Table of Contents
Native Americans were the first settlers in the United States over 15,000 years ago. This was long before the invasion of Europeans which led to many fascinating and tragic events in the American history. It is believed that they ranged from 20 to 80 million and had covered nearly the entire continent. They adapted very well to their habitats, they utilized the available natural resources with diligence and engaged in activities such as fishing, hunting, and farming.
Native Americans are believed to have originated from Asia due to their physical characteristics that resemble the Indians and DNA tests done by the scientists. Scientists have discovered that there are also Native American populations in the Southern tip of Chile and Canada which confirmed that they could have migrated in three different phases. They crossed from Asia to Alaska using the Beringia land bridge. The pattern on how migrants settled is proven through examining genetic similarities (The Native American, 1998). One of the major challenges faced by this survey is the mixture of European, African and Native American groups. However, it was proven that the Asian lineage that contributed to DNA Eskimo Aleut speakers were among the first Americans and Da-Dene-speaking from Canada are related to the East Asians.
At around the 16th and 17th century, the Native Americans who hailed at the East Coast started receiving the Europeans. The Native Americans were welcoming people, although they regarded the bearded white men as strange, they welcomed them with enthusiasm. After a while, the Europeans displayed greed and arrogance, since they wanted to conquer and exploit the resources of the land. The Natives did not oppose but tried to co-exist. Unfortunately, the coexistence led to negative impacts where the Europeans brought deadly diseases to the Native Americans (Harvey and Allard, 2015). Some examples of these diseases include smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera. These diseases killed so many Native Americans which led to a massive reduction of their population since they did not have medication.
In the ancient times, Native Americans engaged in economic activities such as farming where they cultivated squash and corn. They also practiced animal husbandry where they raised turkeys, guinea pigs, and llamas. Moreover, they hunted deer and bison in which they used their skins and bones to make household goods. They also hunted sea mammals as well as practiced fishing. While transporting goods from one point to another on land, they used llamas as well as cargo rafts and boats for shipment (Schweigman et al. 2013). Currently, the Native Americans mostly invest in tourism and the hospitality industry, entertainment venues, hotels, manufacturing and gambling enterprises which have generated significant revenues for the community.
Native Americans are believed to have engaged in tribal politics long before the concept of democracy emerged. They were divided into many clans which served as a system of government. This way they were able to choose their leaders, maintain order, and assign duties and responsibilities. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act which made all Native Americans as American Citizens (Sullivan and Jocks, 2017). Ever since, this disenfranchised minority group has actively participated in politics by choosing leaders, forming political groups, lobby movements to protect and restore their rights.
Over the years, Native Americans educated their children through storytelling, conducting ceremonies, and observation. They were taught about the spiritual relationship and cultural heritage which were passed from one generation to the other. However, the system started to change during the colonial error where the colonies provided some education to the Natives. Those who had enrolled as students became teachers within the communities and neighboring tribes (Schweigman et al. 2013). The education introduced the Euro-American culture to the Natives groups, though the studies were limited to improving literacy levels. More schools such as the Choctaw Academy, the Cherokees and the Indian Industrial Training School were opened which paved the way for federal Indian schooling.
Current Social Status
Following the invasion of Europeans, the Natives were forced into reservations by the colonies. Currently, about 5.2 million Native Americans are living in these tribal lands where most tribes are not subject to state laws (Harvey and Allard, 2015). In their attempt to preserve their traditions, the Natives have historically lived in extreme poverty. They have poor access to healthcare facilities, high unemployment rates, and poor housing. However, growth per capita has experienced tremendous improvement from $4,347 in 1980 to $8,900 in 2000 (Sullivan and Jocks, 2017). This is due to the establishment of automobile and paper manufacturing industries in areas such as Mississippi which has improved the livelihood of the people.
Family Trends and Traditions
Traditionally, Native Americans considered the family as the most important aspect of their lives. They treasured their cultural values in which they believed for them to survive; they must live in harmony with nature. They viewed the introduction of nuclear families by the European from their traditional extended family as a way of destroying their cultural life. Over the years, these family virtues have changed, and there are a high number of American Indian children residing with only one parent. Single parenthood is as a result of some women never marrying and increased rates of divorce. These changes combined with difficult economic conditions have placed the children in jeopardy.
The religious practices of the Native Americans are unique and not as straightforward as the way Christians do. Just like other aboriginal people around the world, their religious believes were influenced by how they can acquire food through hunting or agriculture. The natives worshipped through rituals and ceremonies which they felt provided power to conquer life challenges (Schweigman et al. 2013). Their religious practices revolved around nature where they believed elements such as landscape, plants, and animals had greater insight or helped to communicate with the gods.
In the ancient times, the Native American youths participated in cultural activities that were meant to strengthen their ethnic identity. Some of the cultural activities included sweat lodge, pow-wows, roundhouse dance, and drum group. Despite enhancing identity, the culturally based practices are useful in improving behaviors and mental health among the youth. It also increases self-confidence, coping ability, and self-esteem (Schweigman et al. 2013). Additionally, when they are assigned other simple tasks such as fetching water, collecting firewood and food preparation, it occupies their mind, reduced loneliness, depressions and chances of engaging in drugs and substance abuse.
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Roles of the Elderly
The elderly played a significant role in the Native American society. They were the storytellers who were the mode of passing information from one generation to the other. They ensured that they remembered different events in details so that they can relate them at a later time (The Native American, 1998). For one to be an elder, one was recognized by spiritual commitments to the tribe, by knowledge since they must exercise their wisdom, by age and more importantly by the people.
Roles of Men and Women
In most Indian cultures, married men had responsibilities to their wives. In fact, on many occasions, the woman’s family paid for the dowry. Interestingly, women sometimes became tribal leaders. Mostly, the roles played by the women included growing crops, erecting houses, and any other household duties. While the men went hunting, fishing, and protected the families.
Traditions Within the Community
As compared to other aboriginal tribes, Native Americans had more or less the same traditions. One of the most notable is the existence of supreme leaders consisting of a council of chiefs and the tribal elders. In their spiritual beliefs, they felt that the sky was the father and the earth was the mother, and everything was interconnected. Their naming ceremony was determined by characteristics of nature and the names changed depending on experiences of life (Sullivan and Jocks, 2017). They used medicine wheel and shield so that they can understand their paths and as a symbol for protection respectively. They also engaged in purifying environments and cleansing the atmosphere.
Communication Styles and Languages
Every tribe has got its unique way of communication. One of the major considerations by the Native Americans during communication is to always think before speaking and respecting the elders because they pass wisdom from one generation to the next. There were different types of communication which included nonverbal which means no words are uttered. The verbal communication is when there is exchange of words, and it includes different tribal languages such as the Iroquoian language and Navajo. Another style of communication is talking sticks where a stick was held by the person supposed to speak. There was also the sign language which was mostly used whenever there was communication barrier (Liu, 2017). Additionally, there was rock painting where images are drawn or carved into the rock. Moreover, there was the marker style which involved positioning a pile of stones to relay a certain message.
When Native Americans migrated to U.S., they led a very comfortable life. Trouble started streaming in after the invasion of Europeans. Europeans removed them from their habitats and forced them to stay in the reservations. The Europeans also brought the infectious diseases such as chickenpox, yellow fever, and cholera which led to the death of millions of Native Americans. However, despite the challenges, they clung to their traditional practices which have helped them over the years to maintain and identify their identity.
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