Describe Native American religion during colonial times.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Native Americans adhered to a number of faiths during the colonial period, with some adopting, to varying degrees, Christianity. Without underestimating the considerable diversity of religious belief and practice between Indian peoples, it is safe to say that most practiced a faith that centered around a creator spirit and a series of other deities that were understood to reside in the natural world. The so-called "Southern Cult," for example, encompassed most Southeastern Indians, and featured iconography that suggests a number of anthropomorphic animal deities, as well as a warrior ethos. Native peoples also almost uniformly revered their ancestors. Native Americans also by and large did not demand the total acceptance and exclusiveness of Christianity, and often adopted aspects of Christianity that suited them, and could be reconciled with their worldviews. Some also nominally converted to Christianity for the trade and diplomatic benefits they perceived in doing so. However, in New England and Pennsylvania in particular, many groups fully converted to Christianity, living with white missionaries in so-called "praying towns." Unfortunately, the Indians who lived in these towns often found themselves the victims of attacks by settlers, and were often destroyed. 


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