Dine - Navajo Sweat Lodge c1907-1920

Native American Culture – Sweat Lodges

The sweat lodge is an important cultural tradition for some Native American nations. Used for ceremonial purposes, it is a type of sauna that is valuable for both spiritual and physical purification, as well as used for social and cultural purposes.

Traditionally, a Native American sweat lodge uses heat to detoxify the body by forcing it to sweat out impurities and toxins, also stimulating circulation of blood, and even triggering spiritual insight and visions. Continue reading

Traditional Native American Dwellings Part 2

Continuing from our last post, here are more types of traditional Native American dwellings…

Wigwams

Similar in appearance to the teepee, the wigwam was particular to the American Indians of the Northeast USA and Canada, especially the Algonquin Indians and the Wampanoag. The word “wigwam” translates literally to “house” and it was also called a wetu or a birchbark lodge. The Algonquin (Omamiwinini) farmed and lived in settled villages and built entire villages of wigwams. Unlike teepees, wigwams were not portable.

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Sioux Teepees, Fort Yates c1890 by Frank Fiske

Traditional Native American Dwellings Part 1

There are many, many long-held stereotypes when it comes to the American Indians, greatly influenced by Hollywood in the 20th Century. One of these stereotypes is that all Native Americans traditionally lived in teepees. While it is true that some tribes did indeed live in teepees, there were many, many other types of traditional Native American dwelling.

How the American Indians lived in the past was dependent on their location and their tribal nations. Continue reading

Alaska Natives – are they American Indians?

Did you know that Alaska is the state with the highest Native population in the USA?

According to the 2018 US Census, 15% of the general population in Alaska is Alaska Native, rising to almost 20% when American Indians are included in the count. Native peoples comprise 12% of the total population of Anchorage. There are also a significant number of Alaska Natives who live outside the state. This is a young population, with a median age of 27 years. But who are the Alaska Natives? And what is the difference between an American Indian and an Alaska Native? Continue reading

Native American Headdresses – Sacred to Culture

The stereotypical image of the American Indian is of an imposing native man wearing a feathered headdress or warbonnet. This is how all Native Americans have long been depicted in movies, television, and non-native artworks, and the idea that all, or even most, American Indians wore these warbonnets, is inaccurate.

Contrary to popular belief, the full-feathered warbonnet headdress was not worn at all by most tribes, though it was authentic to a few. There are several types of headgear that were traditionally worn by numerous tribal nations. Continue reading

Feather header

Native American Feather Symbolism

Natural symbolism is very important in Native American culture, and the feather is a very powerful symbol for many tribal nations. Feathers are widely believed among North American Indians to signify the connection between The Creator, the owner of the feather, and the bird from whom the feather came. Deeply revered, the feather symbolizes high honor, power, wisdom, trust, strength, and freedom. As such, feathers are seen as gifts from the sky. They often feature in articles like Native American bracelets, blankets and throws, and art. Continue reading

Hamatsa

Native American Shamanism

Native American spirituality is interwoven through every aspect of life, and despite diversity between ritual, ceremony, and details of beliefs between the different groups (e.g. Pueblo Indians, Plains Indians, Northeast Woodland Tribes, etc), all share a core belief in The Great Spirit, animism, and the natural force in everything. For the North American Indians, spirituality is based on nature, ethics, morals, and the intrinsic interrelation between all things. These beliefs are often depicted or honored in Native American jewelry, art, and blanket design.

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