Rediscovery Of The Indigenous American Native Culture, Religion, And Cultural Identity
Native Americans are also known as American Indians or indigenous Americans. They are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America. Presently, some of them live within the boundaries of the United States of America and they exist as intact sovereign nations. A good example of Native American is the Cherokee tribe. For the longest period of time, they have upheld their cultural tradition and religious beliefs until the wave of colonialism intruded them. Some of the values that they upheld are respect, discipline, integrity, among other virtues of good morals. It was their belief that an individual had to respect themselves, as well as remain truthful to the community. For the Natives, values and respect were key things for a peaceful society. They taught kids about respecting cultures and therefore most of them grew up knowing what respect is, and how to practice it. However, with advancement in technology, the culture of some Native Americans has changed. In this writing, I will discuss some of the ways in which the naïve American culture has changed in modernization.
Fading away from all these beliefs was as a result of colonialism by the Europeans. This is what is presently known as European dominance. For instance, they embraced conversion to without much resistance. It can be literary said that the Cherokee tribe for example converted to Christianity willingly and forgetting the beliefs they had for their cultural religious leaders. As evidence from research studies suggests, Native Americans of the 21st century have little or no resemblance to the natives of the ancient age. Numerous changes have occurred. They have changed their mythological stories to suit the European existence. According to Derrida (p 43), ‘deconstruction by its very nature defies institutionalization in an authoritative definition.’
Europeans used several methods that enabled them to infiltrate the Natives’ land. Massacring and introduction of smallpox were just but a starter for them to acquire full control of the Natives with minimal resistance. Colonialists introduced boarding schools which prevented kids from learning the cultural values from their parents (Fitzgerald and Hilary, p250). Values changed drastically and the natives found themselves depending on the European goods which eventually led to them assimilating the European beliefs.
The purpose of this research paper is to explore how the culture of the Native Americans has changed over time and what influenced these changes, how the Natives responded to these changes and how they survived it.it is aimed at finding out whether cultural continuity is possible and whether it’s possible to preserve a cultural identity even under unfavorable conditions.
Studies suggest that the Native Americans have been in existence in North America since the Ice Age. These people are believed to have been hunters and gatherers and some of the practiced Nomadic lifestyle. It is speculated that their exited more than 700trimbes who had a separate set of cultural beliefs, customs and practices (Zimmerman, p55). Some groups were atheists, while others were theists. The ancient beliefs and practices were the center of the culture of the Native Americans and it provided them with a sense of identity.
However, all of these cultural beliefs were threatened by the arrival of the Europeans to the Natives’ land who sought to colonize the Americas. In the beginning, these new settlers were well welcomed by the people. The Europeans and the Natives began a relationship that seemed to be mutual (Derinda,p77). Each group of people learned something from the other. Europeans learned things like hunting skills, better agricultural techniques, and better diplomatic practices. Natives, on the other hand, gained things such as trading contracts and horses (Claire, p76). For a long time, this relationship seemed to be symbiotic until when the Natives loss outweighed their gain. And finally, their lives got completely altered by the Europeans.
The colonial impact on the lives of the Natives begins after some years of mutual benefit. Drastic changes began to occur in their lives. Their religious traditions began to change. This is evident in the way their mythological stories altered so as they could address the existence of the European. For instance, creation stories changed their shape (Martin, p56). The stories began to state that Mother Earth had created a diverse group of people (differently colored people) and not just the Native Americans. A number of members from the Creek tribe even went ahead and explained why the Europeans had a different color. They said that the Creator had undercooked the Europeans hence their fair skin. This was an attempt to explain the color difference between the two nations.
Studies show that the Earlier contact period between the Natives and Europeans was beneficial and harmonious but problems began to emerge years later (Martin,p67). By the time the 17th century commenced, the Natives found themselves overly-dependent on European goods which they purchased via credit. This led to the accumulation of debts that the Natives couldn’t pay and they were forced to cede their land which was held in high spiritual demand. As the population of colonialist in the Native’s land expanded, they became less interested in conducting the ‘Indian trade’ and their attention shifted to the Indian land which they were ready to acquire by any means (Martin,p49).
Conversion of the Natives to Christianity was one way Europeans used to acquire the Natives’ land. Some Native members, for example, those from the Cherokee tribe even voluntarily converted to Christianity. The Europeans used missionaries top achieve this goal. Boarding schools were created. A Native girl, Catherine Brown choose to attend a boarding school in the quest to understand the Europeans better (Grandbois and Sander, p578). He learned that Christianity and the Natives and the colonialist beliefs had some similarities, for example, the context of mountains, where she compared the Cherokee’s tribe believe that Thunder Gods resided in mountains with the Christianity belief of the 10 commandments handed to Moses by God on a mountain (Martin, p76). Some members of the Lakota tribe believed that reconciliation of their beliefs with Christianity through identification of similarities would make it easy for their conversion. They considered the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church similar to their seven sacred ceremonials.
Some Native Americans viewed conversion to Christianity as a way of gaining respect, recognition from the Europeans as well as a good education (Martin, p75). However, some contemporary literature suggests that the Europeans used Christianity and conversion as a way of eliminating the Native culture. As the saying goes, the end justified the means, they were willing to do anything to ensure the Native culture was out of the face of the earth.
Another method that the Europeans used to dominate the NativeAmericans is a massacre. This ensured minimal resistance from the Natives (Claire,p54). Survivors were deprived of resources in order to minimize their survival. Europeans also introduced diseases such as smallpox and plaques. These further eliminated the Natives (Anderson, p56). Additionally, children were forced to behave in a certain way. For instance, they were forbidden to speak in their Natives so as to ensure even the Natives’ original language no longer existed (Palmiste, p79). Children were further alienated from their families by forcing them into boarding schools, this would minimize any cultural influence that they could have gotten from the families. This eventually led to the surrender of the Natives, when they could no longer do anything about the situation.
It’s important to note that threats to the Natives did not disappear with the colonial era. The modern society has also intruded the Natives through tourism and modern developments. This is a huge threat to what we would consider the ‘leftovers’ of their culture. Moreover, there have been going debate and court cases on whether traditional ritual beliefs should still be in existence. This has further threatened the Natives culture and existence (Palmiste, p79). Construction of sacred lands by modern developers has further threatened the natives. This has the capability of completely breaking down the Native religion. An example of such a case is the controversy surrounding a holy site in northern California. This was a sacred landmark for the Tolowa, Yurok and Karok tribes (Zimmerman, p56). The court allowed decimation of the site for road construction leaving the Natives helpless.
In consideration of all the challenges encountered by the Natives since the Europeans invaded their land, it’s interesting to note that they are still in existence. Scholars have established all the aspects of their lives that were disturbed by the presence of Europeans. These include family, rituals, tribal identity, spirituality, and ceremonies. However, more studies suggest that the Native still remained strong through protective strategies. Due to a creative Native resistance, these people have continued to exist (Anderson,p253). Therefore, if left undisturbed, the Natives have a chance of reclaiming their culture and tradition.
Recent research has found out that there are some parts of the Native land where traditional rituals are being reintroduced. This would help rediscovery of the indigenous American Native culture, religion, and cultural identity (French 155). Further investigations will help establish whether the Natives are in a position to withhold their culture and prevent it from destroying the second time. More research on their current response to external factors and influences will give an overview of how strong they are. This, therefore, leaves us with one question; can cultural diversification lead to fall of a culture? And to what extent is the influence going to affect the people.