The American Indian and the Problem of Culture

The Native Americans are perhaps the most culturally storied and richly diversified culture in the America. Indeed, the historical narrations of the Indian culture, way of life and lifestyle are narrated as rich in strife, struggle as well as triumph. In fact, a majority of the modern ways of life and lifestyle in the United States are directly or indirectly inherited or borrowed from the ancient Indian cultures of centuries ago. Yet, most Americans take for granted the many familiar symbols that trace their origin from the Native Indian Americans. The purpose of this paper is to describe the culture of the American Indians.

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The American Indians used various symbols that interwove the tapestry of their lifestyle. Integral symbols such as the totem pole, the teepee, the moccasins and the peace pipe formed a special cultural trait of the American Indians life (Barrett, 2004). Native animals and plants as houses and weather had a special cultural relationship with the American Indians. For instance, the American Indians revered animals for spiritual believes and ties in spite of their hunting practices. Animal hides and skins made drums and clothes while the meat was preserved and never wasted to nourish the community. The American Indians believed that the spirit of the animals killed lived through the community by inhabiting the tribe’s minds.

The American Indians cultivated and later harvested various plants for different reasons and seasons such as making blankets and dyes (Biolsi & Martin, 1989). Weather elements bore cultural meanings, attachments and endearments to the community, as well. For instance, the American Indians believed that the sun and the rain were supernatural powers and represented a change in the Indian’s seasons.

Totem poles formed a special part of the America Indian’s culture (Hallowell, 1957). For instance, they believed that every person’s spirit in the community was attached to particular animal’s spirit. Therefore, the community believed that, at death, a person’s spirit was absorbed by his or her attached animal to live on or regenerate as another person at birth. As a tall and large wooden carving, the totem pole was framed to represent various animals with a certain animal representing a cherished but deceased member of the family.

Today, it is easy to observe a dangling dream catcher hanged from rearview mirrors on cars driving in the United States’ roads. However, people rarely know or acknowledge the significance of the dream catchers. Indeed, this symbol traces back to the Lakota tribe’s legendary stories (Hallowell, 1957). It is a symbol of holding onto dearest things in a person’s life. In addition, the perforated holes in a dream catcher serve to filter ill feelings and thoughts. Another Interesting aspect of the American Indian’s culture is smoke signaling. The American Indians used smoke signals to send and relay messages over long distances and bore a proud heritage amongst the American Indians.

The American Indians also believed in spirits and depended on them for the well being and nourishment of the society (Barrett, 2004). Spirits were tied to various outcomes in the society such as bumper harvest, natural disasters and tragedies and community health. As a result, the spirits were kept pleased to see to the survival and good harvest in the tribe. Sacrifices and offerings were made at sacred places to the spirits. For instance, the Pueblo tribes regarded various plants as sacred while the Aztecs offered human sacrifices to appease the spirits.


Barrett, C. A. (2004). American Indian culture. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press.

Biolsi, T., & Martin, C. (1989). The American Indian and the Problem of Culture. American Indian Quarterly, 13(3), 261.

Hallowell, A. I. (1957). The Impact of the American Indian on American Culture. American Anthropologist, 59(2), 201-217.

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