Yokuts believed in the power of spirits or gods in nature. They thought it was important not to make a spirit angry. They believed that birds and animals had spiritual power. They felt that the grizzly bear was an evil spirit and should not be killed. They thought that the eagle was a powerful spirit for good. Eagle feathers were very important religious objects.
Each member of the tribe had the spirit of an animal as a personal guardian, like what some people today call a “guardian angel.” If a Yokuts had a deer as guardian, he could never kill a deer or eat deer meat.
The Yokuts believed in life after death. They were respectful of death and were afraid to make a dead person angry. When someone died, the family was not allowed to say that person’s name out loud. Since it was easy to accidentally say the dead person’s name, the name was usually given to a new baby. That way the name could be said out loud and the dead person would not become angry.
A member of the tribe called a shaman was in charge of the religious ceremonies and beliefs. The Yokuts believed he could talk to the spirit-gods. His job was to cure sick people and scare off evil spirits. He also spoke to the gods and told them what the tribe needed.
–Adapted from research by Mary Ann Brensel