Analyze Native American Societies
This essay will analyze Native American societies for world view and cultural and institutional differentiation.In so doing, we will discuss the possibilities or the lack of endogenously generated social change within American Indian societies and cultures.Mainly this essay will concentrate on two important aspects of world view that contribute to conservatism in Native American cultures.
The two aspects are as follows, holistic Native American beliefs versus dualistic world views, and in so discussing we will illuminate the reader’s knowledge about the differences in views of purity and salvation.
The second important aspect is that of the economic ethic: American Capitalism versus Native American subsistence labor ethic. The reasons why these two aspects are so important in explaining change or the lack of change in Native American communities is because everything is linked to religion and the ceremonies that ensue and the kinships within each community. As one author put it, Native American tribes are like apples and America is like an orange.
This is meant as an analogy of how American society is compartmentalized and divided into many parts and Native American society is interlinked. In northern America there are hundreds of Native American tribes and all have distinct religions with their own distinct creation stories, and each tribe has its own rituals, each with unique ways of giving thanks and honoring the sacred. The one distingsion they all have in common is the idea of this-worldliness and a sense of conservatism.
For the Native American community, the world is a gift given by the Creator and should not be changed or altered, it should be conserved and respected with a sense of balance. “To change the order of the given world would challenge the wisdom of the Creator and upset the sacred balance and order of the universe. A people who renounced the sacred ceremonies that give thanks to the creator for health, harmony, victory in war, good harvests, or good hunting would forfeit the favor of the Creator and lose divine protection and aid. (Champagne, 2007: 35) This is in sharp contrast with the Calvinistic dualism of this-worldliness and otherworldliness. As Weber puts it, the Calvinist doctrine can be described as one based on change and progress.
For in Calvinism it is believed that this world is evil, corrupt, filled with death and destruction, and heaven is where the real world is, where each individual can attain salvation. For these reasons, it is mans duty to do his part to improve this evil world and make it as heavenly as possible. The view that this world is an evil and corrupt place, and that heaven is the real world, has implications of understanding possibilities for accepting change. ” (Champagne, 2007: 34) This is why change comes more easily for Christian Calvinists than it does for Native Americans. For Native Americans this world is the only world and one must strike a balance with nature in order to gain harmony. There is no salvation, if one does wrong, then misfortune befalls him and at times his community within this world.
The second important aspect is that of the economic ethic: American Capitalism versus Native American subsistence labor ethic. In order to gain a better understanding of this aspect we must first dive deeper into the roots of American Capitalism. Traditional capitalism has been around for hundreds of years in Europe and elsewhere in various forms; however, American Capitalism is unlike any other type seen in history. American Capitalism is competitive rational capitalism. As is argued by Weber, the reason for the difference is based of Christian Calvinism. While Weber recognizes that a variety of legal, political, and monetary conditions were necessary for the rise of capital markets and production, he argues that these features are not enough to explain the rise of capitalism without explaining the motivation of the capitalists to break the norms of traditional capitalism in favor of the competitive and innovative action of rational capitalism. Weber finds an explanation for the breakdown of European traditional capitalism in Calvinist doctrine. Calvinist doctrine proclaimed that Gods will was predetermined for all time, only the elect received salvation, and all had a specific calling.
Weber interpreted Calvinism as an otherworldly religion, where people sought to achieve salvation in the next world, not in this world, which was considered evil, corrupt, and full of sin. Although otherworldly salvation is the primary goal, Calvinists needed to show that they belonged to the elect, those chosen to go to heaven. Although the elect were predetermined, none know if they belonged to the chosen, and each person was enjoined by the Calvinist community to act like one of the elect and do the work of God on earth.
Calvinists were not allowed to enjoy worldly comforts but were enjoined to be moral, work hard, and accumulate wealth as signs of their labor and moral fortitude. Wealth was a sign of the fruits of constant labor but could not be used to satisfy personal pleasures; therefore, it was reinvested in order to make more wealth and provide more work for others. ” (Champagne, 2007: 29) This for Weber is the beginning of American Capitalism, later to be known as the protestant work ethic.
This view is far from that of the Native American communities, for they were and are concerned with gaining balance with nature and giving thanks for gifts that the Creator has given, not salvation in otherworldly places. In the Calvinist view the world and its vast recourses and creatures are placed here for man to bend and manipulate to his will, in order to make this world into a heaven on earth. For Native Americans the creatures and resources that the Creator has created are not here for man to use and manipulate, thou Native Americans use the land they do not believe that man is any more special than any other creature.
Native Americans believe that all living things have a soul were Christians believe that man is the center of the world and the only creature with a soul. This distinction makes it vary difficult for Native American communities to accept change and adapt to capitalism. Another underlining reason as to why change is so difficult to implement in Native American communities is because every aspect of tribal life is so interconnected that change in one aspect of life would inadvertently mean change in the entire outlook.
In Native American tribes, all aspects of life, whether it is religion, economy, or polity are all interlinked. As Professor Champagne said , Native American tribes are like onions, they are layers upon layers centered on creation stories and ceremonies. A good example of this is the Hopi community. “Clans and families within villages organize Hopi religious, ceremonial, and political leadership. Although the particular way in which Hopi institutions are constructed is unique to them, a pattern of undifferentiation is observed mong them because religious, political, economic, and kinship structures are tightly interrelated and interpenetrating. Because of this pattern of undifferentiated institutional relations, the Hopi will be reluctant to consider institutional innovation such as change in political relations if such change requires major reorientations in creation stories, religious ceremonies, and kinship relations. ” (Champagne, 2007: 41) The Hopi are not unique in this way; this way of living is true for most indigenous communities.
In conclusion this essay has attempted to analyze Native American societies for world view and cultural and institutional differentiation. In so doing, we have discussed the possibilities of endogenously generated social change within American Indian societies and cultures. Mainly this essay has concentrated on two important aspects of world view that contribute to conservatism in Native American cultures. The two aspects as listed above are as follows, holistic Native American beliefs versus dualistic world views, and in so discussing we have underlined views of purity and salvation.
The second important aspect that that was discussed was the economic ethic: American Capitalism versus Native American subsistence labor ethic. The reasons why these two aspects are so important in explaining change or the lack of change in Native American communities is because everything is linked to religion and the ceremonies that ensue. As one author put it, Native American tribes are like apples and America is like an orange. This is meant as an analogy of how American society is compartmentalized and divided into many parts and Native American society is interlinked.