Cultural Differences Between Native Americans & Puritans

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    • Puritans were Christians. The Bible was the guidebook for their lives. They strove to abide by the Bible in every way and expected others to do so as well. Native Americans had religious beliefs but no holy books. Some of their religions were monotheistic, like Christianity. Others were polytheistic. Nature plays a prominent role in the belief systems of Native American tribes because of their closeness with the land.


    • The laws of the Puritans were strictly biblical. They applied the Bible to every aspect of their legal system. However, the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" did not apply to their legal system. They hanged Quakers in Boston Common for not leaving and killed the accused witches whom Puritan judges convicted at the Salem witch trials. The laws of the Puritans were famously strict and the punishments harsh. Traditional Native American legal systems did not apply Christian principles. The goal of any punishment was to appease the members of the tribe. The offended and the offender would decide the punishment amongst themselves.


    • The Puritan community, particularly in Boston, Massachusetts, was averse to people of outside religions. They did not want people who were not Puritan in their community. Puritans would banish or even punish visitors and residents who would not convert or leave. In some cases, the punishment was death. Because of this, their community was tightly knit and successful, but their strict views did not appeal to enough people for their community to remain successful. The Native Americans were not as exclusive, trading between tribes and intermarrying to strengthen bonds. Their communities' success was dependent upon their ability to live off the land and survive intertribal wars, not on adherence to religious laws.


    • The clothing of Native Americans was starkly different from that of Puritans. Native Americans wore clothing made with animal skin and natural adornments, such as feathers. When it was hot, they wore very little clothing. Puritans had strict laws about clothing. They would not allow as much exposure of skin as Native Americans did. They also did not allow people to wear flashy clothing or adornments that were beyond their means. In other words, only rich Puritans could wear colorful and decorative clothing.

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