What if you lived at a time when people didn’t read or write? How would adults teach you and other kids about your way of life?
Like peoples of many cultures, the early Californians educated their children through storytelling. Some tales helped young people learn about their culture by explaining how a tribe’s traditions started. Others told legends of great deeds. These legends were often passed on from one generation to the next over time.
Magic was a big part of tribal religion. People believed in supernatural forces. For example, they believed magic made crops grow. They also believed magic made people sick – and that magic could cure them. Almost all California Indians had some form of shamanism, or spiritual healing. Shamans were important leaders in the tribe. (The word shaman means “one who knows.”) Both men and women could be shamans. They healed people and helped them with problems. Sometimes they dressed up like snakes or bears to tap into the power of those animals. Shamans also made up or learned spoken poems to tell people stories about their culture. They served as messengers between the real world and the spirit world. Even today, shamans play a role in tribal life.