The European people were not first settlers who came to the South and North America. There were different tribes that had their own culture. This work tells the story of Native Americans, about the way they arrived to this territory, depicts the features of their life, which depended on the habitat. Moreover, it reveals in which regions farming, hunting or fishing were distributed. This essay describes the achievements of Indians in the arts, as well as it exhibits the legacy that they left for the modern world. It highlights how the actions of the European colonists changed, suspended and ruined the way of life and culture of Native Americans. The paper reveals the main characteristics of the culture of the Native Americans of present days.
Native American Culture
As it is known, the lands of America were discovered and settled long before the travel of Christopher Columbus. However, exactly this seafarer gave the name to the local population. It was not right, because of his misconceptions concerning the land on which he arrived. Indians is the general name of Native Americans, except for the Eskimos and Aleuts. According to anthropological type, Indians belong to American race. There is a set of versions about how the first Americans got on the continent. Anthropologists still argue about their origin, appropriating the fact of America’s revelation to different nations, such as the people of Siberia, Scandinavians and Australian natives.
Most likely, the first settlers came on the American territory from Asia 20-40 thousand years ago. Despite all diligence of archaeologists, dating of this event more precisely is impossible. Approximately 40,000 years ago, people have settled on all other corners of the planet. At that moment, there was an isthmus that connected Siberia and Alaska. The way to America laid through it. This isthmus existed during the last glacial age. Until the moment when water, hidden in glaciers, raised the level of the ocean, such transition was quite possible. Trailblazers were, in every likelihood, the hunting tribes who lived in small groups. They constantly moved in search of new extraction and dissipated for three thousand years all over the continent. After one thousand years, glaciers have melted and Bering Strait, which now separates America from Asia, was formed. It explains why the development of ancient Americans has lagged behind the development of the people of Eurasia.
“Perhaps the greatest mistake one could make when considering Native American culture would be to assume that there existed only one such homogeneous culture among the indigenous peoples of North America. Rather, there is an assortment of distinct and diverse cultural aspects that, when bound together, make a whole” (Kuiper). Interestingly enough, the American Indians were not the uniform people at all. They were characterized by swart skin, high cheekbones, black hair and eyes and a blood chemical compound. However, they considerably differed from each other in the height, appearance and customs. They spoke various languages and trusted in different Gods. During the settlement of Europeans in America, various Indian tribes spoke more than 2,200 different languages. Now, only about 1,000 of them are preserved. There were fewer similarities between American Indian tribes than between the European people at any moment of their history.
The difference between the nations of Indians was the result of the fact that in the process of resettlement, they were forced to adapt to the different climatic and other natural conditions of the new territory which they inhabited. They lived in the mountains, on the plains, and in the swamps, on the cold expanses of tundra and tropical jungle. Their activities were completely depended on the habitat. Eskimos and Aleuts that lived in the Arctic region were marine hunters. Indian tribes Haida, Tlingit, Wakash, Szalasi and others lived in the north-west coast and were specialists in fishing and sea hunting. In California, the Native Americans engaged in gathering acorns, hunting and fishing. The northern area of the modern Canada and the central part of Alaska were inhabited by Algonquian and Athabascan tribes. They also fished and hunted mainly on caribou. The main activity of Eastern Algonquin, Iroquois and Muskogee was farming. They lived in the eastern part of the present territory of the United States. Culture of the horse hunters on buffalo was formed after the discovery of America in the steppe zone. It included the tribes of the Lakota Sioux, Osage, Mandan, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Pawnee, Caddo and Wichita. Agriculture that presupposed the use of artificial irrigation was developed in the South West of North America, where Pueblo and Pima lived. It was here where Navajo culture arose after the colonization of cattle-breeding. Indians of Central America and the Andes were most developed in pre-Columbian America. Maya lived here and used system of the slash-and-burn farming. The Aztecs used a sophisticated irrigation system and Ancient Peru applied terraced system in the production of the crop. These tribes taught the arrived Europeans to grow corn, beans, squash, cacao, tobacco, sunflower, cotton and agave. Indians lived in the Andes, grew potatoes, pastoralists and were engaged in metallurgy. The large slave city-states with high culture originated from this particular territory. The tropical parts of South America in the Amazon and Orinoco and the Brazilian highlands were inhabited by tribes which specialized in hoe system of agriculture. They cultivated cassava and maize. Also, hunters and gatherers such as the Arawak, Carib, Tupiguarani lived there. Indians Argentine Pampas and Patagonian plateau were similar to Kulituri tribes of American prairies. They were mainly involved in hunting. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were excellent hunters on horseback guanaco. In the far south of South America and the islands of Tierra del Fuego, the indigenous settlers led the semi-nomadic life. They were not advanced but rather primitive hunters, fishers and gatherers marine mollusks.
European colonization has caused significant damage to Native American culture, interrupting the natural course of its development. Many indigenous peoples of North America were killed or driven away from their land. Therefore, they had to resettle from the traditional habitat to the reservations of the U.S. and Canada. Some of them rushed to the Far West in search of new lands for cultivation and precious metals for sale. In 1830, according to a law passed by the U.S. Congress, the Indians of the Atlantic coast were deported to Oklahoma. However, most of the mainland Indians disappeared. The bulk of the deported people died of starvation and disease. In the period between 1775 and 1890 45,000 Native Americans were killed. By the early 20th century, the population of the Indians fell from several millions to 200,000 people. The total number of Indians in America was estimated at more than 30 million people (counted in the middle of the 1960s). At the beginning of the 21th century, the American Indian population was 60 million, not counting those who had lost their tribal affiliation. Only indigenous people of the Far North were known to follow the traditional way of life, engaged in catching fur. In the South America the Indians played a significant role in the formation of modern Latin American nations. Mexicans, Guatemalans, Paraguayans, Peruvians and other peoples derived from the ancient people. Moreover, Indian languages are now prevalent along with Spanish and in some countries are the second official languages. Only a small part of the tribe managed to keep their traditions and way of life. Now they live mainly in remote areas of the Amazon basin.
The Native Americans had no written language, but they were very advanced in the arts. At the time of European settlement in Central America and the Andes, there was a highly developed culture. It is believed that the Inca, Maya, Mixtec, Zapotec, Toltec, Olmec and some others were very advanced in material production. The Art of many tribes that were under the primitive society was closely linked with their style of life. It reflected the observations of hunters, fishermen and farmers that were embodied in the concept of mythological imagination and ornamental wealth of the Indians. For example, Indian homes were very diverse in form and in the materials, used for building. Among them there were awnings, screens, dome tents forest hunters of Canada called wigwams. Residents of the Canadian and U. S. prairie built conical tents made of poles, covered branches, leaves, mats and skins. Clay and stone huts were spread among the inhabitants of the mountainous regions of South America. In the north-west of North America Indians lived in communal plank houses. In the Great Lakes there were predominantly long frame houses covered with bark. In the south-western part of the North America tribes settled in stone or adobe houses. Indian statues and carvings on wood are not only enjoyed by the tourists that come to the reservation, but are the work of the highest class. In general, Native Americans are very successful in flesh trade. Particularly, rich legacy was left by the tribes that were living in the north-west coast of North America. Famous worldwide boat "canoe" is a world leader for correlation of ease and capacity. A polychrome totem poles and gravestones with interlacing of real and fantastic images are causing delight and excitement at the same time. There were also widely distributed braiding, weaving, embroidery, production of the jewelry that was made of feathers, ceramic and wooden utensils and more. In addition to fantastic graphics, hunting and war scenes, geometric designs were also often featured in the paintings. After colonization of original art, Indians died out in some countries, such as USA, Canada, Uruguay, Argentina and others. However, the indigenous people of Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador saved the folk art to modern times.
Without a doubt, the conquerors who arrived to America, borrowed a lot of useful knowledge from the indigenous population. The Indians showed them how to grow corn, maize, potato, sunflower, cassava, cocoa, cotton, tobacco, peppers, beans, peanuts, agave and other crops. This helped the newly arrived settlers to survive, because most of them could not grow accustomed vegetables and cereals. In the first year of the famine many Europeans died. In addition, the spread of potato in Eurasia also helped many families not to die of starvation. Even the northern mountain regions, where the harvest was either very small or absented because of the weather conditions, could feed themselves. Later, corn became the profitable fodder too. Indians bred animals, including domestic turkeys, musk ducks and guinea pigs, which are now popular all over the world. They received the wool from llamas and alpacas, and domesticated some dog breeds. Some of these breeds disappeared, but others continue to be cultivated in different countries even today. Indians have tamed even macaws, which as known, have difficult character. Traces of Indian heritage can be found throughout the America. Many names on the map of the United States such as Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Idaho etc are all the Indian words. First Americans taught Europeans to build canoes, snowshoes and moccasins. As known, it was invented by the native population. Products of Indian crafts, such as ceramics, silver jewelry, paintings, and woven carpets are much appreciated today.
The ancient people of the America have developed in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world and, for this reason, reached relatively small technical discoveries. However, they have created a civilization with huge cities and have achieved outstanding success in the arts and sciences. Military clash between "white" culture and the Indians resulted in extermination and the displacement of indigenous peoples from their lands. Today the last North American Indians, prisoners on the reservation, consist of only 0.5% of the U.S. population. Native Americans are the citizens of the United States who are proud of the fact that they are Americans. However, they are no less proud of their own cultural heritage and are constantly trying to protect and preserve it.