ask the marshall true west magazine

Did early American Indians believe in God? 

Patricia Woodruff
Barrington, New Jersey

All tribes had religion—most of them very specific to their group and its historical and cultural experiences. Most were polytheistic—they had several gods. When whites came to this continent, priests and others tried to convert the Indians to Christianity, often at the point of a gun. This caused resentment that still lasts today. As time went on, some American Indians adopted Christianity on their own. Others adapted it, incorporating the faith into their traditional beliefs. In the earliest times (say, the 17th to mid-19th centuries), Indians passed on their culture and religion orally, since most lacked written languages.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.

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