American Indian Religion & Philosophy

American Indian Religion & Philosophy


There are various cultural as well as beliefs adopted by different communities across the world depending on their cultural background and tribe. The native American ritual practices, ceremonies, and culture have played a major role in their lives. Unlike the way Christian refer to these ceremonies, Americans do not prioritize these ceremonial practices (“Sundance 2012: Four Days for Tunkashila”, 2012). However, the ceremonial practices are viewed by the Americans as a unifying factor and the community’s integral part. For instance, American Indians celebrated occasions such as initiation and naming of newborns as it was the case with other communities.  The Indian Americans were introduced with dances which they named “Sun dance.” The sun dance was an Indian plains’ central religious practices.  This paper explains the relevance of sun dance among Indian Americans.

Some of the Observable and Unobservable Aspects of the Ceremony or Culture

Unobservable Aspects of the Ceremony

Sun dancers used songs and dances which are transferred down its generations. On the contrary to other dances, the sun dance was used by the Indians to worship both the sun and the earth to appreciate their natural resources’ benefits upon them. Also, the Indian Americans believed that through the dance, their families and friend’s wellness should be granted. The ceremony involved dancing in the sun.

Observable Aspects of the Ceremony

The sun dance participants, especially from Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and Arapaho nations, often pierce their bodies. Also, other nations such as Crown, Ute and Shoshone practice intense dancing, fasting, and body piercing as a way of performing sacrificial practices through spiritual embodying (“Indians of the Plains – Sun Dance Ceremony | American Indian Film Gallery,” 2017). There are specific types of ceremonial attires worn by the Blackfeet participants known as costumes. Other features include sacred fire, traditional drums and a ceremonial pipe used in praying.

Why might an individual participate in the sun dance?

The American Indians participate in the sun dance to pray for the wellness of their families and friends. Another reason for the people to participate in sun dance is to appreciate the earth’s natural resources which have contributed negatively to them. The sun dancers are dedicated to “the woman” womankind whereby several issues are sought especially shame from violence.

Do women participate in the sun dance ceremony?

Women normally participate in the sun dance ceremony (“Encyclopedia of the Great Plains | SUNDANCE”, 2016). They join fellow men in dancing and making the ceremony colorful. Women assist men in carrying buffalo skulls during the dance. However, women are excepted from body piercing as the practice is perceived as torture to them.



Encyclopedia of the Great Plains | SUN DANCE. (2016). Retrieved from

Indians of the Plains – Sun Dance Ceremony | American Indian Film Gallery. (2017). Retrieved from

Sundance 2012: Four Days for Tunkashila. (2012). Retrieved from