

A: Sacred Elemental Spirits are spiritual beings or forces that are believed to be present in the natural world. They are often associated with the four elements – earth, air, fire, and water – and are believed to play a vital role in maintaining the balance and harmony of the universe.

Q: How do Native Americans connect with the Sacred Elemental Spirits?

A: Native Americans connect with the Sacred Elemental Spirits through various rituals, ceremonies, and traditions. These may include offerings of tobacco, sweetgrass, or other sacred herbs, as well as prayer and meditation. Many tribes also use sacred objects such as feathers, drums, and rattles to help them connect with the spiritual realm.

Q: What is the significance of the Sacred Elemental Spirits in Native American Spirituality?

A: The Sacred Elemental Spirits are central to Native American Spirituality as they are believed to represent the fundamental elements of life. They are seen as powerful spiritual allies who can provide guidance, healing, and protection to those who seek their help.

Conclusion of Native American Spirituality And The Power Of The Sacred Elemental Spirits

Native American Spirituality And The Power Of The Sacred Elemental Spirits are complex and fascinating topics that have been studied and explored for centuries. While there is no single definition or explanation for these concepts, it is clear that they play an important role in the lives of indigenous people and continue to inspire and intrigue people around the world.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

  • Cast & crew

Indians' Sacred Spirit

A film examining the past history and present plight of the Lakota Indians in South Dakota. Steeped in their culture, the contemporary Lakota are divided - some still maintain their history ... Read all A film examining the past history and present plight of the Lakota Indians in South Dakota. Steeped in their culture, the contemporary Lakota are divided - some still maintain their history and traditions, but many are losing their way, seduced by white North American culture, an... Read all A film examining the past history and present plight of the Lakota Indians in South Dakota. Steeped in their culture, the contemporary Lakota are divided - some still maintain their history and traditions, but many are losing their way, seduced by white North American culture, and destroyed by alcohol, fast food, and poverty. Beautifully filmed, this is both a celebra... Read all

  • Martha Fiennes
  • Phil McDonald
  • See more at IMDbPro

User reviews

  • October 1999 (United Kingdom)
  • United Kingdom
  • Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, USA
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro

Technical specs

  • Runtime 55 minutes

Related news

Contribute to this page.

  • IMDb Answers: Help fill gaps in our data
  • Learn more about contributing

More to explore

Production art

Recently viewed

Download GPX file for this article


indian sacred spirit

  • 1.1 Climate
  • 2.1 By plane
  • 2.2 By train
  • 2.4 By ship
  • 3 Get around
  • 4.1 City Centre
  • 4.2 Outside of the centre
  • 10.1 Consulates

indian sacred spirit

Arkhangelsk (population 350,000 in 2018) is a regional center in Northwestern Russia , located on both banks of Northern Dvina river near its mouth on the White Sea, about 1250 km by road to the north of Moscow and about 1100 km northeast of Saint Petersburg. It is part of the Silver Ring of cultural and historical centers of Northwestern Russia.

Understand [ edit ]

The city was founded in 1584 and became the first Russian port playing the major role in trade with Western Europe until the foundation of Saint Petersburg in 1703. Since then, Arkhangelsk has been developing as a provincial city. The second negative impact on its importance arose with the foundation of Murmansk , a trans-polar non-frozen seaport at Barents Sea, in the beginning of the 20th century. However, honour came to the city during the years of World War II, when Arkhangelsk was the key destination point for Allied sea convoys that helped the Soviet Union confront German aggression.

Arkhangelsk claims to be the capital of Russian North. This is a bit pretentious, but reasonable at least in the matter of cultural life, which is very active compared to most cities of the same size in Russia .

The economy of Arkhangelsk is based on timber trade and the paper industry. The city has a large commercial and fishing port.

Located off the beaten path of major tourist flow, Arkhangelsk can be a transit point during a trip to Solovki , but is also worth a separate visit.

Climate [ edit ]

The most comfortable time to see Arkhangelsk is summer. During May, June, and July the sun seems to stay 24/7 in the sky. This is actually not the case: Arkhangelsk is 300 km south of the Arctic Circle, so it doesn't have polar days or polar nights. But prepare to be awakened by sun peering through your window at 02:00 in the summer. The other side of this is 2-4 hours of light per day in the winter.

Spring is late (snowfalls in May are quite usual), summer is relatively warm (+20 to 25°C); the first snow comes in October or November and winter is harsh (-10 to -20°C and windy). From November to May, the Northern Dvina and White Sea are covered with ice, and ship navigation is possible only with icebreakers.

Get in [ edit ]

indian sacred spirit

By train [ edit ]

A slightly more adventurous traveler will probably opt for the train, which from Moscow's Yaroslavsky Vokzal takes about 23 hours with one to two trains per day. A train journey from Saint Petersburg clocks in at around 27 hours with up to three services per week, other cities with direct trains to Arkhangelsk includes Kotlas and Murmansk . Also, there is one international train service from Minsk , the capital of Belarus , once a week taking three nights. As in most northern Russian cities extra trains to and from the Black Sea usually appears during the summer months, catering to domestic tourists but open for anyone to use. Schedules change from year to year so check beforehand.

By car [ edit ]

1200 km by M8 road from Moscow via Yaroslavl and Vologda , and you are in Arkhangelsk (couple of hundreds km more if you drive from St Petersburg). The road is paved, but its quality could be much better.

Get around [ edit ]


Arkhangelsk is spread for 42 km via Northern Dvina river and has even several islands with no bridge connection included into its metropolitan zone. So getting around certain districts can be complicated. But all main attractions are located in the center and can be explored by foot.

Public transportation is represented with buses and marshrutki (shared minibuses). It is difficult to use without knowing Russian.

River transport is active during the summer season to connect river island vicinities with the city center.

Commuter trains service connects several suburbs with the city, but is interesting mainly for locals keeping their dachas . Each destination usually have one train in the morning and one in the evening.

Getting around by car or taxi is probably the best way to explore Arkhangelsk. Taxis are inexpensive and could be found near most attractions. Car rental service is represented by local providers only.

All means of transport including taxis reduce their activity significantly after evening rush-hours. This can be especially sensitive in winter, so do not allow yourself to stay half an hour on a -30 °C frost. Order a taxi by phone.

See [ edit ]

indian sacred spirit

Do [ edit ]

  • Walk through Northern Dvina embankment, see kilometers of water and feel strong wind in any season.
  • Have something to drink in city cafes.
  • Visit one of the city festivals (summer: street theatres from all Europe, winter: ice sculpture festivals)
  • Arkhangelsk is called to be cultural capital of Russian North, so plunge into local culture: pay attention to the natural history museum and the gallery of arts, spend an evening at a classical organ concert in a music hall inside a former church.
  • Try Northern Dvina's beach in summer (bathing is not recommended due to environmental reasons, but still allowed and possible).
  • Spend a couple of hours on a skating-rink or take a skiing day-off in winter.
  • Get out to see severe Northern nature, rural settlements, and wooden temples.

Navigation menu

cover image


City in arkhangelsk oblast, russia / from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, dear wikiwand ai, let's keep it short by simply answering these key questions:.

Can you list the top facts and stats about Arkhangelsk?

Summarize this article for a 10 years old

A 1,133-kilometer-long (704   mi) railway runs from Arkhangelsk to Moscow via Vologda and Yaroslavl , and air travel is served by the Talagi Airport and the smaller Vaskovo Airport . As of the 2021 Census , the city's population was 301,199. [14]

Need help sending this page? Click Here

  • Northwestern Federal District
  • Arkhangelsk

Arkhangelsk - Russia Live cam

View of downtown archangel, russia.

1 online - 1 hits

  • Rate this webcam
  • 3.3 / 5 - 26 Rating

Live Cam Piazza di Spagna - Rome


  1. Sacred Spirit / Vol.1: Indian Sacred Spirit: Amazon.es: CDs y vinilos}

    indian sacred spirit

  2. "Native American Great spirit Prayer" Poster by Irisangel

    indian sacred spirit

  3. World Sacred Spirit Festival, India

    indian sacred spirit


    indian sacred spirit

  5. World Sacred Spirit Festival

    indian sacred spirit

  6. Catholic Art, Religious Art, Native Art, Native American Indians

    indian sacred spirit


  1. 𝘿𝙀𝙑𝘼𝙏𝙃𝘼𝙎 : 𝙁𝘼𝙉𝙏𝘼𝙎𝙔 𝘼𝙍𝙏 𝙀𝘿𝙄𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉 🔱🔥🪷🙏 #hinduism #hinduart #divinity #sacred #spirituality #aiart

  2. The Awakening Of The Indian Spirits

  3. Indian Spirit 2023

  4. Indian-Spirit XII

  5. Indianer Weisheiten & Indians Sacred Spirit Musik

  6. We are changing our channel


  1. Sacred Spirit

    About Press Copyright Contact us Creators Advertise Developers Terms Privacy Policy & Safety How YouTube works Test new features NFL Sunday Ticket Press Copyright ...

  2. Lakota Medicine Wheel : Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

    The medicine wheel represents the sacred circle of life, its basic four directions, and their associated elements. Each direction of the wheel offers its own lessons, color, and animal spirit guide. Used by the indigenous Plains tribes to represent all knowledge of the universe. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of hope — a movement toward ...

  3. Native American Religion

    Indigenous Americans: Spirituality and Ecos Author Jack D. Forbes View PDF To Dædalus issue Author Information The cosmic visions of indigenous peoples are significantly diverse. Each nation and community has its own unique traditions. Still, several characteristics stand out.

  4. Sacred Spirit

    467 146K views 11 years ago Indien - La danse circulaire-Chants des Indiens d'Amérique-Sacred Spirit """This song is not Native American, The main vocals are an authentic Sami (ethnic...

  5. Indian's Sacred Spirit II

    A song by Indian's Sacred Spirit II from the album More Chants and Dances of the Native Americans

  6. Native American Spirituality

    The term "Great Spirit" is applied often in Native American spirituality, to refer to the concept of an all-encompassing power. Some Native tribes refer to this instead as the Great Mystery. In many tribes, this entity or power has a specific name. There are a number of spirits that also take their place among the Native American belief systems.

  7. Indiens Sacred Spirit (Yehe Noha).wmv

    Chanson: Sacret Spirit ( Yehe Noha)Vidéo: Bruel Christine

  8. Native American Mythology & Legends

    While a Great Spirit constitutes the basis of Indian theory, the tribes believe in multiple deities surrounded by mythology.

  9. Sacred Spirit

    Sacred Spirit is a German musical project by Claus Zundel, Ralf Hamm, and Markus Staab. The music is of electronic, new age, world, and ambient genres. Sacred Spirit's total worldwide album sales are estimated at over 15 million copies. [1]

  10. Spiritual India: 7 Top Destinations You Shouldn't Miss

    Puri, Odisha. Puri is one of the top places to visit in Odisha, and one of the four holy Char Dham — sacred abodes associated with Lord Vishnu (the Hindu god of preservation) in India. Lord Vishnu is said to descend to earth during times of trouble to eradicate evil and restore cosmic order.

  11. Cherokee spiritual beliefs

    Signs, visions, and dreams. The Cherokee traditionally hold that signs, visions, dreams, and powers are all gifts of the spirits, and that the world of humans and the world of the spirits are intertwined, with the spirit world and presiding over both. Spiritual beings can come in the form of animal or human and are considered a part of daily life.

  12. Heyoka

    The heyoka ( heyókȟa, also spelled "haokah," "heyokha") is a kind of sacred clown in the culture of the Sioux ( Lakota and Dakota people) of the Great Plains of North America. The heyoka is a contrarian, jester, and satirist, who speaks, moves and reacts in an opposite fashion to the people around them.

  13. The Sacred Elemental Spirits in Native American Spirituality: An

    Native American spirituality is a rich blend of beliefs and practices that continue to inspire and connect people from all walks of life. Among the various elements that make up this spiritual tradition are the sacred elemental spirits, which are believed to embody the powers of nature and the seasons. From the gentle flow of water to the fiery ...

  14. Yeha-Noha

    Virgin. Producer (s) The Fearsome Brave. " Yeha-Noha (Wishes of Happiness and Prosperity) " is a song by German musical project Sacred Spirit. It was the first single from the album Chants and Dances of the Native Americans. Released in 1994, it achieved a great success in various countries, including France, where it topped the singles chart.

  15. Indian Dreams


  16. Indians' Sacred Spirit (Video 1999)

    Indians' Sacred Spirit: Directed by Martha Fiennes, Phil McDonald. A film examining the past history and present plight of the Lakota Indians in South Dakota. Steeped in their culture, the contemporary Lakota are divided - some still maintain their history and traditions, but many are losing their way, seduced by white North American culture, and destroyed by alcohol, fast food, and poverty.

  17. Sacred Spirit Discography

    Sacred Spirit More images Releases Showing 0 - 0 of 0 Explore the discography of Sacred Spirit. Shop for vinyl, CDs, and more from Sacred Spirit on Discogs.

  18. Arkhangelsk

    Arkhangelsk (population 350,000 in 2018) is a regional center in Northwestern Russia, located on both banks of Northern Dvina river near its mouth on the White Sea, about 1250 km by road to the north of Moscow and about 1100 km northeast of Saint Petersburg. It is part of the Silver Ring of cultural and historical centers of Northwestern Russia.

  19. Arkhangelsk

    Arkhangelsk (UK: / ˌ ɑːr k æ ŋ ˈ ɡ ɛ l s k, ɑːr ˈ k æ ŋ ɡ ɛ l s k /, US: / ɑːr ˈ k ɑː n ɡ ɛ l s k /; Russian: Арха́нгельск, IPA: [ɐrˈxanɡʲɪlʲsk]), also known as Archangel and Archangelsk, is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia.It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina near its mouth into the White Sea.The city spreads for ...

  20. Arkhangelsk

    Arkhangelsk , also known as Archangel and Archangelsk, is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina near its mouth into the White Sea. The city spreads for over 40 kilometres along the banks of the river and numerous islands of its delta. Arkhangelsk was the chief seaport of medieval and early modern Russia until 1703, when ...

  21. Indian Spirit

    The spirit and blood flows rich in me ... the same Indian spirit in you might be ... Why fight and shame each other when the spirit and blood call you brother? Lift your eyes up to the clouds, stand your Indian spirits proud! Ancestors from old with hearts shamed and cold within our time are long since dead, so claim your blood's spirit and ...

  22. 【LIVE】 Live Cam Arkhangelsk

    Puerta del Sol - Tío Pepe. World Heritage. Venice - Rialto Bridge. World Wonder. Rome - Colosseum. Maldives - Nika Island Resort. Tortoreto Lido. View of downtown Archangel, Russia Live cam.

  23. sacred spirit

    native americanindian chantingnature -natuuranimals -dieren