The introduction of Christianity to the Americas and the origins of Christmas can be controversial in Native circles. Europeans knowingly replaced Native people's existing spiritual beliefs with the beliefs taught in the Bible. Cruelty and brutality often accompanied this indoctrination. Yet it is also true that some tribes, families, and individuals embraced the Bible and Jesus' teachings voluntarily. This complicated history is reflected in the stories below.
[Editor's Note: This article was first published on the Smithsonian Voices website. Used with permission. All rights reserved.]
In many communities and homes, Christian customs are interwoven with Native culture as a means of expressing Christmas in a uniquely Native way. The importance of giving is a cultural tradition among most tribes. Even in times of famine and destitution, Native people have made sure their families, elders, and orphans were taken care of. This mindset prevails into the present. Gift-giving is appropriate whenever a tribal social or ceremonial gathering takes place.