Cover image for Native American worldviews : an introduction
Native American worldviews : an introduction
Gill, Jerry H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Humanity Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
293 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E98.C79 G56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E98.C79 G56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this excellent survey of Native American worldviews, philosopher of religion Jerry H. Gill emphasizes the value of tracing the overarching themes and broad contours of Native American belief systems. He presents an integrated view to serve as an introduction to ways of life and perspectives on the world far different from those of the dominant Euro-American culture.

Drawing on the scholarship of anthropologists and specialists in American Indian Studies, Gill brings together much original research in broad, accessible chapters. He explores Native American origin stories, the special connotations given to spatial concepts such as the cardinal directions and the circle, the influence of the seasons and the cycles of life on different cultures, and clan and kinship systems. Separate chapters are devoted to key ceremonies and customs as well as to concepts of health, harmony, virtues, wisdom, and beauty.

The final chapter considers the devastating effects on native peoples of the European incursion into North America. Gill discusses the reservation system, attempts at assimilation and resistance, the recent renaissance of American Indian cultures, and prospects for the future. A valuable appendix presents a representative sampling of Native American writings on beliefs and origin stories.

This excellent introduction to the many diverse yet related American Indian worldviews will be a welcome resource for teachers of introductory courses in Native American Studies or philosophy of religion, as well as laypersons with an interest in native cultures.

Author Notes

Jerry H. Gill is professor emeritus of philosophy and religious studies at the College of Saint Rose (Albany, New York).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Native American Worldviews is an excellent introduction to Native spirituality for a general reader. Gill (emer., College of Saint Rose) identifies elements shared by the majority of tribal cultures, e.g., the three types of origin stories, ceremonies such as the sweat lodge and the Sun Dance, and the importance of spatial and temporal relationships. He uses quotations from a range of tribal oral traditions to illustrate his discussions. The appendix, which contains seven stories from oral traditions throughout the United States and constitutes a third of the book, makes it possible for the reader to sample the richness and variety of Native spirituality. The final chapter summarizes the impact of Native American and European/Euro-American contact, the destructiveness of federal policies, and the revitalization of spirituality today. Space restrictions have, unfortunately, resulted in oversimplification and some errors. However, since very few introductory texts about Native American spirituality exist, libraries should have a copy of Gill's book on the shelves to introduce those lacking prior knowledge to the richness and diversity of Naive American worldviews. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers, lower-division undergraduates, two-year technical program students, and professionals. B. Hans University of North Dakota

Table of Contents

List of Figuresp. 11
Prefacep. 13
Introduction: Perspectives and Worldviewsp. 15
Chapter 1 Time and Space--An Overviewp. 25
Migrations and Beginningsp. 25
Geography and Environmentp. 31
Cultures and Languagesp. 38
Chapter 2 Origin Storiesp. 47
Stories and Mythsp. 47
Primordial Timep. 49
Original Beingsp. 55
Journeysp. 61
Chapter 3 Space and Cosmosp. 67
Above and Belowp. 68
Cardinal Directionsp. 71
Dwelling at the Centerp. 78
The Circlep. 81
Chapter 4 Time and Cosmosp. 89
Cycles of Seasons and Lifep. 89
Legends and Heroesp. 95
Clans and Kinshipp. 100
Death and Destinyp. 104
Chapter 5 Ceremonies and Customsp. 111
The Harvest and the Huntp. 111
Birth, Naming, and Coming of Agep. 117
Marriage, Family, and Clanp. 122
Sun Dance, Potlatch, Sweatlodge, and Peyotep. 128
Chapter 6 The Vital Balancep. 137
The Path of Lifep. 137
Harmony and Healthp. 141
Loyalty and Couragep. 147
Wisdom and Beautyp. 151
Chapter 7 Tradition and/or Progressp. 157
Contact and Conquestp. 157
Reservations and Conversionsp. 162
Assimilation and Resistancep. 166
Renaissance and the Futurep. 168
Conclusion: A Primal Visionp. 175
Ecological Awarenessp. 175
The Web of Communityp. 178
Individual Integrityp. 179
Appendix Representative Readingsp. 183
Bibliographyp. 287
Indexp. 291