universe was, as a whole, held together by spiritual forces that caused man to
respect all things, living and nonliving. Indians believed that animals and
humans could converse freely and that certain powerful humans could change into
animals and leave their bodies. Birds and animals could become humans as well.
An old Choctaw man once remarked, when asked about the sanity of a person seen
talking to a squirrel in the woods, “Your problem is simple. He speaks
squirrel. You don’t.”
Indian system confused the Europeans who encountered it. Animals, plants, and
even the dead were considered animate parts of life. Indians failed to
understand why Europeans denied relationships with these entities.
the Chitimacha had killed the missionary St.
Cosme, most of the priest and
ministers went unmolested among the tribes. Their most common lament was that no
one would listen to them.
was shown by tribes to those missionaries who – in a vitriolic outburst –
stormed temples and broke sacred objects found there. These missionaries
appeared mad in the eyes of the Indian, and madness was accepted as part of the
order of things.
to Christianity is sometimes descried by old Indian people as “being taught to
pray.” Prayer existed in Indian culture to express thanks and tell of need.
What the Europeans brought was prayer for salvation. Most tribal religions
lacked the concepts of external punishment and sin. There was no hell from which
to be saved. Death, then, was not confused with punishment. It was merely a part
of the intricate web of natural phenomena.
hoots, the barking of foxes, and other signs such as cracks in house walls
portended death. Individuals frequently announced the day and time when they
would die; therefore, removing the element of surprise. Omens allowed for
adequate preparation. Death was to be met at home surrounded by family and
friends. To live for a time and to live well was part of the natural cycle.
Sudden or violent deaths were attributed to “witchcraft.” Children were
often given a pet; if witchcraft was directed at the child, the pet intercepted
it and died. 
 Kniffen, Fred B. "Historic Indian Tribes of La." Louisiana Conservation Review 4 (7): 251- 3