The role of religion in early America played an important

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The role of religion in early America played an important factor in the way people treated their fellowman and the way society functioned as a whole. The manner in which a society operated reflected greatly upon the beliefs and practices of its culture. In early America, five diverse segments ? Native Americans, Planters, Puritans, Afro-Americans, and Rationalists/Revolutionaries illustrated such behavior.

The Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the New World. The basis of Native American religion was the reverence of nature and its inhabitants. American Indians worshipped the blessings of nature and developed spiritual practices to ensure continued fortunes. (Claiborne, 82) Their practices took the form of honoring the natural world by means of song, chant, and dance, which they believed could make things such as summoning animals, bringing rain, curing the sick, and destruction of their enemies occur. (Bruchac, 21) Rather than a progressive straight line, the Native American outlook on the world resembled an endless circle as displayed by the natural world with its seasons and cycles of life and death.

(Bruchac, 21) Although not opposed to change, tradition is a great factor in Native American life. This is shown by the Lakota people who still take part in their annual Sun Dance. In pre-Columbian times, they arrived on foot. After the coming of the Spanish, they rode horses. Today, they arrive in automobiles. (Bruchac, 21) In Native American society, the belief that everyone was derived from a common ancestor was prominent. Clans, which were often represented by a totem pole, were formed. Within the clan, the ancestry of the mother bestowed the rights and privileges upon its members. Maternal lineage determined where the man could fish, live, and even whom he could marry. (Claiborne, 85) In pertinence to the way Native Americans treated other...