Kikapu - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Kikapu religion is fundamentally animistic, centering on a superior spirit considered to be the creator called Kisiaata. The central element in this religion is the possession and veneration of sacred packs, which are believed to be manitous. The Kikapu religion is one of the fundamental features of the group and has been crucial, along with the language, in sustaining the culture group. Catholicism and Protestantism have not influenced the Kikapu in any way.

Religious Practitioners. A major figure for the Kikapu is the religious leader, who celebrates religious ceremonies and marks the important dates in the Kikapu calendar. The religious leader selects as his successor a qualified member of his family or of the group at large.

Ceremonies. The Kikapu have a number of religious ceremonies, including ceremonies that involve the whole community, even kin from Oklahoma, as well as ceremonies that only involve clans or the nuclear family. The most important ceremonies are those that involve the whole community, such as the ceremonies for the dead, which take place in March and April. In these ceremonies, dances and ritual plays are performed by men and women. There are two traditional religious teams, the Blacks and the Whites. Foreigners are excluded from ceremonies that take place in individual homes. Other ceremonies take place during the change of seasonal homes, when a child is named, and in February, when the Kikapu mark the new year.

Medicine. The traditional Kikapu had a traditional medical system, which included the practices of the herbal societies. At present, they have abandoned their traditional practices and have begun to rely on Western medical services provided in Mexico and the United States—even in regard to childbearing, which in earlier times the woman performed alone.

Death and Afterlife. When someone in the Kikapu culture dies, the corpse is removed through a hole located in the back of the traditional house and buried in a community cemetery. After the corpse is removed, the house is destroyed, and the family builds a new one. Various ceremonies are performed after the death until the ceremonies of the dead take place in March and April. During these ceremonies, the spirits of the deceased meet their creator, Kisiaata. The Kikapu believe in a heaven, where those who have lived good lives go to hunt deer. Those who have lived bad lives are bound to a tree, where they can see the hunters who have been rewarded for their good lives.

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