Spiritual Ties

hands holding a lei wili made of green and pink leaves and flowers
Traditional Lei Wili - Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

NPS Photo

Throughout human cultures, origin stories and spirituality have been tied to place. The natural environment where a culture evolves often influences how people live and how they view the world, both in spiritual and practical matters.

Oral traditions of the Wabanaki people passed down for thousands of years connect them to Acadia Naitonal Park where Koluskap (part trickster, part hunter-shaman) was said to have created the landscape protected in the park today. Despite the influence of missionaries, the modern day Chumach maintain ties to Channel Islands National Park with stories that describe how people came from a magic plant on Santa Cruz Island, and their connection with their dolphin brothers and sisters. Coastal tribes associated with Olympic National Park still perform a First Salmon Ceremony passed down through their ancestors to honor and give thanks to salmon returning from the sea.

Coastal and Great Lakes national park areas not preserve the landscapes that inspired spirituality in the people who made those places their homes. The National Park Service works with native groups today to provide access for traditional practices and help preserve oral tradition associated with these places. Although many traditional lifeways have disappeared, those that have persisted give us a window into the rich native heritage of this country that is intimately connected to the land and sea.

For Further Reading

People - National Park of American Samoa

Tribes of the Olympic Peninsula - Olympic National Park

Native Peoples - Everglades National Park

The Wabanaki: People of the Dawnland - Acadia National Park

Limuw: A Story of Place - Channel Islands National Park

Totem Poles - Sitka National Historical Park

Last updated: May 23, 2017


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