European Backgrounds and Native Americans Essay

Submitted By alifretwell
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European Backgrounds and Native Americans
Grand Canyon University: History 344
16 June 2013

Early Native Americans entered North America nearly 40,000 years ago by way of a land bridge that stretched between Siberia and modern day Alaska. They were a nomadic group that over twenty thousand years, spread throughout the Americas until they were residing in North, Central and South America. Because of their dispersal around the Americas, their cultures became diverse based upon where they were living and separated them from one another. By the time Europeans came to North America, is it estimated that the Native Americans spoke upwards of twenty thousand individual languages and dialects. There were several well known population groups known for settling the Americas, the Olmec being one of the earliest in Central America, followed by the Mayas, Aztec and Incas. In the South and West there were the Camas, Hopi, Pueblo, and Zuni Indians; in the plains the Mound Builders and in the East the Eastern Woodlands (Reich, 2001). Up until ten thousand years ago, the Native American population was still comprised of mostly hunter-gatherer groups. But as the animal population became decimated by over-hunting i.e. the mastodon, wooly mammoth, bison and American horse, the native populations turned to agriculture as a way to sustain their population. Maize as a domesticated Teosinthe crop was evidenced to have been farmed by pre-Olmec people in Mexico as early as 8700 years ago (Earliest Evidence). By the time the Mayan civilization hit its peak the people were consuming corn, chocolate, beans, squash, fish, turkey, pigs and dog meat (Reich, 2001). The Plains Indians became more and more geared towards hunting as time progressed and became nomadic in order to follow herds of buffalo. The Mound Builders however were more geared towards agriculture, their rivals the Mississippians built a well-known mound is located near Cahokia, Illinois. Eastern Woodlands Indians were primarily an agrarian society growing corn, beans squash pumpkins and tobacco, while the men hunted and fished to supply them with meat. Although all shared land, people were assigned specific areas to live, farm and hunt in (Reich, 2001). Housing situations for Native Americans varied based on where they were living. Native Americans in the Worth West and in the Eastern Woodlands lived in timber homes while the Plains Indians took shelter in the ever pop-culture represented teepee. Adobe Indians had elaborate Pueblo systems in the Southwest with up to five stories and upwards of eight hundred rooms in them. Kivas were particularly important for the Southwest Adobe Indians. Kivas were subterranean round rooms used for ceremonies and political gatherings. There were great kivas that were used as public spaces specifically for this purpose even though familial groups had their own smaller kivas containing a fire pit. Great Kivas are most popular in the areas of Mesa Verde in Chaco Canyon New Mexico (Gangholoff). Native Americans were also known for their innovations, the Olmec were specifically known for their language and mathematic system, which was adapted and developed further by the Mayans the Aztecs. The Mayans are known as being the ones to be the first to use chicle, which led to the eventual use of modern gum. Although the Aztecs borrowed much of their culture from the other nations they defeated in Mexico, they were known for their use of specified trade guilds. Pueblo Indians are well known for being a matrilineal society, being traced by the females in the family. The Matricarch of each family closely guarded their religious artifacts and she chose a male family member whether it be a brother or a son of hers to actually conduct the religious ceremonies. Women owned rooms in the pueblos and even were responsible for the ownership of crops. They did practice some more traditional roles in the manufacturing process of baskets and pottery but it was the men