There are 574 Native American Indian tribes living in the United States today. From the Apache tribe to the Cherokee tribe, passing through the Comanche tribe, the Kiowa tribe, the Potawatomi tribe, the Sioux tribe, the Paiute tribe, the Yakama tribe, the Chippewa tribe or the Houma tribe, among many others. Many of them are in synergy with the rest of the Americans, while at least half live on Indian reservations from which to preserve their ancestral cultures. These are cultures with many shared customs.
Native American Indians
As we said before, there are hundreds of North American Indian tribes. This implies that we can see very different cultures and customs among many of them. In fact, in 2008 the number of speakers of Native American languages was 373,949, divided into up to 135 different native languages! As we can see, variety is an inherent feature of North American Indian culture. A variety that faces problems of survival since many of these languages is spoken by only a few inhabitants.
The customs of the North American Indians
In this article, we will not discuss the specific customs of any tribe. Nor will we discuss the customs that may have survived the passage of centuries. Instead, we will focus on the customs of the Native Americans at the times when we Westerners came in contact with them. For example, the custom of naming newborns with a name provided by their grandparents. Later on, when I was growing up, I received a new name with much more significance and value. A name now forever.
Another custom of the American Indian tribes was to keep the umbilical cord of the babies. Once it was dry, it was covered by sage and aromatic herbs and was kept in a leather box and placed beside the crib to serve as an amulet. As for the marriage, the bride and groom always had to request the consent of the bride’s parents. A request that was accompanied by gifts. The marriage could be broken and both parties could remarry. The children remained with her.
Also very characteristic were the group dances, one of the customs of the American Indians that have transcended from the tribes to the rest of the world. Group dances as varied as the dance of the bison, the dance of the rain or the dance of the sun. All of them aimed at requesting things from nature itself. The same happens with the offerings and the fasts that the shamans, religious leaders of the tribes, directed. It was another way of seeking the favor of nature, with which indigenous peoples have always been very connected.
As far as the clothing customs of the Native American Indians are concerned, we have little new to add. The fact is that cinematography and photography have recorded this very well during this last century. However, it should be added that, as we pointed out earlier, each tribe is unique and has its own characteristics. Also when it comes to dressing. In general, they used to use deer and bison skins for the women’s pants and dresses. During the ceremonial acts they added feathers and more ornaments to the clothing.
American Indians today
There are currently 562 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States. These governments have the right to set their own membership requirements, to levy taxes, and to exclude people from their natural territory. However, they have the same limitations as state governments. As for Native American customs today, one that remains very much alive is the Pow-wow, a great gathering of many of the native tribes of the North American continent.