Indigenous People Share Their Cultural Traditions That You Probably Don’t Know About.

Indigenous People Share Their Cultural Traditions That You Probably Don’t Know About.


Being the originators lands around the world, you'd think mainstream culture would be more aware of these cultural practices.

Here, indigenous people share cultural practices most people probably aren't aware of.

1. We do throw out the word "love" a lot.

Navajo here. Some small things: 1) You don't have to say please or thank you in Navajo, like ever: "Please pass the salt" is not something that would likely happen, at least in old Navajo ways. I don't know if full assimilation into the dominant white/polite culture has changed this for some people, but it certainly didn't with my father. The only situations where that'd be acceptable is if you're pleading for your life or your life was just saved. 2) Also saying "I love you" is pretty rare and, when said, extremely meaningful. In Navajo you literally mean what you say, unlike in English: "Oh I LOVE this Diet Coke" or "I LOVE the new iPhone" are, again, things you would not say in Navajo. My dad's rule on saying that was always "If it can't love you back, you shouldn't love it." And a creepy 3) Owls are a bad omen. If you hear them say your name, you're done for. Have yet to ever hear of this happening, but you never know.

There's lots of little stuff like that, which I also think depends on what region of the Rez people are from.


2. Yep, the dreamcatcher is not what you think.

The thing that is associated with a general "Native American" culture by mainstream society is the dream catcher. This was simply a Great Lakes area cradle decoration. It is an interesting craft and is quite pretty to look at, but it has no deep meaning, nor was it created by all tribes.

There is also a tendency to think of Native Americans as being from a Plains culture or living in teepees and engaging in migratory, hunter/gathering lifestyles. This is only one sliver of Native culture. Many tribes were sedentary farmers. Some tribes built huge longhouses and large canoes and were sea-faring people. Comparing coastal Native American culture to, say, Pueblo culture would be like comparing the Spanish and Dutch. In the latter case, they are obviously both "European" but there is not just one custom for all the various nations in Europe.

In fact, there is probably more diversity in culture and religious customs in North America than in Europe - where there are dominant religions and related languages (e.g. Indo-European). The religious or spiritual customs in the Americas were varied and they aren't really shared with outsiders. Sweat lodges were a common element in many different cultures, but some tribes used them as a method of purification and hygiene, and they aren't always strictly associated with a religious practice. The Sundance is also a specific cultural practice associated with certain tribes, and not a universal thing.

Sam Morningstar

3. That actually seems like a great idea.

I'm part Odawa (more commonly known as Ottawan). When a couple came together in marriage, they must choose about four "sponsors". Sponsors are older, respected people who give the couple spiritual and marital advice. During the actual wedding ceremony, the sponsors make a commitment to help the couple.


4. Intersection of two different cultures.

I grew up in a traditional NA/AI home on the reservation. My grandmother was really open to celebrating US holidays so we had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and it was a big deal.

I asked her why we celebrated it considering it was basically the beginning of the end (story continued on the next page...).

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