Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Native American Culture and Society before 1492

Native American cultures before 1492 were diverse, dynamic, and interconnected. They shared a general world view--animism (the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena)--that would lead to conflict with European explorers and colonizers.

Evidence indicates that the peoples came from Asia to the Americas during the Ice Age, when the sea level was much lower than today and a large land bridge known as Beringia connected the continents.

As scholars learn more about the advances and retreats of the ice sheets, the camping sites of the migrating peoples, and changes in vegetation zones, a much more complete picture of the Americas emerge.

Current scholars hold that migrating peoples initially traveled on the narrow strip of ice-free land along the Pacific Coast. As the area between the Cordilleran and the Laurentide ice sheets lost its cover of ice, probably between 14,000 and 12,000bce, migrants may have also used the inland routes from present-day Alaska to the American interior.

Another theory is that these early people crossed the Atlantic Ocean on skin boats from Palenesia, thus being dubbed Paleo-Indians.

The Archaic Indians, who were around from 9,000-3,000bce, encouraged decentralization in their way of life. Decentralization has two definitions which fit the Archaic Indians: first, decentralization is the social process in which population moves from urban centers to outlying districts; this fit the Archaic Indians because they started to plant crops and needed land to farm, so they couldn't live in small cities. Second, decentralization is the spread of power away from the center (a leader) to smaller branches of government (the people).

The Archaic Indians were an ingenious people who invented horticulture. Horticulture was extremely innovative for this time because the ancient people discovered that there were different times a year where plants would thrive and in what climates; they started to hibridize their crops to make them drought and frost resistant such as high yield grains and root crops.

The changes the Paleo-Indians wrought were both positive and negative. Religion, social development, politics, health/population increase, trade v. garbage, diseases, empires, and violence were all the effects of the Paleo-Indians.

There were two main Mesoamerican civilizations: the Mayans who occupied the Yucatan Penninsula and the Aztecs who occupied Tenochtitlan. In Mesoamerica were north-south trade routes which ran through Hohokum (also known as Snake Town) and Anasazi which included Chaco Canyon and Acoma.

The Missippians, also known as the Mound Builders, moved up from Mesoamerica to the Mississippi River Valley to get away from violence. Cahokia was the center of the empire; there were man-made mounds, Woodhenge, a market place, a trade center, and temples. Overexpansion and climate change probably led to the empire's deline.

The Eastern Woodlands Peoples, or the Iroquois and Algonquin, benefitted from the collapse of the Mississippian markets. They moved the trade routes east-west instead of north-south.

~Long history of social change
~Technological adaptation
~Social flexibility
~Plentiful food
~Experience in the area

~Long historic separations from global disease environment
~Political systems that encourage deliberation over violence
~Metallurgical technology disadvantages

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