The Native American Indian did not generally possess a belief in one particular religion. He did, however, hold on to certain religious beliefs that were widespread among many different tribes. These tribes had a guardian spirit, shamans, prophets and many different types of ceremonies. It is important to understand what the Indian believe in, in order to understand the importance of the mythological characters that played such an important role in his life.
Most of the Indians believed that one could gain the spirit power through certain people. A guardian spirit was thought of as being one way of reaching the powerful spirit world. He was regarded as being a personal spiritual helper who could guide a person through the hardships of life. If was not uncommon for an Indian to have more that one guardian spirit. Different guardian spirits were used for different needs. Another intermediary with the gods was known as the shaman or medicine man.
The spirit world could also be reached with the help of the shaman. Because his tasks included curing the sick he was regarded as the medicine man. The Indian believed that the shaman also had close contact with the spiritual world. Not everyone possessed the abilities to be a shaman. Usually the shaman had, sometime early in his youth, demonstrated some ability for this profession. His job was dangerous; for if it was a prominent or powerful Indian who became M, and was not cured, the medicine man might be killed for failure to cure the afflicted person. While a shaman usually helped one sick person at a time, a priest often worked with several people at one time.
The priest usually held a public ceremony that was for an entire Indian group. This ceremony was held in one particular place that was regarded as sacred. His training for this type of service was involved and regarded very formal and extensive. If a priest failed to produce a good harvest or plentiful rainfall, retribution by the members of the tribe was not considered unusual.
The prophets did not come into existence until the people from Europe began to settle in Indian territory. The prophets foresaw that the Indians were taking on the habits of the white man, especially the consumption of liquor. They predicted the future of the Indian way of fife in a dismal fashion. The prophets tried to persuade the Indians to return to their traditional way of life. They also felt it was important that the white man and the Native American Indian live peacefully and separately. The story of Hiawatha carries across to the reader this idea of peaceful co-existence (3).