Native Americans Religion and the Sacred Number Four
Over the length and breadth of the American continent a peculiar sanctity is attached by the aborigines to the four points of the compass. This arises from the circumstance that from these quarters come the winds which carry the fertilizing rains. Native American, a dweller in vast undulating plains where landmarks are few, recognized the necessity of such guidance in his wanderings as could alone be received from a strict adherence to the position of the four cardinal points. These he began to regard with veneration as his personal safeguards, and recognized in them the dwelling-places of powerful beings, under whose care he was. Most of his festivals and celebrations had symbolical or direct allusions to the four points of the compass. The ceremony of smoking, without which no treaty could be commenced or ratified, was usually begun by the chief of the tribe exhaling tobacco-smoke toward the four quarters of the earth. Among some tribes other points were also recognized, as, for example, one in the sky and one in the earth. All these points had their symbolical colours, and were presided over by various animal or other divinities. Thus the Apaches took black for the east, white for the south, yellow for the west, and blue for the north, the Cherokees red, white, black, and blue for the same points, and the Navahos white, blue, yellow, and black, with white and black for the lower regions and blue for the upper or ethereal world.