Native American tools and practices

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

Native Americans played a critical role in resisting the efforts of the Europeans to gain more power and land during the colonial period.

So, it is no surprise that many tools and healing practices that are being practiced today are adopted from traditions from a wide range of Native American tribes.

According to several historians, each Native American tribe had one or more elders who were adept enough to perform healing practices.

These older people would also act as spirit communicators, healers, and herbalists. Moreover, Native American healing arts and traditions are mainly earth-based and honor Father Sky, Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, and Grandfather Sun.

Other than that, Native Americans also had healing tools and traditions which are currently being adopted today.

Perhaps one of its most popular healing tools is totems or animal spirits, which are often considered to be totem messengers providing them spiritual guidance. There is also the talking stick, which was used by a speaker to communicate and share opinions.

Talking sticks were especially important for Native Americans in the colonial period as it enabled leaders to discuss their plans of driving the European settlers out of their areas.

It should be noted that Native Americans had a complicated relationship with Europeans during the colonial period.

Native Americans made every effort to prevent European colonization through warfare and diplomacy.

Still, they were unsuccessful due to the slave trade, the growing population of Europeans in North America, and the emergence of new diseases. Unlike Europeans, which had immunity, Native Americans were vulnerable in the colonial era as they were not exposed to diseases like smallpox.

Nevertheless, this did not stop Native Americans from building tools and weaponry for battle. Among the most common striking tools used for combat included stone clubs, wooden clubs, the gunstock war club, the pipe tomahawk, and the war hatchet.

While each striking weapon had different functions, the majority of these tools were mainly thrown for long-range attacks to avoid casualties.

Besides striking equipment, Native Americans also built defensive weapons like war shields for extra protection. More often than not, these shields were usually made of leather, which is stretched throughout a round wooden frame.

The primary purpose of war shields was to stop small projectiles and redirecting the larger ones like spears and bullets.

What is more, is that Native Americans also had medicine shields which looked identical to war shields. Dissimilar to war shields, medicine shields were built to protect its carrier against spiritual creatures.

These shields are also lighter than war shields and are typically decorated with a wide range of symbols which represent that mental strength within the carrier.

Fun and Interesting Facts about Native American Tools and Practices

  • Native Americans used smoking smudge wands for purification purposes. The smudging process usually includes the use of common herbs like lavender, yerba santa leaves, sweetgrass, and sage. 
  • The pipe tomahawk of the Native Americans was not only used for combats but also for skinning animals. 
  • Native Americans also had healing talismans or amulets, which included Zuni fetishes, animal skin or bones, feathers, rattles, gemstones, and crystals. 
  • The Native Americans had ceremonial peace pipes as well. It was smoked in a ritual or ceremonial to call upon the four elements and provide an offering to the Great Spirit. 
  • Prayer flags or prayer ties were also popular during this period as it was used to communicate with the Great Spirit in exchange for blessings. These prayer flags were usually made from fabric. 
  • Native Americans also had stone clubs that were used for long-range combats. It comprised a stone which is connected to a wooden handle. 
  • Native Americans offered prayer flags and tobacco when communicating with the Great Spirit. 
  • The Gunstock War Club was also a famous Native American weapon in the colonial period. Its club was shaped similarly to the stock of an 18th-century musket. 

Q & A

What are the healing amulets of Native Americans?
The healing amulets of Native Americans are Zuni fetishes, animal skin or bones, feathers, rattles, gemstones, and crystals.

What did the Native Americans offer when communicating with the Great Spirit?
Native Americans offered prayer flags and tobacco when talking to the Great Spirit.

What are the common herbs used for smudging?
Smudging involves the use of herbs like lavender, yerba santa leaves, sweetgrass, and sage.

What is the purpose of ceremonial pipes?
Ceremonial pipes were used to call upon the four elements when providing an offering to the Great Spirit.

What is the Native American weapon used for skinning animals?
The pipe tomahawk is the Native American weapon that is used for skinning animals as well.