Native american culture today
Native Americanalso called American Indian, Amerindian, Amerind, Indian, aboriginal American, or First Nation personmember of any of the aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemispherealthough the term often connotes only those groups whose original territories were in present-day Canada and the United States. Pre-Columbian Americans used technology and material culture that included fire and the fire drill; the domesticated dog; stone implements of many kinds; the spear-thrower atlatlharpoon, and bow and arrow; and cordage, netting, basketry, and, in some places, pottery.
Many indigenous American groups were hunting-and-gathering cultureswhile others were agricultural peoples. American Indians domesticated a variety of plants and animals, including corn maizebeans, squash, potatoes and other tubers, turkeys, llamas, and alpacas, as well as a variety of semidomesticated species of nut- and seed-bearing plants. At the dawn of the 16th century ceas the European conquest of the Americas began, indigenous peoples resided throughout the Western Hemisphere.
They were soon decimated by the effects of epidemic disease, military conquest, and enslavement, and, as with other colonized peoples, they were subject to discriminatory political and legal policies well into the 20th, and even the 21st, century.
Nonetheless, they have been among the most active and successful native peoples in effecting political change and regaining their autonomy in areas such as education, land ownership, religious freedom, the law, and the revitalization of traditional culture. Culturally, the indigenous peoples of the Americas are usually recognized as constituting two broad groupings, American Indians and Arctic peoples.
This article is a survey of the culture areas, prehistories, histories, and recent developments of the indigenous peoples and cultures of the United States and Canada. An overview of all the indigenous peoples of the Americas is presented in American Indian ; discussions of various aspects of indigenous American cultures may also be found in the articles pre-Columbian civilizations ; Middle American Indian ; South American Indian ; Arctic: The people ; American Indian languages ; Native American religions ; and Native American arts.
Comparative studies are an essential component of all scholarly analyses, whether the topic under study is human society, fine art, paleontology, or chemistry; the similarities and differences found in the entities under consideration help to organize and direct research programs and exegeses.
The comparative study of cultures falls largely in the domain of anthropologywhich often uses a typology known as the culture area approach to organize comparisons across cultures.
The culture area approach was delineated at the turn of the 20th century and continued to frame discussions of peoples and cultures into the 21st century. A culture area is a geographic region where certain cultural traits have generally co-occurred; for instance, in North America between the 16th and 19th centuries, the Northwest Coast culture area was characterized by traits such as salmon fishing, woodworking, large villages or towns, and hierarchical social organization.
The specific number of culture areas delineated for Native America has been somewhat variable because regions are sometimes subdivided or conjoined. The 10 culture areas discussed below are among the most commonly used—the Arctic, the Subarctic, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Plains, the Southwest, the Great BasinCalifornia, the Northwest Coast, and the Plateau.
Notably, some scholars prefer to combine the Northeast and Southeast into one Eastern Woodlands culture area or the Plateau and Great Basin into a single Intermontane culture area. Each section below considers the location, climate, environmentlanguages, tribes, and common cultural characteristics of the area before it was heavily colonized.
Prehistoric and post-Columbian Native American cultures are discussed in subsequent sections of this article. A discussion of the indigenous peoples of the Americas as a whole is found in American Indian. Native American. Article Media.
Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Native American indigenous peoples of Canada and United States.Learn how to do so here! Native Americans today face some extraordinary challenges. By nearly every measure, social, cultural, economical, and physical, Native American communities and Native American families are uniquely and negatively impacted by patterns of struggle.
Native American Culture
While it is important to be positive and hopeful about the future of life for Native Americans in this country, it is first important to have a genuine understanding of what Indigenous people face, collectively and individually.
To understand what Native American life is like today, we first need to understand what it used to be like. For the past years, Native Americans have faced genocide, dislocation, and various forms of physical, mental, and social abuse. These factors have led to high rates of violence, assault, and abuse among the Native American people today. We have to understand the historical destruction that has occurred and how this destruction feeds the overwhelming hopelessness experienced by many Native Americans in the 21st century.
Part of the challenge is that Native Americans are a diverse and scattered race of peoples. There are currently 6. The rest are scattered across the country. For people of Native American descent who live off reservations, the challenge is to see what their Native American identity and ancestry means for their lives.
In many cases, people of Native American descent are full of a longing to know more about their ancestors and to reconnect with a tribe or culture they have lost. For Native Americans, these challenges are ever present and self-evident.
But many non-Natives are completely ignorant about the real lives and struggles that Native Americans face in the present era. This ignorance is part of a larger forgetfulness. It seems as if the rest of the country and the Western world has chosen to forget that this race of peoples is still here and still struggling to understand how to carry their tribes and their cultures forward in the modern world.
How much do public school students know about Native Americans in the United States? We went to a classroom to find out. Check out our blog post to read his story and find out what he learned from the experience.
The voices of Native Americans are largely unheard. In this resource, we will highlight the serious challenges that Native Americans face in order to better understand how we can support Native voices that are rising strong to share their stories of hope.
Telling stories of Native struggle and Native strength is a powerful catalyst for unity, generational healing, and personal growth. Each of us has an evolving story which no one else can write. The indigenous peoples of this continent have faced years of genocide, dislocation, and variations of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence.
In order to understand why Native Americans as a group have struggled to thrive in the modern world, it is crucial to understand the importance of historical trauma. From the biological warfare through the introduction of Western diseases, the dislocation and violence of European expansion across the continent, the cruel and discriminatory policies of the 19th century that banned cultural and spiritual expressions of Native life and that forcibly removed Native children from their tribal homes to send them to faraway boarding schools, to the discrimination and ignorance that persists to this day, Native Americans are dealing with generations of collective group trauma.Native American culture goes back thousands of years; to a time when these indigenous people lived in what is now known as North America.
Native American culture revolved heavily around nature, and every aspect of their lives was based around the Earth. The Native American tribes worshipped the spirits of these animals as gods, but they also killed them for food and clothing. They would never waste any part of the animals though, they would eat the meat, wear the hides, they used the skin to make drums and they used the bones for tools and weapons.
They believed the spirit of the animals would live on in spirit within the tribe. They also fashioned totem poles carved out of wood with different animals faces on them, and these faces represented the spirits of family and important tribal figures.
In Native American culture they believed that everyone person had the spirit of a certain animal and when they died their spirit would live on inside the animal.
The Native Americans also harvested plants and berries that they would use for various things from medicines to dyes. They lived in harmony with the Earth which they lived on and they let nothing go to waste. Thousands of years ago there were over ten million Native Americans living within the territory that is now the United States.
The Native American cultural traditions varied among the thousands of different tribes that were spread throughout the land. Soon settlers started arriving on the shores of the Native American homelands and started pushing the Native American Indians from their homes and eventually off of their tribes land.
The European settlers made their new homes on the Native Americans land and interfered with the Native American culture that had relatively lived in peace until now. When the European settlers arrived here they brought with them many diseases from Europe that killed many Native Americans and many more tribes were forced from their lands.
Eventually the United States government set aside land for the Native Americans, and many of these Indian reservations are still around today. There are still signs all over the country of the great Native American culture that once ruled these lands, and Native American art and fashions are more popular than ever. Native American Pow Wow. Native American Totem Pole. Native American Cliff Dwellings in Arizona.Although the indigenous nations of North America display a wide range of cultural variances relative to traditions, lifestyles, and religious beliefs, their shared experiences over the last several centuries, while not erasing their cultural differences, have tended to lead them to hold a similar world view.
In other words, despite local and tribal differences, American Indians tend to hold similar views of what it means to be Native American. There are, of course, significant differences between Native Americans who have left the reservations and become part of other communities, and those who have remained on Indian lands.
Nevertheless, members of the many tribal groups in the United States increasingly show solidarity as Native Americans or the First Nations. During the first half of the twentieth century, American Indians generally reacted to the dominant culture in one of two ways. Many simply remained on reservations where they were able to maintain their languages and cultures.
Others, however, left the reservations for the economic opportunities promised by the growing U. For the most part, however, within a generation or so, Native Americans who moved off the reservations into non-Indian communities lost touch with the values, attitudes, and beliefs of their cultures, and many completely replaced their native languages with English.
It is not surprising that many young Native Americans choose to leave the reservations even if reluctantly. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, reservation life was often bleak, and economic opportunities were almost non-existent. For nearly a century, no matter how they might feel about it personally, many Native Americas particularly those not living on reservations chose to make as little reference to their indigenous roots as possible. That is because most Indian people understood that while many within the dominant culture might enjoy watching indigenous dances, and might purchase native jewelry, pottery, and the like, it was nearly impossible to live a traditional native lifestyle outside the boundaries of a reservation.
Additionally, a large percentage of those who left the reservations especially people who married outside their traditional indigenous group found that attempting to return to their roots was not easy. I believe many Native Americans who were born and raised during the first half of the twentieth century must now be amazed that over the course of the last thirty years, it has become desirable in the United States to have indigenous ancestors. At one time, such claims were made because people thought it made them more interesting as human beings.
In recent years, however, being a member of an Indian nation, or merely being able to claim indigenous blood, offers opportunities and benefits. In addition to the economic benefits that may accrue to people who can demonstrate indigenous heritage, being an American Indian is now socially desirable.
For example, all three state universities in Arizona actively recruit American Indian students. Furthermore, all three institutions give considerable attention to native studies programs, outreach efforts to reservations, and research endeavors that focus on the indigenous people of North America. As might be expected, Native American responses to the changing societal view of indigenous people vary.
Some Indian Nations such as the Hopi of Arizona, have tended to adopt from the dominant culture the artifacts and techniques they find useful, and generally reject the rest.
For example, Hopi planners use Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing to help manage their large reservation. At the same time, however, Hopi farmers continue to plant their corn fields in the traditional way albeit some may use a tractor to work the fields before planting. The Navajo Nation of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico owns numerous enterprises, supports a large tribal community college, and has among its members many people who have become physicians, lawyers, teachers, professors, and leaders in many other professions.
Nevertheless, many Navajo continue to speak mostly Navajo and make their living herding sheep and raising cattle. Despite these differences, however, the indigenous community of America also exhibits many common attributes.
After spending many years working closely with Native Americans in Arizona, I have come to believe that many especially younger people live with a sense of loss and longing. A large number of young Native Americans and non-Native Americas as well believe that prior to the arrival of Europeans, the indigenous people of North America lived free, uninhibited lives in an Eden-like natural environment.In fact, by the time European adventurers arrived in the 15th century A.
Of these, some 10 million lived in the area that would become the United States. As time passed, these migrants and their descendants pushed south and east, adapting as they went. The Arctic culture area, a cold, flat, treeless region actually a frozen desert near the Arctic Circle in present-day AlaskaCanada and Greenland, was home to the Inuit and the Aleut.
Both groups spoke, and continue to speak, dialects descended from what scholars call the Eskimo-Aleut language family. Some of its peoples, especially the Inuit in the northern part of the region, were nomads, following seals, polar bears and other game as they migrated across the tundra.
In the southern part of the region, the Aleut were a bit more settled, living in small fishing villages along the shore. The Inuit and Aleut had a great deal in common. Many lived in dome-shaped houses made of sod or timber or, in the North, ice blocks.
They used seal and otter skins to make warm, weatherproof clothing, aerodynamic dogsleds and long, open fishing boats kayaks in Inuit; baidarkas in Aleut.
Native Americans - Past, Present and Future
By the time the United States purchased Alaska indecades of oppression and exposure to European diseases had taken their toll: The native population had dropped to just 2,; the descendants of these survivors still make their home in the area today. The Subarctic culture area, mostly composed of swampy, piney forests taiga and waterlogged tundra, stretched across much of inland Alaska and Canada. In the Subarctic, travel was difficult—toboggans, snowshoes and lightweight canoes were the primary means of transportation—and population was sparse.
In general, the peoples of the Subarctic did not form large permanent settlements; instead, small family groups stuck together as they traipsed after herds of caribou. They lived in small, easy-to-move tents and lean-tos, and when it grew too cold to hunt they hunkered into underground dugouts. Its inhabitants were members of two main groups: Iroquoian speakers these included the Cayuga, Oneida, Erie, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscaroramost of whom lived along inland rivers and lakes in fortified, politically stable villages, and the more numerous Algonquian speakers these included the Pequot, Fox, Shawnee, Wampanoag, Delaware and Menominee who lived in small farming and fishing villages along the ocean.
There, they grew crops like corn, beans and vegetables.
Life in the Northeast culture area was already fraught with conflict—the Iroquoian groups tended to be rather aggressive and warlike, and bands and villages outside of their allied confederacies were never safe from their raids—and it grew more complicated when European colonizers arrived.
Meanwhile, as white settlement pressed westward, it eventually displaced both sets of indigenous people from their lands. The Southeast culture area, north of the Gulf of Mexico and south of the Northeast, was a humid, fertile agricultural region.
Many of its natives were expert farmers—they grew staple crops like maize, beans, squash, tobacco and sunflower—who organized their lives around small ceremonial and market villages known as hamlets.
Perhaps the most familiar of the Southeastern indigenous peoples are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, sometimes called the Five Civilized Tribes, some of whom spoke a variant of the Muskogean language.
By the time the U. Inthe federal Indian Removal Act compelled the relocation of what remained of the Five Civilized Tribes so that white settlers could have their land. The Cherokee called this frequently deadly trek the Trail of Tears. The Plains culture area comprises the vast prairie region between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, from present-day Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.Perhaps no other group of people has quite the rich and storied culture as those of the Native Americans.
They have a history rich in struggle, strife, and triumph. So many aspects of our modern life were adapted from the old Indian cultures practiced centuries ago. Many familiar symbols that we take for granted were originated by Native Americans. The teepee, totem polepeace pipe, and moccasins are just a few examples, but each of these symbols were actually integral pieces of a larger picture that wove together the tapestry of Native American life. Everything from native plants and animals to housing to the weather became a part of the culture in Indian life.
The animals were revered as spirits, and although they were hunted and killed, their skins and hides were used as clothing and drumstheir meat was never wasted, and their spirits lived on in the mind of the tribes. Plants were cultivated and harvested, and used for various things such as dyes for blankets. The rain and sun were considered to be Gods, giving a sign to the Indians as the seasons changed. Totem poles were a very integral part of Native American culture. The Indians believed that each person was assigned the spirit of a particular animal, and that their spirit was absorbed into this animal in death.
The totem pole was a large, tall wooden carving of various animals, each representing a family member of a loved one who had passed away. The dream catcher is based on a legend told by the Lakota tribe. It symbolizes holding onto good things in life, while the holes in the catcher are there to filter out bad thoughts and feelings. Smoke signals are another interesting aspect of Native American culture.
They were used to communicate to others over a long distance and are yet another symbol of the proud heritage of the Native American. The following lists catalog the specific articles, stories, legends and research materials of this website. Click Here to give an online gift.
Toggle navigation. Native American Culture Perhaps no other group of people has quite the rich and storied culture as those of the Native Americans.
American Indian Article Categories. Most Popular Indians.When settlers first came to the Americas, Native Americans comprised percent of the population here. Today, they account for roughly one percent of the total population.
This drop in proportion of the population is due to territorial conflicts, disease and re-settlement, combined with the rapid growth of other population groups.
Currently, remaining Native American areas of population density lie within federally designated reservations. Alaska and Hawaii are the only two states in the US that have not pursued a policy with Native Americans that sought to restrict them to the confines of reservations.
Most Native American cultures were comprised of what are now referred to as "nations" or "confederacies".See What Canyon Life Is Like for a Navajo Pageant Winner - Short Film Showcase
Larger groups of natives with similar geographic ranges and lifestyles generally came together to form nations, with more specific denominations created in some instances. For example, the Iroquois were technically classified as a nation or a confederacy in European terms, however they also broke into five unique nations as well. The cultural heritage of Native Americans is truly diverse, with unique belief systems and languages being used by each individual nation.
These differences led to both unity and division within native communities long before the arrival of white settlers. Today, much of that cultural heritage is lost. The US policy of "Indian Removal" fragmented whole tribes and nations, placing them in land with little agricultural value which they were not accustomed to.
Native children were forced out of their homes and placed into boarding schools created specifically for them. In these schools, children were forced to speak English and were punished for practicing their traditional spiritual beliefs.
This effectively destroyed most of the oral history surrounding Native Americans, eliminating any chance at a substantive record being kept of their past. Most Native Americans live on reservations now, however they are naturalized citizens and are provided with the same constitutional rights as any other citizen. Economically, Native Americans have attained an uneven level of success across the nation. Some reservations exist in states with lax gaming laws, which has provided an opening for some native casinos to thrive.
In Alaska, native peoples were not approached with the "reservation" mentality as was the case in the lower 48 states.
There, natives are in control of "native corporations", which control immense tracts of land throughout the state. This land is essentially part of the state of Alaska, however these native corporations retain monies earned through the development of the resources of that land.
These earnings are then distributed amongst the Native Americans that are part of the corporation. In other parts of the country, Native American communities have not been so fortunate. The future of Native Americans is precarious. With much of their cultural heritage destroyed forever, many have completely abandoned their historical roots and have assimilated completely into American society.
The population of Native Americans is steadily declining, with their numbers dwindling on every census taken over the past fifty years. Young Native Americans move out of reservations in larger numbers every year. These young natives are the minority in any community they enter outside of a reservation, and they often marry non-native people.
In response to the issues facing Native American heritage, economic prosperity, and health, a number of government programs have been put in place to level the playing field for people of native descent.
These range from grant programs for cultural programs to education trusts for Native American students. These programs have significantly improved the numbers of Native American students that complete collegeand have in a sense contributed to the economic advancement of those students.
The overall efficacy and full value of these education programshowever, will not truly be understood for quite some time. April Most Native Americans live on reservations now, however they are naturalized citizens and are provided with the same constitutional rights as any other citizen Economically, Native Americans have attained an uneven level of success across the nation.