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Shared Spirits

Indigenous spiritual traditions are immensely diverse. There is not one Native American religion, but hundreds. However, they tend to share ideas about acting as stewards of the land and maintaining relationships to a living universe.

Native spiritual and medicinal practices were often absorbed into African American traditions because of intermarriage. Over centuries, these ways have evolved, yet their Native roots are identifiable. These practices have also blended with Christianity in diverse ways throughout history.

Billy Bowlegs III

Billy Bowlegs III (1862–1965)

This Seminole Indian elder and historian, said to be a descendant of African American intermarriage with the Seminole, adopted the name of the legendary resistance fighter Billy Bowlegs II (1810–64). The “patchwork” pattern covering his turban expresses the influence of African ovpispisi (bits and pieces)—sewing typical of the Suriname Maroons and Ashanti who married into the tribe.

Courtesy The State Archives of Florida