Message #40: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Intro to Amerind (Part I) Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997 20:01:59 -0700 Encoding: MIME-Version: 1.0 Source Article 56 of 104 Subject: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN INDIAN From: "Paul E. Pettennude"
Date: 1996/12/16 Message-Id: <01bbeb63$2a6878c0$4794d9ce@tekdiver> Organization: Netcom X-Netcom-Date: Mon Dec 16 12:12:16 PM PST 1996 Newsgroups: sci.archaeology.mesoamerican I am submitting this introduction to the American Indian for those of you who are interested in pursuing the subject. Much has been said regarding the probabilities that cultural contact from outside the "New World" occurred from the Asian mainland, the Pacific basin, Polynesia and Africa. As you read the following introduction, keep in mind the extraordinary uniqueness which permeates the indigenous American mind. There was nothing in his culture or lifestyle which is common with the "Old World". A few threads of similarity exist between the high cultures of Mesoamerica and ancient Asia, but these are but a handful. There is no direct evidence that any contact with the "Old World" predates the coming of the Vikings and later Christopher Columbus. Native Americans, peoples who are indigenous to the Americas. They also have been known as American Indians. The name Indian was first applied to them by Christopher Columbus, who believed mistakenly that the mainland and islands of America were part of the Indies, in Asia. This article focuses on the peoples native to North America, Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America), and South America. The indigenous population at the time of European contact is estimated, the general physical characteristics of native American peoples are described, and a summary is given of what is known about their arrival and early prehistory in the Americas. The major culture areas of North, Central, and South America are discussed, and a survey follows of the traditional ways of life of Native Americans. Social and political organization are considered, as well as their food, clothing, and housing, their trade, religion, and warfare, and their crafts, visual arts, music, and dance. Finally, the history of Native Americans after European contact and their condition today in North and Latin America are examined. Early Population It is estimated that at the time of first European contact, North and South America was inhabited by more than 90 million people: about 10 million in America north of present-day Mexico; 30 million in Mexico; 11 million in Central America; 445,000 in the Caribbean islands; 30 million in the South American Andean region; and 9 million in the remainder of South America. These population figures are a rough estimate (some authorities cite much lower figures); exact figures are impossible to ascertain. When colonists began keeping records, the Native American populations had been drastically reduced by war, famine, forced labor, and epidemics of diseases introduced through contact with Europeans. Physical Traits Native Americans are physically most similar to Asian populations and appear to have descended from Asian peoples who migrated across the Bering land bridge during the Pleistocene epoch, also known as the Ice Age, beginning perhaps some 30,000 years ago. Like other peoples with Mongolian characteristics, Native Americans tend to have light brown skin, brown eyes, and dark, straight hair. They differ from Asians, however, in their characteristic blood types. Because many Native Americans today have had one or more European-Americans or African-Americans among their ancestors, numerous people who are legally and culturally Native American may look fairer or darker than Mongolian peoples or may have markedly non-Mongolian facial features. Over the thousands of years that indigenous peoples have lived in the Americas, they have developed into a great number of local populations, each differing somewhat from its neighbors. Some populations (such as those on the Great Plains of North America) tend to be tall and often heavy in build, whereas others (for example, many in the South American Andes and adjacent lowlands) tend to be short and broad chested; furthermore, every population includes persons who vary from the average. Some physical characteristics of Native American populations have been influenced by diet or by the environmental conditions of their societies. For example, the short stature of some native Guatemalans seems to result at least in part from diets poor in protein; the broad chests and large hearts and lungs of native Andeans represent an adaptation to the low-oxygen atmosphere of the high mountains they inhabit. Earliest Migrations Evidence indicates that the first peoples to migrate into the Americas, coming from northeastern Siberia into Alaska, were carrying stone tools and other equipment typical of the middle and end of the Paleolithic period. These peoples probably lived in bands of about 100, fishing and hunting herd animals such as reindeer and mammoths. They probably used skin tents for shelter, and they must have tanned reindeer skins and sewn them into clothing similar to that made by the Inuit-parkas, trousers, boots, and mittens. These peoples probably were nomadic, moving camp at least several times each year to take advantage of seasonal sources of food. It is likely that they gathered each summer for a few weeks with other bands to celebrate religious ceremonies and to trade, compete in sports, gamble, and visit. At such gatherings, valuable information could be obtained about new sources of food or raw materials (such as stone for tools). Such news might have led families to move into new territory, eventually into Alaska and then farther south into the Americas. Evidence for the earliest migrations into the Americas is scarce and usually not as clear as archaeologists would wish. Evidence from the comparative study of Native American languages, as well as analysis of some genetic materials, suggest that these earliest migrations may have taken place around 30,000 years ago. More direct evidence from archaeological sites places the date somewhat later. For example, in the Yukon, in what is now Canada, bone tools have been discovered that have been radiocarbon-dated to 22,000 BC. Campfire remains in the Valley of Mexico, in central Mexico, have been radiocarbon-dated to 21,000 BC, and a few chips of stone tools have been found near the hearths, indicating the presence of humans at that time. In a cave in the Andes Mountains of Peru, near Ayacucho, archaeologists have found stone tools and butchered animal bones that have been dated to 18,000 BC. A cave in Idaho, in the United States, contains similar evidence-stone tools and butchered bone-dated to 12,500 BC. In none of these sites do distinctive American styles characterize the artifacts (manufactured objects such as tools). Artifacts having the earliest distinctive American styles appeared about 11,000 BC and are known as Clovis stone blades. Major Culture Areas To understand how different peoples live and how their societies have developed, anthropologists find it convenient to group societies into culture areas. A culture area is first of all a geographical region; it has characteristic climate, land forms, and biological population-that is, fauna and flora. Humans who live in the region must adapt to its characteristics to obtain the necessities of life: No one can grow grain in the Arctic or hunt seals or whales in the desert, but people can survive in the Arctic by hunting seals, or in the desert by gathering foods such as cactus fruits. Each culture area, then, has certain natural resources as well as the potential for certain technologies. Humans in the culture area use many of its resources and develop technologies-and social organizations-to fit the area's physical potential and its hazards (such as winter cold). Neighboring peoples learn of one another's inventions and begin to use them. Thus, societies within a given culture area resemble one another and differ from those in other regions. The Americas may be divided into many culture areas, and these divisions may be determined in different ways. Here, nine areas are used for North America, one for Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America), and four for South America. North America The culture areas of North America are the Southwest, the Eastern Woodlands, the Southeast, the Plains, the California-Intermountain region, the Plateau, the Subarctic, the Northwest Pacific Coast, and the Arctic. The Southwest The Southwestern culture area encompasses Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colorado, and adjacent northern Mexico (the states of Sonora and Chihuahua). It can be subdivided into three sectors: northern (Colorado, northern Arizona, northern New Mexico), with high, pleasant valleys and pine forests; southern (southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, adjacent Mexico), with deserts covered with cactus; and western (the Arizona-California border area), a smaller area with desert terrain cut by the valley of the lower Colorado River. The first known inhabitants of the Southwest hunted mammoths and other game with Clovis-style spearpoints by about 9500 BC. As the Ice Age ended (about 8000 BC), mammoths became extinct. The people in the Southwest turned to hunting bison (known as buffalo in North America) and spent more time collecting wild plants for food. The climate gradually became warmer and drier, and a way of life-called the Archaic-developed from about 8000 BC to about 300 BC. Archaic peoples hunted mostly deer, small game, and birds, and they harvested fruits, nuts, and the seeds of wild plants, using stone slabs for grinding seeds into flour. About 3000 BC the Southwesterners learned to grow maize (also known as corn), which had been domesticated in Mexico, but for centuries it was only a minor food. About 300 BC, some Mexicans whose culture was based on cultivating maize, beans, and squash in irrigated fields migrated to southern Arizona. These people, called the Hohokam, lived in towns in adobe-plastered houses built around public plazas. They were the ancestors of the present-day Pima and Tohono O'Odham (Papago), who preserve much of the Hohokam way of life. The peoples of the northern sector of the Southwestern culture area, after centuries of trading with the Hohokam, had by AD 700 modified their life into what is called the Anasazi tradition. They grew maize, beans, and squash and lived in towns of terraced stone or in adobe apartment blocks built around central plazas; these blocks had blank walls facing the outside of the town, thereby protecting the people within. During the summer many families lived in small houses at their fields. After 1275 the northern sector suffered severe droughts, and many Anasazi farms and towns were abandoned; those along the Rio Grande, however, grew and expanded their irrigation systems. In 1540 Spanish explorers visited the descendants of the Anasazi, who are called the Pueblos. After 1598 the Spanish imposed their rule on the Pueblos, but in 1680 the Pueblos organized a rebellion that kept them free until 1692. Since that time, Pueblo towns have been dominated by Spanish, then Mexican, and finally United States government. The Pueblos attempted to preserve their culture: They continued their farming and, in some towns, secretly maintained their own governments and religion. Twenty-two Pueblo towns exist today. In the 1400s, hunters speaking an Athapaskan language-related to languages of Alaska and western Canada-appeared in the Southwest, having migrated southward along the western Great Plains. They raided Pueblo towns for food and-after slave markets were established by the Spanish-for captives to sell; from the Pueblos, they learned to farm, and from the Spanish, to raise sheep and horses. Today these peoples are the Navajo and the several tribes of Apache. The western sector of the Southwest is inhabited by speakers of Yuman languages, including the isolated Havasupai, who farm on the floor of the Grand Canyon; and the Mojave, who live along the lower Colorado River. The Yuman-speaking peoples inhabit small villages of pole-and-thatch houses near their floodplain fields of maize, beans, and squash. Eastern Woodlands. The Eastern Woodlands culture area consists of the temperate-climate regions of the eastern United States and Canada, from Minnesota and Ontario east to the Atlantic Ocean and south to North Carolina. Originally densely forested, this large region was first inhabited by hunters, including those who used Clovis spearpoints. About 7000 BC, with the warming climate, an Archaic culture developed. The peoples of this area became increasingly dependent on deer, nuts, and wild grains. By 3000 BC human populations in the Eastern Woodlands had reached cultural peaks that were not again achieved until after AD 1200. The cultivation of squash was learned from Mexicans, and in the Midwest sunflowers, amaranth, marsh elder, and goosefoot and related plants were also farmed. All of these were grown for their seeds, which-except for those of the sunflower-were usually ground into flour. Fishing and shellfish gathering increased, and off the coast of Maine the catch included swordfish. In the western Great Lakes area, copper was surface mined and made into blades and ornaments, and throughout the Eastern Woodlands, beautiful stones were carved into small sculptures. After 1000 BC the climate became cooler and food resources scarcer, causing a population decline in the Atlantic part of the region. In the Midwest, however, groups of people organized into wide trading networks and began building large mound-covered tombs for their leaders and for use as centers for religious activities. These peoples, called the Hopewell, raised some maize, but were more dependent on Archaic foods. The Hopewell culture declined by about AD 400. By 750 a new culture developed in the Midwest. Called the Mississippian culture, it was based on intensive maize agriculture, and its people built large towns with earth platforms, or mounds, supporting temples and rulers' residences. Across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis, Missouri, the Mississippians built the city of Cahokia, which may have had a population of 20,000. Cahokia contained hundreds of mounds. Its principal temple was built on the largest, a mound 30 m (100 ft) high and roughly about 110 m (about 360 ft) long and about 49 m (about 160 ft) wide (the largest such mound in North America, now part of Cahokia Mounds State Park, Illinois). During this time period, maize agriculture also became important in the Atlantic region, but no cities were built. The presence of Europeans in the Eastern Woodlands dates from at least AD 1000, when colonists from Iceland tried to settle Newfoundland. Throughout the 1500s, European fishers and whalers used the coast of Canada. European settlement of the region began in the 1600s. It was not strongly resisted, partly because terrible epidemics had spread among the Native Americans of this region through contact with European fishers and with Spanish explorers in the Southeast. By this time the Mississippian cities had also disappeared, probably as a consequence of the epidemics. The Native American peoples of the Eastern Woodlands included the Iroquois and a number of Algonquian-speaking peoples, including the Lenape, also known as the Delaware; the Micmac; the Narragansett; the Shawnee; the Potawatomi; the Menominee; and the Illinois. Some Eastern Woodlands peoples moved west in the 19th century; others remain throughout the region, usually in their own small communities. The Southeast The Southeast culture area is the semitropical region north of the Gulf of Mexico and south of the Middle Atlantic-Midwest region; it extends from the Atlantic coast west to central Texas. Much of this land once consisted of pine forests, which the Native Americans of the region kept cleared of underbrush by yearly burnings, a form of livestock management that maintained high deer populations for hunting. The early history of the Southeast is similar to that of adjacent areas. Cultivation of native plants was begun in the Late Archaic period, about 3000 BC, and there were large populations of humans in the area. In 1400 BC a town, called Poverty Point by archaeologists, was built near present-day Vicksburg, Mississippi. Like the Mississippian towns of 2000 years later, Poverty Point had a large public plaza and huge earth mounds that served as temple platforms or covered tombs. The number of Native Americans in the Southeast remained high until European contact. Maize agriculture appeared about 500 BC. Towns continued to be built, and crafted items were widely traded. The first European explorer, the Spaniard Hernando de Soto, marched around the Southeast with his army between 1539 and 1542; epidemics introduced by the Spaniards killed thousands. Southeastern peoples included the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Creek, and the Seminole, known as the Five Civilized Tribes because they resembled European nations in organization and economy, and because they quickly incorporated desirable European imports (such as fruit trees) into their way of life. The Natchez, whose elaborate mound-building culture was destroyed by Europeans in the 18th century, were another famous Southeastern people. The Plains The North American Plains are the grasslands from central Canada south to Mexico and from the Midwest westward to the Rocky Mountains. Bison hunting was always the principal source of food in this culture area, until the wild bison herds were exterminated in the 1880s. Most of the Plains peoples lived in small nomadic bands that moved as the herds moved, driving them into corrals for slaughter. From AD 850 onward, along the Missouri River and other rivers of the central Plains, agricultural towns were also built. The customs of the Plains peoples have become well known as the stereotyped "Indian" customs-the long feather headdress, the tepee (also spelled tipi), the ceremonial pipe, costumes, and dancing. These peoples and their customs became well known during the 19th century, when European-Americans invaded their lands and newspapers, magazines, and photography popularized the frontier. Among early Plains peoples were the Blackfoot, who were bison hunters, and the Mandan and Hidatsa, who were Missouri River agriculturalists. As European colonists took over the Eastern Woodlands, many Midwest peoples moved onto the Plains, among them the Sioux, the Cheyenne, and the Arapaho. Earlier, about 1450, from the valleys west of the Rockies, some Shoshone and Comanche had begun moving onto the Plains. After 1630 these peoples took horses from Spanish ranches in New Mexico and traded them throughout the Plains. The culture of the Plains peoples of the time thus included elements from adjacent culture areas. The California-Intermountain Area The mountain ridges and valleys of Utah, Nevada, and California resemble one another in the pine forests of the mountains and the grasslands and marshes in the valleys. An Archaic way of life-hunting deer and mountain sheep, fishing, netting migratory birds, harvesting pine nuts and wild grains-developed by 8000 BC and persisted with no radical changes until about AD 1850. Villages were simple, with thatched houses, and in the warm months little clothing was worn. The technology of getting, processing, and storing food was sophisticated. Basketry was developed into a true art. On the California coast, people fished and hunted sea lions, dolphins, and other sea mammals from boats; the wealth of resources stimulated a well-regulated trade using shell money. The Paiute, Ute, and Shoshone are the best-known peoples of the Intermountain Great Basin area; the tribes of California include the Klamath, the Modoc, and the Yurok in the north; the Pomo, Maidu, Miwok, Patwin, and Wintun in the central region; and the "mission tribes" in the south, whose European-given names were derived from those of the Spanish missions that sought to conquer them-for example, the Diegueo. The Plateau Region In Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, western Montana, and adjacent Canada, mountains are covered with evergreen forests and separated by grassy valleys. As in the Great Basin, the Archaic pattern of life persisted on the Plateau, but it was enriched by annual runs of salmon up the Columbia, Snake, Fraser, and tributary rivers, as well as by harvests of camas (western United States plants with edible bulbs) and other nutritious tubers and roots in the meadows. People lived in villages made up of sunken round houses in winter and camped in mat houses in summer. They dried quantities of salmon and camas for winter eating, and on the lower Columbia River, at the site of the present-day city of The Dalles, Oregon, the Wishram and Wasco peoples kept a market town where travelers from the Pacific Coast and the Plains could meet, trade, and buy dried food. Plateau peoples include the Nez Perc, Walla Walla, Yakama, and Umatilla in the Sahaptian language family, the Flathead, Spokane, and Okanagon in the Salishan language family, and the Cayuse and Kootenai, or Kootenay in Canada (with no linguistic relatives). The Subarctic The Subarctic region comprises the major part of Canada, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean west to the mountains bordering the Pacific Ocean, and from the tundra south to within about 300 km (about 200 mi) of the United States border. The eastern half of this region was once heavily glaciated, and its soil and drainage are poor. No agriculture is possible in the Subarctic because summers are extremely short, and so the region's peoples lived by hunting moose and caribou (a North American reindeer) and by fishing. They were nomadic, sheltering themselves in tents or, in the west, sometimes in sunken round houses (as in the Plateau region). To move camp, they used canoes in summer and sleds in winter. Because of the limited food resources, Subarctic populations remained small; even the summer rendezvous at good fishing spots drew only hundreds, compared to the thousands of persons who gathered at seasonal rendezvous in the Great Lakes or Plains regions. The peoples native to the eastern half of the Subarctic region are speakers of Algonquian languages; they include the Cree, Ojibwa (also known as the Chippewa), Montagnais, and Naskapi. In the western half live speakers of northern Athapaskan languages, including the Chipewyan, Beaver, Kutchin, Ingalik, Kaska, and Tanana. Many Subarctic peoples, although now settled in villages, still live by trapping, fishing, and hunting. Northwest Pacific Coast The west coast of North America, from southern Alaska to northern California, forms the Northwest Pacific Coast culture area. Bordered on the east by mountains, the habitable land is usually narrow, lying between the sea and the hills. The sea is rich in sea mammals and in fish, including salmon and halibut; on the land are mountain sheep and goats, elk, abundant berries, and edible roots and tubers similar to potatoes. These resources supported a dense population organized into large villages where people lived in wooden houses, often more than 30 m (100 ft) long. Each house contained an extended family, sometimes with slaves, and was managed by a chief. During the winter, villagers staged elaborate costumed religious dramas, and they also hosted people from neighboring villages at ceremonial feasts called potlatches, at which gifts were lavishly given. Trade was important, and it extended toward northern Asia, where iron for knives was obtained. The Northwest Pacific Coast is known for its magnificent wooden carvings. Northwest Pacific Coast culture developed after 3000 BC, when sea levels stabilized and movements of salmon and sea mammals became regular. The basic pattern of life changed little, and over the centuries carving and other crafts gradually attained great sophistication and artistry. Tribes of the Northwest Pacific Coast include the Tlingit, Tsimshian, Haida, Kwakiutl, Nootka, Chinook, Salish, Makah, and Tillamook. The Arctic The Arctic culture area rings the coasts of Alaska and northern Canada. Because winters are long and dark, agriculture is impossible; people live by fishing and by hunting seal, caribou, and (in northern Alaska and eastern Canada), whale. Traditional summer houses were tents. Winter houses were round, well-insulated frame structures covered with skins and blocks of sod; in central Canada the winter houses often were made of blocks of ice. Populations were small because resources were so limited. The Arctic was not inhabited until about 2000 BC, after glaciers finally melted in that region. In Alaska the Inuit and the Yuit (also known as Yupik) developed ingenious technology to deal with the difficult climate and meager economic resources. About AD 1000 bands of Alaskan Inuit migrated across Canada to Greenland; called the Thule culture, they appear to have absorbed an earlier people in eastern Canada and Greenland (the Dorset culture). These people are now often referred to as the Greenland Inuit. Because of this migration, traditional Inuit culture and language are similar from Alaska to Greenland. Living in southwestern Alaska (and the eastern end of Siberia) are the Yuit, who are related to the Inuit in culture and ancestry but whose language is slightly different. Distantly related to the Inuit and Yuit are the Aleuts, who since 6000 BC have remained in their homeland on the Aleutian Islands, fishing and hunting sea mammals. Like the Subarctic peoples but unlike most Native Americans, the Inuit, Yuit, and Aleut peoples today retain much of their ancient way of life because their culture areas are remote from cities and their lands cannot be farmed. Mesoamerica Impressive civilizations developed in Mexico and upper Central America after about 1400 BC. These civilizations originated from an Archaic hunting-and-gathering way of life that by 7000 BC included cultivation of small quantities of beans, squash, pumpkins, and maize. By 2000 BC Mexicans had come to depend on their planted fields of these crops, plus amaranth, avocado and other fruits, and chili peppers. Towns developed, and by 1400 BC the Olmec civilization boasted a capital with palaces, temples, and monuments built on a huge constructed platform about 50 m (about 165 ft) high and nearly 1.6 km (1 mi) long. The Olmec lived in the jungle of the east coast of Mexico; their trade routes extended hundreds of miles, both to Monte Albn in western Mexico (in what is now Oaxaca State) and to the Valley of Mexico in the central highlands. As the power of the Olmec declined (about 400 BC), the centers in the central highlands grew, and by the 1st century AD the largest city in pre-Columbian Mexico had developed to an urban size at Teotihuacn in the Valley of Mexico. Teotihuacn dominated Mexico for the first six centuries AD, trading with Monte Albn and with the Mayan kingdoms that had arisen in southwestern Mexico and conquering rivals as far south as the Valley of Guatemala. The capital city covered some 21 sq km (some 8 sq mi) with blocks of apartment houses, markets, many small factories, temples on platforms, and palaces covered with murals. About AD 700 Teotihuacn suffered attacks that destroyed its power. Later in the same century many Mayan cities were abandoned, perhaps economically ruined when their trade with Teotihuacn ended. Other Mayan cities, mostly in northern Yucatn, were not so affected. By 1000 in central Mexico, a new power-the Toltec-began building an empire that extended into the Valley of Mexico and maybe into Mayan territory. This empire collapsed in 1168. By 1433 the Valley of Mexico had regained domination over much of Mexico as a result of an alliance of three neighboring kingdoms. This alliance secured the homeland from which one king, Montezuma I of the Aztecs, began territorial conquests in the 1400s. The empire flourished until 1519, when a Spanish soldier, Hernn Corts, landed in eastern Mexico and advanced with Mexican allies upon the Aztec capital, Tenochtitln. Internal strife and a smallpox epidemic weakened the Mexicans and helped Corts conquer them in 1521. At the time of these initial Spanish conquests the native peoples of Mexico included those in the domains of the Aztec Empire and of the powerful kingdoms of the Mixtec rulers in what is now Puebla State and the Tarascan in Michoacn State, and of the Zapotec in Oaxaca, the Tlaxcalan in Michoacn, the Otom in Hidalgo, and the Totonac in Veracruz; the subjects of the remnants of the Mayan state of Mayapn in the Yucatn and of a number of smaller undestroyed Mayan states to the south; and many independent groups in the frontier regions, such as the Yaqui, Huichol, and Tarahumara in northern Mexico and the Pipil in the south. After the Spanish conquest-which took more than two centuries to reach throughout Mexico-most of the Native American peoples were forced to survive as peasants governed by the Spanish-Mexican upper class.