Essay Sample: Nonverbal Communication in Native American's Culture

Published: 2022-06-03
Essay Sample: Nonverbal Communication in Native American's Culture
Type of paper:  Presentation
Categories:  Culture Communication Anthropology Languages
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 972 words
9 min read

Communication in Native American's is different from other cultures. Native Americans are quiet people who use nonverbal communication in most of their conversations (Boroditsky, 2011, p. 62). In a social situation, most of them will tend to keep quiet or simply be silent and when they decide to talk, then more emphasis will be put on listening rather than speaking. The essay will provide a non-verbal training guide that can be used by someone who wants to travel and experience the diverse Native American Culture.

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Palms facing towards people and shaking them slightly is a way of rewarding people with praises. In addition, clapping may be used, but it was rare in the historical period, but is now becoming a common gesture for praise. When you want to point at someone or a direction, a person uses his eyebrows and lips. Raising the eyebrows and the lips are a way of pointing to either a direction or to someone. Nodding the head and chin in a specific direction is a way of trying to describe a point or get a point across (Carmack, Gasco & Gossen, 2016, p. 25). When a person wants to clearly get a point across they nod both the head and chin in a particular direction. This way the point will be clearly understood by the audience. Conversely, it is an insult in Native American Culture to turn your back on someone. It is thus advisable that you do not turn your back in a conversation set up as it may be viewed as an insult or being defiant (Carmack, Gasco & Gossen, 2016, p. 25). Some of the nonverbal sign language used by Native Americans includes;

Nodding the head (this is a way of saying "yes").

Shaking the head (saying No).

The right hand pointed at your chest (a way of saying "me").

Waving your hands (telling someone to go).

Using the right finger to point upwards (up).

Extending your hands together towards another person (thank you).

Cupping your hand and moving it towards the mouth (drink).


When two people are having a conversation, it is comfortable to have a side by side arrangement where they will not have to face each other. Native Americans prefer a conversation which is characterized by not facing each other with regards to two people in a conversation. During interactions with non-Natives, they also prefer keeping a distance that may be about an arm's length. They prefer further distance with people from outside their culture during interactions. During the handshake, they prefer a quick and light handshake that is common with European and American custom. The only exception may be between friends or inmates who commonly use touch as they are closer. In many normal conversations, gestures are not commonly used, but during storytelling it is common to see hand gestures which are mainly used by elders (Carmack, Gasco & Gossen, 2016, p. 25). A majority of communication in Native Americans culture is done non-verbally hence it is common for them to be silent. In addition, when speaking, their volume is relatively low with a quiet range of pitch tone.

The culture of Native Americans is not characterized by a lot of speaking hence most of them tend to be silent on various occasions. Furthermore, too much speaking may be viewed as inappropriate when interacting with Native Americans since their culture does not involve much talk. It is thus advisable to keep silent during interactions and if required use gestures in order to pass a certain message or express a feeling. During conversations, direct eye contact is seen as rude and the culture requires people not to make a direct eye contact unless talking to an elder or in a storytelling. You are required to gaze at the forehead, throat, mouth, or ear of the person speaking during a conversation. During an eye contact, Native Americans prefer indirectness as the other person may have a chance of rejecting or refusing a request without using any words (Stewart & Strathern, 2017, p. 75). It is also advisable to remain silent during a conversation and then speak when the first speaker has finished. Interruptions during conversations are regarded as unbearable rude by Native Americans and a person is required to take a few moments of silence after a speaker is through so as to join the conversation.

Physical Appearance

In Native American culture, what a person wears speaks volume about them. Their culture embraces casual dressing and "overdressing" may be viewed as being above others. In addition, the dressing is an important factor in their cultural and religious ceremonies and most of them may be seen wearing some of their historical clothing's.


Native Americans tend to put more emphasis on time as their culture involves doing things without a rush. When a person does things in a rush they are seen as rude. In conversations, a person is required to communicate slowly and wait for a few moments after a first speaker is done in order to join in the conversation. In addition, when people are gathered together, it is also advisable to wait until the event is over in order to leave (Stewart & Strathern, 2017, p. 75). Leaving a place earlier may also be regarded as rude. In this culture, time is important and highly valued.


Boroditsky, L. (2011). How language shapes thought. Scientific American, 304 (2), 62-65.

Carmack, R. M., Gasco, J. L., &Gossen, G. H. (Eds.). (2016). The legacy of Mesoamerica: history and culture of a Native American civilization. Routledge.

Deyhle, D., & Swisher, K. (1997). Chapter 3: Research in American Indian and Alaska Native Education: From Assimilation to Self-Determination. Review of research in education, 22 (1), 113-194.

Evans-Pritchard, D. (1989). How "they" see "us": Native American images of tourists. Annals of Tourism Research, 16 (1), 89-105.

Stewart, P. J., & Strathern, A. J. (2017). Language and culture. In Breaking the Frames (pp. 6978). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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