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Diversity in Aboriginal America

A. Introduction I. Multiculturalism had existed for several years in America before the Europeans encountered it. i. The inhabitants are often considered savage and uncivilized, and this is what most movie directors have used in several movies. ii. This mistake is easily attributed to Columbus who thought that he was in the Indies when he arrived in America. iii. He names the natives Indians and this name took root and became indelible. This paper seeks to provide an overview of multiculturalism that was present in pre-colonial America. B. The Larger Context I. It is explained that the native tribes interacted with other aboriginal societies probably through migration before the coming of the Europeans. i. Most anthropologists dispute this fact, but some agree to this. ii. Those who agree to this fact have several sources of proof for instance the religious relationship between the Zuni community and the Japanese. C. Diversity in Language I. Prior to the coming of the Europeans, the aboriginals had almost 200 societies, which spoke different languages. i. These languages had different dialects and variations in speech, phonetics, sounds and grammatical structure. ii. However, it has been proven by linguists that language and culture are interdependent. This is because the language affects the perception of the people as well as their culture. iii. The numerous languages are depiction of the complexity of the multiculturalism that existed in Native America. D. Diversity in Gender Roles I. Women had more power than the makes in matrilineal and matrilocal societies because the property belonged to them. i. In the case of government, only the males were allowed to participate. These societies had division of labor along gender lines. ii. In most societies, the females had defined roles like cooking and cleaning while the males took part in tedious activities like hunting. iii. The status and influence of the women greatly increased due to the continuous defeats that the males encountered after the Revolutionary period. iv. The effect of this is that the women became the decision makers in the society. E. Diversity in Clothing I. The choice of clothing depended on the geographical areas that they inhabited. All the tribes made their clothes out of fur and hides. i. For communities that comprised of agriculturalists, it was more difficult to obtain these products, and they made their clothes from plant materials. ii. Both genders wore necklaces and earrings especially from shells. Men using shells as tweezers plucked their body hair. iii. These traditions were subject to changes in the various communities. European contact brought about changes in their clothing styles. F. Diversity in Housing I. Several factors affected the process of construction of the houses. i. These factors include terrain, climate and availability of the building materials. ii. These factors made the housing structures in Native America vary significantly. iii. Some tribes like the Chaco canyon of New Mexico lived in large communal structures of up to 1000 people. This was being done in order to enhance their security. iv. Most tribes preferred single-family dwellings. II. Such housing units housed only one family but the extended family lived around them. i. These houses were not large but were enough to house a single family. An example of people who lived in such units is the inhabitants of Southeastern America. ii. In the case of nomadic communities, they required portable housing. This was to enable them to migrate easily from one place to another. iii. These houses were constructed using light materials to facilitate this. The difference in housing was another indication of the Natives’ cultural diversity. G. Diversity in Social Organization I. The tribes in Native America maintained democratic systems, as opposed to their counterparts in Africa for instance. i. Most tribes had clans with equal power though some societies remained in groups but came together for annual meetings. ii. Variations in social status based on age or gender was minimal among the groups living around the Great Basin. In the more arid areas, the leadership positions were not hereditary; the most competent leader was selected as long as he has the skills required by the members of the tribe. iii. However, some indigenous communities created ranking systems in order to determine social standing of the people. II. This ranking was based on the amount of wealth that the person owned or their activities in war. i. There was a notable exception to the democratic structure of the people of the Northwestern Coast. ii. This tribe had two major divisions, the free men and the slaves. The slaves were obtained from wars and raids from their neighbors. The slaves were servants and could not intermarry with the free men. iii. Slaves were freed on rare occasions like the death of the owner or at a potlatch that was used to demonstrate the wealth of the owner. iv. Other social organizations that existed included the caste system of Southeastern inhabitants, and the Iroquois Consensus-Building that was in North America. H. Diversity in Values I. Opinions on wealth varied amongst these tribes, the Yurok of North California were obsessed with personal wealth. i. They believed that it was to be paraded around to other people. In regards to religion, their beliefs and values varied greatly from one tribe to another. ii. They believed in a supernatural being, but the intricacies involved differed. iii. One fundamental aspect that they all believed in was that all human beings were embedded in nature. iv. Religious leaders existed in these societies, and this position was often hereditary. I. Conclusion i. As much as these societies were different in many ways, they were self-reliant. ii. The arrival of the Europeans, however, changed their way of life and exposed them to disease and conquest that made them migrate from their ancestral lands. iii. The introduction of new things also led to disintegration of the tribes due to warfare. iv. European arrival, therefore, destroyed the vibrant multiculturalism that existed prior to their arrival.

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