Getty Images

Columbus Day honors the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World and the global transformation that event ushered in.

The change that Europeans brought with them to the Americas wasn't gradual and peaceful, however, but disruptive and violent. Unlike Europeans, whose traditions endured even after the collision of the Old World and the New, the indigenous people of the Americas saw their cultures crumble, as entire populations were wiped out or displaced in the centuries following Columbus' voyage.

Despite 500 years separating the modern age with the pre-Columbian era, some Native American traditions still endure.

Vikings Possibly Carried Native American to Europe

Corbis Images

The Sunrise Dance ceremony is an Apache ritual that celebrates a girl's entry into womanhood.

Tracing its origins to Apache folklore, the Sunrise Dance is rooted in a legend about a woman who survived a flood by floating in a white shell and then established the ritual. When the White Shell Woman grew old, she walked toward the sunrise to meet her younger self, thus passing on the tradition.

For the ritual, the participants' faces are painted white with a mixture of clay and cornmeal, and they wear brightly-colored dresses. The ceremony consists of four days of singing and dancing that brings the entire tribe together. The Sunrise Dance is meant to prepare a girl for a long and healthy adulthood free from material wants.

Climate Change First Responders: Native Americans

Corbis Images

The I'n-Lon-Schka dance by Osage tribal members takes place annually between June and July on the Northwestern Oklahoma Osage reservation.

The ceremony is meant to be a celebration of masculine virtues within the tribe. Meaning "playground of the eldest son," the I'n-Lon-Schka dance involves the participation of the first-born son of each family, who sport costumes made with otter skins, jewelry, porcupine skin, eagle feathers and more.

'First' Americans Were Not Alone

Getty Images

Conspiracy theorists with no connection at all to the Mayan civilization made 2012 out to be doomsday in the Mayan calendar.

While they were sitting at home waiting for the end of the world, actual adherents of Mayan traditions gathered at the Tikal archaeological site some 350 miles north of Guatemala City to celebrate the end of the Mayan cycle known as Bak'tun 13 and the start of the new age. A Bak'tun is roughly 394 years long, making this sort of gathering a rare event.

Getty Images

Among the largest indigenous population in the Americas is the Aymara people, with some 2 million of them residing in Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

In this photo, the Aymara people gathered together for a new year's ceremony during sunrise on the winter solstice. The tribes members extend their hands during first light to receive the rays of the sun god Tata Inti. At the end of June 2013, the Aymara people marked the 5521st year in their calendar.

Corbis Images

The Dance of the Mountain Gods is an Apache ceremony of healing rooted in tribal folklore.

According to legend, two Apache boys, one blind and the other lame, had to hide away in a cave whenever their fellow tribesmen went to war as their physical conditions prevented them from participating in the attack. While hiding one day over an especially long stretch alone, the two were visited by gods who, with a mysterious chant and dance, were able to cure the men of the infirmities by driving away the evil spirits responsible for their ill health.

The dance is still performed as a healing ritual intended to drive away sickness and disease.

Getty Images

Some tribes like the Kaiapo, Xerente, Manoki and other indigenous groups in Brazil haven't changed their lifestyles at all since the arrival of Columbus. That doesn't mean they don't have a place in modern events.

In this photo, members of the Kaiapo tribe participate in a sacred fire-lighting ritual during the Kari-Oca opening ceremony. The religious gathering took place in the shadow of the Rio+20 environmental summit held in Jacarepagua, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Corbis Images

The Wayuu Indians of South America have managed to keep their traditions intact over the centuries by maintaining their independence from colonial powers. In order to showcase their culture, the Wayuu hold an annual festival in which their rituals are performed.

In this photo taken at the Wayuu Cultural Festival in Uribia, Colombia, Wayuu Indians dance the Yonna, which is performed to honor guests.

Corbis Images

Rituals aren't merely a form of protest for the Kaiapo in Brazil when performed in front of a lens for global audiences. They also can be used to express gratitude.

In this photo, Kaiapo women prepare to dance in thanks to a medical expedition by a group called Expedicionarios da Saude within Brazil that provided clinical and surgical treatment to members of the tribe from different parts of the rainforest.

Corbis Images

The Yawalapiti tribe of Brazil perform a dance ritual to honor the death of someone important.

Known as the Quarup, this ceremony takes place over several days and was recently performed in the Xingu National Park in Mato Grosso, Brazil. For the ritual photographed here, tribesmen honored a Yawalapiti Indian who they consider a great leader, and Darcy Ribeiro, a well-known voice advocating on behalf of Brazil's indigenous populations.