Indigenous American



Native Americans

Afterlife beliefs among Indigenous Americans vary greatly from tribe to tribe and area to area, from reincarnation, to after life in another world, and even that we return as ghosts. Reincarnation beliefs varied from rebirth within the same family, clan or tribe to reincarnation in animal form. In some tribes the dead were believed to become part of the earth or stars. Most tribes believed that if the grave were disturbed, the dead would be interrupted in their afterlife journey and instead become ghosts.

Many tribes believed we have two souls - one would die with the body and the other would wander on as a ghost and eventually die. A common belief was the soul traveled to the spirit world where they can communicate with the living in dreams or through elders or medicine people. These souls would become part of the spiritual forces influencing all aspects of the living world. Some tribes believed the spirit world was very close to ours and that our ancestors would serve to watch over and protect their living decedents.

Common to all tribes is the concept of a god of creation - the supreme god amongst the spirits. The afterlife spirit world was typically believed to be presided over by a deity who could be the god of death or even the creator. Similar to heaven and hell, indigenous Americans believe in an upper world and a lower world. The upper world is perfect and pure; it is the Land of our Ancestors and the creator and the destination of spirits who led good lives. The lower world is chaotic and frightening and the spirits there suffered torment for their bad deeds.




Inuit beliefs are animistic and more mythology than religion. Everything in nature has a spirit and at death the spirit would transform over the course of a year from one world to the other. By taking the life of an animal, it was important to follow the correct taboos and rituals so that the liberated spirit would not take revenge.

At death, the god Anguta brings the soul to the underworld where they crawl under a huge skin carpet. Some believed the spirit would sleep there for a year. Others believed spirits journey to the other side. After the year, the spirit arrives at two worlds, one of water and earth where all was plenty and another world in the sky that was rich in berries. In general there was no eternal punishments or hell.