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Reincarnation Belief of the North American Indians

by csh

Many ancient cultures believed in reincarnation. If you are wondering what exactly reincarnation is, it can be defined as a rebirth of the soul after a certain period of time has passed after death.

For example, in the Tibetan Buddhism, reincarnation occurs after 3, 21, 49, 100, or 2,500 days after death, depending on the degree of development of the soul. In some other belief systems, the time passed before the soul can return to earth could be as long as several hundreds years. According to some of the prominent figures of the Western esoteric schools, the average time between two consecutive incarnations can be between 1,000 and 1,500 years.

In its core, the belief in rebirth is a basic Shamanic belief. We know now that it was present in many hunter-gatherers tribes. This indicates that reincarnation had to be part of the most ancient cultures of our planet.

What About the North American Indians and Their Belief

wooden statue of a North American Indian

A lot of North American tribes include some form of belief in reincarnation in their religions. This is especially true for the Inuit, Tlingit, Aleut, Beaver, Kutchin, Carriers, and Kwakiutl tribes.

The most intense belief can be found among the Tlingit tribe of the Alaska territory. To a lesser degree, this belief was present among the tribes of California and the Southwest region.

To even lesser degree, reincarnation was present among the Eastern and Southeastern territory and the Plateau Indian tribes. The exception are the Delaware and Lenapes tribes.

This belief was virtually non-existent in the tribes of the Great Basin, such as the Western Shoshone, the Goshute, the Ute, the Paiute, and the Washoe.

Two Types of Soul

What's common about their belief in rebirth is the concept of free soul, capable of leaving the body during a state of trance or sleep. The free soul is considered a carrier of human consciousness. In a more esoteric terminology, this soul resembles the astral body, possibly together with the other more subtle bodies that continue to live after the disintegration of the physical form.

At the moment of death, the free soul was thought to leave the body, travel to the spiritual world, and ultimately reincarnate.

The second type of soul the American Indians believed in was the vital soul. It is a life giving soul that provides energy to the physical body. The vital or life-soul was also believed to exist for a certain period of time after death before disintegrating entirely. This soul very much resembles the etheric body.

Native American black and white photo

Some tribes believed that a single soul could be reincarnated in several bodies. Other tribes believed in more than two souls. For example, the Huron Indians believed in as many as 5 souls.

The Plains Indians had no definite idea what awaits the soul in the afterworld. However, they believed that reincarnation was there to allow the soul to become complete and finish its development.

The Dene Tha First Nation people believed in dual soul. One soul remained in the afterworld, while the other, called "Those Made Again" reincarnates and takes another human form.

Human or Animal Reincarnation


The Kwakiutl, Zuni and Mohave Indians believed in a possibility of human to animal reincarnation. This was believed to be more like an exception than a rule. At the same time, after a certain number of animal incarnations the human incarnation was still to follow as a continuation of the natural cycle.

Certain Native American tribes believed that animal incarnations are a form of punishment for corrupt people. For instance, the Yurok believed that bad people incarnate in birds, rabbits, and similar feeble animals to be devoured as a form of punishment.

The Bottom Line

Apart of the above sideways, almost all Native American Indians considered the reincarnation a natural way of continuity and further development of the soul.

It is pity that our Western world has almost forgotten this ancient knowledge and the best and most plausible explanations about the future development and ultimate destiny of the human soul.

Resources

Photo 1 credit: coffey67

Photo 2 credit: decoder420

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