It is interesting to know, Europeans were not the first to step on the soil of America. Before their arrival, the American Indians or the Native Americans had their habitat, in the north of present Mexico. At least, ten million American Indians lived here and they arrived probably during the last ice age - about 20,000 - 30,000 years ago.
The relation between the Europeans and the natives was initially sugary, but soon, the Natives changed their opinions about the Europeans. The materialistic attitude of the Europeans towards all earthly creatures and substances seemed quite irrational and sickly to the natives. The developed the idea that the people of Europe lacked soul and their motto was only to fulfill their selfish ends by means of devilish supernatural practices. This led to a vigorous conflict between the natives and the visitors. Unfortunately, the American Indians were at a disadvantage due to their insufficient population, wandering attitude, dearth of sophisticated weapons and absolute lack of co-operation.
It is true that much of the American Indians were nomads or semi-nomads. However, with modernization, a large section of the native population started living in permanent villages. Agriculture became their primary source of income.
It is not easy to trace the origin of a particular race or tribe. However, depending upon the nomadic instinct of the Indian Americans, several anthropologists and archeologists opine that the natives who first came to settle down in North America were Siberian hunters. They entered North America about ten millennia ago and soon spread to central and South America.
Music And Art Of The American Indians
The music of the native Indians was genuinely monophonic but of course with remarkable exceptions. Drumming, instrumental music and flute tunes are some of the notable musical varieties of the natives of America. Thumping and playing with the wind was the principal way of producing exclusive tunes because the use of string instrument was not so popular amongst this segment of indigenous Americans.
Art of the natives was not an exclusive display of ornamentation and hue. As the people were very close to nature, their art was principally earthy. Pottery, painting, jewelry, weavings, sculptures, basketry and carvings were some of the principal ways of exhibiting their sense of art and formation.
Religion Of The American Indians
Peyote is the other name of the religion practiced by the American Indians. It is also referred to as the American Native Church. It is an amalgamation of native tribal religions with a touch of Christian symbolic elements. The church principally aimed in combating the ills brought about by colonization such as alcoholism and criminal offences. In order to celebrate the religious ceremonies, chants, drums and dances of the Pueblo people have become a regular part of the Masses at Santa Fe's Saint Francis Cathedral.
Mythology Of The American Indians
It is an American native myth that dreamcatcher is an equipment to filter your dreams. In the process, the bad dreams are entrapped while the good ones are liberated to be transformed into reality. This is however an Ojibwa belief. They also have mythological ways to protect sleeping children from nightmares. Like these there are more mythological beliefs and traditions, which have occupied a considerable portion in the lives of the American Indians.
The Clothes Of The Native American Indians
Clothes or handicrafts? There is a real confusion in this matter. Exactly! The clothes of the American Indians are mostly made of natural fibers and skins. In addition to these, the clothes are uniquely decorated with beads and porcupine quills. They are indeed great works of art. The dresses of the American Indians are worshipped and appreciated for their beauty and style.
The Masks Represent Their Culture
The masks of the American Indians represent strength, purpose and wisdom. A native mask maker has to be a male and must be of a very high status. Masks are primarily curved from red cedar woods. Initially native masks were shaped by using traditional tools for gouging, shaping, and cutting fine details. However, in the later part of the 18th century after the Europeans arrived they brought with them superior cutting tools that made mask production faster, easier and more proportionate.
American Native Food
The three staple edibles of the American Indians are corn, squash and beans. An essential part of the indigenous American culture includes greens, deer meat, berries, pumpkin, squash and wild rice. Apart from staple and animal resources, herbs too had a dominant role to play in the preparation of American Indian food items.
Native Americans were a particular tribe of people who loved to exercise simplicity. They have a deep inclination towards their roots. They were ready to appreciate and welcome everything new, but never thought of sacrificing the old and the authentic. They were true people in the real sense though with certain prejudices in culture and religion. They fully enjoyed the rawness in their existence.
Joseph Paige © 2006