The origin and presence of Native Americans in the Western Hemisphere has been one of the most debatable issues in both American and world historical studies. European invaders entering the new land were quite challenged to find about 100 million inhabitants in the Americas; a land they had always presumed was vast and vacant.
These European settlers as well as scientists believed that the American natives belonged to the biblical Lost Tribes of the nation of Israel, while others fancifully argued that these natives could have been the remnant of lost civilizations such as Mu or Atlantis.
Order custom essay A Research On Native Americans: Origin, Culture, Way Of Life And Contribution To The United States with free plagiarism report
Early European settlers insisted that Native Americans must have had their origin in ancient Israel, Rome, the Irish, Welsh or Viking lands. Scientists have however changed their perspective over recent times and joined Native American voices to support the notion that these people are indigenous to the Americas.
Tied into the issue of native origin are legal standings regarding Native sovereignty, possession of sacred artifacts and Native remains, Native American spokesman-ship or representation, as well as the rules that should be used to analyze the evidence deduced from history and science about their indigenous status in this land (Carliste & Golson 2006, p.1).
Native Americans in the United States
Historically, the earliest Native tribes to inhabit the Americas are the Athapascans and Inuits who are believed to have entered the land through the Bering Strait that connects Alaska and Siberia. Others are said to have traveled by boat or canoe around the North American Pacific coast and Arctic Circle to predominate North America and parts of South America.
But the Native American people have together with others. Always questioned the Bering Strait theory and gone ahead to insist that they have inhabited the Americas as far back as their origin can be traced.
Researchers into the origins of Native Americans have suggested that these people could have entered the Americas through multiple migrations not only by the land bridge or boat at the Bering Strait; but also through sea from Polynesia and parts of Europe.
Genetic evidence has also come up with suggestions that Native Americans had already arrived in the Americas about 15,000 to 30,000 years long before the Bering Strait had been exposed by lowering sea levels. Recent discoveries have found genetic evidence of Polynesian origin among five Native tribes like the Mapuche, Cayapa of Ecuador, Huilleche, Nuu-Chal-Nulth in Canada, and the Atacameno of Chile.
Native oral traditions tell about a journey to the Americas by boat and the present-day continent popularly referred to as the United States of America is an ancestral home to over 500 Indian nations. The state of California alone was home to over 60 tribes of between 30,000 – 40,000 Native people before the early European invasion (Stubben & Sokolow 2005, p.1-3; Carliste & Golson 2006, p.1-6).
Native American tribes spoke a variety of languages but most of the northeastern tribes lived in semi-permanent and permanent dwellings, socially organized under clan membership.
The clans were matrilineal and young men were raised in the households of their mothers by their maternal uncles. Daily Native American life revolved around hunting, gathering, farming and fishing, the main crops being maize, beans and squash.
Native Americans moved in groups of about 50 – 100 people because such a group could manage reasonable hunting exploits especially when hunting large buffalo herds. Family was very important to the Native Americans and all members of a family ranging from grandparents, parents and the children shared a very special bond. Family and tribal elders were highly respected and their decisions in various matters were crucial to the existence of a clan or entire tribe.
Men did the hunting and took care of other tribal matters such as maintenance of tribal boundaries while the women provide labor for tilling the fields as well as doing several other chores. In some tribes like the Iroquois, women also held powerful positions whereby they controlled the election and removal of clan chiefs.
These gender based cultural traits were to create a lot of cross-cultural conflict when the European arrived in the Americas (Stubben & Sokolow 2005, p.57; Carliste & Golson 2006, p.113).
Life for the Native Americans however changed drastically with the arrival of European settlers to America especially during the early 1800s, when the Americas experienced an influx of European settlers.
The need to supply the American nation with foodstuffs, clothing and lumber led to the displacement of Native people and immediately, plans got under way to resettle them to reservations. European invasion is said to have led to the extinct of some Native tribes like the Beothuk who are said to have been wiped out completely.
Most other tribes lost over 90% of their people to European genocide because the white settlers had better weapons of warfare that were also more extreme and violent than the native peoples could resist.
In their conquests, European invaders murdered noncombatants as well as used biological warfare such as deliberate spread of disease and starvation. 75 million Indians are estimated to have died with some estimates going as high as 112 million (Pritzker 2000, p.162; Carliste & Golson 2006, p.9, 26).
European settlement was detrimental to Native American existence because it disrupted every aspect of their lives. The relocation f Native tribes from their native lands disrupted their way of life.
Between 1854 and 1855 for example, Washington governor Isaac I. Stevens signed four treaties in quick succession with the Waka Walla Cayuse, Yakima, Makah, Nez Perce, Lushootsedd and Coer d’ Alene Native tribes around the Oregon and Washington territories.
Through these treaties, Native lands were ceded back to the government which included the choicest lands of Tacoma, Seattle and Olympia. In return, these tribes were allotted tracts of lands although the government held the right over waterways and public transportation throughout these territories.
Although native tribes retained such rights as fishing, hunting and grazing rights, these allotments marked the beginning of a restricted lifestyle for the Native tribes.
These treaties not only eroded native culture but their lifestyle as well, and forced their assimilation into reservations (Hoxie, Mancall & Merrell 2001, p. 67; Pritzer 2000, p. 5, 214; Carliste & Golson 2006, p.29, 75, 111).
Did you know that we have over 70,000 essays on 3,000 topics in our database?
Cite this page
A Research On Native Americans: Origin, Culture, Way Of Life And Contribution To The United States. (2016, Jun 03). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-research-on-native-americans-origin-culture-way-of-life-and-contribution-to-the-united-states/