Form and Content
Karen Liptak’s North American Indian Ceremonies depicts a wide spectrum of ceremonies practiced in both the past and the present by a variety of American Indian tribes. The book’s introductory section gives an overview of the purpose of these ceremonies, stressing how they help children to grow closer to other tribal members and to learn about themselves, the world around them, and, most important, their own particular American Indian culture. Subsequent sections focus on specific kinds of ceremonial events, including those for birth and death, coming-of-age, courtship and marriage, hunting and gathering, war and peace, initiation into secret societies, abundant food, and healing. The book’s final section discusses the ceremonies still performed today, usually on reservations and sometimes at American Indian cultural centers, pageants, fairs, and museums. These contemporary ceremonies, Liptak suggests, serve two purposes: to instill pride in the American Indians watching and performing in the ceremonial rituals and to educate non-Indians about American Indian life.
Illustrated with numerous photographs and works of art depicting the ceremonies, costumes, and sacred objects, this thin work seems to be almost as much picture book as a reference text. A short list of other works about American Indian ceremonies and a glossary of terms, including the names and geographical locations of many of the tribes that Liptak’s discusses, concludes the...
(The entire section is 468 words.)