Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Cultural Orientation and Working with Tribal Governments

Native man playing a hand drum and singing at the beginning of a meeting with federal officials


A strong respect for spirituality (whether traditional, Christian, or a combination of both) is common among tribes, and often forms a sense of group unity. Spiritual practices are often deeply ingrained in day-to-day living. For example, many tribes conduct meetings with traditional opening and closing ceremonies, which may be in the form of prayer.

Specific practices such as ceremonies, prayers and religious protocols vary among tribes. For centuries after European contact, practitioners of traditional Native American religions were often persecuted and, as a result, many religions were practiced in secret. The 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act established the policy to protect and preserve for Native Americans their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions.

Be aware that many traditional tribal beliefs and practices are not to be shared publicly.

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