Published on June 16, 2014 by Carol
Before the European colonization of the Americas that began in the seventeenth century C.E. , most Native American people lived close to nature, making their living from the resources that were plentiful in the world around them. They largely survived by fishing, hunting, and gathering edible plants, though some tribes, such as the Navajo in the southwestern United States and the Oneida of northern New York, tended flocks of sheep or grew crops to add to what they found in nature.
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Almost all of these tribes used the skins of the animals they hunted or raised. They developed methods of tanning the skins to make soft leather, and from this leather they made clothing and shoes. Leather clothing was soft and strong, and, if the animal’s fur was left on the skin, it was also very warm. Some native people, like the Apaches of the western plains and the Algonquin of southern Canada, even used leather to make the walls of their dwelling places.
The religious beliefs of many Indian people included the idea that all of nature, including animals and plants, had spiritual power. Many also believed that by wearing parts of an animal a person could gain some of that animal’s power and strength. In this way, the wearing of animal skins became more than just putting on a form of comfortable and durable clothing. It became a part of Native Americans’ religious practice and a way to improve oneself by literally “putting on” some of the desirable qualities of the animals.