The history of the Native American has been dominated by the impact of the White Man coming to his land. The population was decimated by disease as well as the familiar destruction. Many converted to Christianity but now there is a great strengthening of the traditional ways. It would be incorrect to view all the Tribes as being the same. There is no one spiritual or lifestyle that applies to all the tribes. Each one has its own practices and beliefs although there is commonality throughout. In this way the Tribes are no more alike than Texans and NewYorkers etc in general.
The Native American way of life is one of respect, for oneself and the land and the creature living on the land. They understand that waste is inappropriate and only take from the land and creatures that which they need and use. To this end the animals they killed for food also provided skins and bone all of which were used for clothing, shelter, tools, weapons and so on, nothing was wasted. With the coming of the White Man there came guns and alcohol. The guns killed many more buffalo than would be eaten and alcohol created, and still does create, problems. The western diet also was not well suited to the indigenous people who now suffer from very high levels of diabetes. The traditional diet was far more healthy and the Native American system did not cope well with the changes.
There is a great interest in the Native American way of life particularly with the spiritual communities and the basic tenets of their way of life forms and excellent moral code to live your life by whether or not you are drawn to following what is commonly called a shamanic path. Respect for others and the land and its creatures is very important and as you can see this is a common theme throughout the Pagan paths.
Shamanic practices also work with the four direction north, south, east, west and also the sky above and the earth below. Each of these directions has particular attributes and in keeping with the closeness to nature there are Power Animals for each of the directions. Power Animals or Totem Animals have ‘medicine’ which is the guidance or teaching they can provide. The type of lesson you are to learn from each one can be determined by the nature of the animal itself. So you would look at whether it is a prey animal or a predator, diurnal or nocturnal, large or small and so on and from that see what you need to apply to yourself either to do more of or less. The Zuni tribe are renowned for their small animal carvings called fetish animals that are representations of the medicine of that animal. They are very carefully carved and when finished have life breathed into them to energise their power. There are whole families who carve these animals and some are very well known for their art. There are more than one animal or bird for each direction but examples are North – Buffalo, East – Coyote, South – Cougar, West – Whale, Sky – Eagle, Earth – Mole.
Crystals are used too and are often called ‘Stone People’ and help with healing. Another aspect of working with the land is the use of herbs , one use being to assist in obtaining the trance state for vision quests. All the tools that are used on a regular basis, crystals, some herbs and such like may be carried in a small leather bag or pouch known as a medicine pouch.
Dreamcatchers with which we are now familiar were originally not made to be permanent. They were made from twigs and used until they fell apart when a new one would be made.