Native American And Native Americans Essay

Native American And Native Americans Essay

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If an average American citizen was asked to describe Native Americans, they might say something like “they all wore feather headbands and lived in teepees.” Often, in our minds and in modern media, Native Americans are seen as interchangeable and indistinguishable. However, the lives and cultures of Native Americans were hardly uniform. From the magnificent cities and expansive empires of South America to the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains, Native Americans of different regions led distinct lives. Though their differences are clear, different groups also shared certain core beliefs on religion, gender roles, freedom, and property. These lifestyles and beliefs were at harsh contrast with those of European settlers, who led far more restrictive and materialistic lives. The Native Americans’ lifestyle and culture, similar in some ways yet strikingly diverse, differed dramatically from those of Europeans.
One of the clearest distinctions between Native American groups was between North Americans and South Americans, especially in technological advancement. In North America, groups like the Hopi, Zuni, and Mound Builders formed large cities, and other groups had at least semi-permanent settlements. The largest Native American community in North America was the city of Cahokia, which reached between 10,000 and 30,000 inhabitants (Foner, 6). In contrast, the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán, in modern-day Mexico, reached around 250,000 citizens (Foner, 4). The most sophisticated structures or North America were those of the Hopi and Zuni, such as five-story tall Pueblo Bonita (Foner, 6). Compare this to the 2,000 mile long Incan road system (Foner, 4) or the majesty of Machu Picchu, and it is clear how much more technologically advanced S...


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...oles, fervent religious beliefs, and ideas about land and property shaped their interactions and conflicts with Native Americans.
When considering a different culture, it can be tempting to generalize. This is particularly true when a culture is seen as homogeneous, as is often the case with Native Americans. Though some imagine them as having a monolithic culture with few differences between tribes, it is clear from their history that Native Americans were diverse and sophisticated people. One can also see the stark contrasts that existed between Natives and European invaders. European culture and religion was much more restrictive, and so they often clashed with Native Americans. With so much diversity already existing in America and such a contrast between their cultures, it is no wonder that Europeans’ arrival dramatically challenged Native Americans’ way of life.

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