The Cultural Aspects of the North American Indian History

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It is important to look back to oral tradition and history as the mythic core to North American Indian cultural aspects and to be aware of oral story, together with written stones by Indigenous writers who now through academic study are producing scholarly works to enable their people to again engage in pride, a reawakening to the truth (Beck, 1996). The oral tradition is more than a record of people’s culture, it is a source of their collective and individual selves (Beck, 1996). The classic assumptions of the white men’s world can alter the body of Indians traditions levels of knowledge and consequences can ensue from misunderstanding the basic native beliefs (Beck, 1996). Oral traditions and narratives mixed with western ways and ideas are disturbing the balance and harmony within Native communities (Beck, 1996). Historical events have led up to the present -day situation of native American and confronts their traditional cultures and sacred ways (Beck, 1996). Historical events, attitudes and policies have greatly affected aboriginal tribal sacred ways. Terms defining the Indigenous world have been defined in terms from the dominants society’s point of view (Beck, 1996). Historical roots of government policy and missionary attitudes towards Native American sacred teachings and practices, from containment, extermination and assimilation, created an atmosphere in which Europe and many cultures did not understand nor did try to understand Native Americans (Beck, 1996). There were a number of elements that brought changes in native tribal sacred practices (Beck, 1996).

The economic exploitation of the land and the disrespectful attitudes of missionaries combined with a strong feeling of religious superiority; from the beginning the colonizers saw the land in terms of political boundaries- not ecological regions within which tribes share certain rights through oral tradition and economic customs (Beck, 1996). “(…) certain attitudes the colonists held that were very different from attitudes and values found among the different tribal communities inhabiting this continent.” (Beck, 1996). Different vision of concepts like wealth and power as opposed to greed and exploitation. (Knowledge meant power and wealthy means having enough goods to share with others) (Beck, 1996). Colonists came indoctrinated with special words which prevented them from perceiving the way Native cultures work (Beck, 1996). These words have since then dominated the textbooks, history books, and movies on Native American (Beck, 1996). All the words used by the colonists had negative or derogatory meanings in order to change the Native American people and to make them give up their land, making them feel shameful (Beck, 1996). These words were used to describe the Indians so that over time their way of life would lose respect in the eyes of the young ones and they would start to deny all their sacred ways of life (Beck, 1996). Everything depends on the point of view and the uses of negative words to designate Native stuff by the Colonist and illustrate their differing worldview (Beck, 1996). With the technological advances brought upon this continent it completely altered primitive economics and has forces people to work for and rely on the dominant economic system (Beck, 1996). The implication of certain words and language on the first Nations has been shown to have a particular impact.

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Educational and other assimilation policies on the part of government agencies were designated to change or destroy the sacred teachings and practices of the people. From the first explanatory voyage to the new world by the Spaniards, it brought back tales to their government, recorded historical testimony. Government policy trying to prevent native sacred traditions and practices from having an effect on future generations. Communications and documentation illustrating these ideas. People basing their research on these preconceived colonists’ ideas and beliefs (Beck, 1996). Typically, anthropologists have observed from a distance studied phenomenon in Native communities (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). The desire to find grand theories of social evolution generated provocative work and productive debate (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Indigenous people find that studies done by anthropologists are unsatisfying and homogenizing and uncrafted to their present needs (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “They insisted that it not replicate colonialism in its research questions, its conceptual practices, its methodologies, or its modes of representation. Some argued that (…) analysis was unsuited to Native Woman because it failed to understand how aboriginal woman framed their experiences.” (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Scholars found that there are some universalizing tendencies in producing histories of Aboriginal People (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). There are a lack of nuance and sophistication and people who write on Native American should avoid using too much generalization (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). There is also a considerable variation across space and over time, for example European contact with Natives and colonization played a role but the general ideas and beliefs of Indians remain (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). There have been an increasingly critical of the nature of existing documentary sources and how historians have used these sources (Kelm & Towsend, 2006).

Poststructuralists critics of the colonizing archive have built on the previous generation’s awareness of the flaws of the documentary record on Native American history (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). So many sources were written by white men who were distanced by culture, gender and often class from the group on which they wrote (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Historian have sought ways to use existing record despite its flaws in portraying the Indians (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Anthropologists have placed their own struggle with biased and often troubling sources at the fore front of is article (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Sometimes even historical observer’s conclusions were drawn solely from their cultural framework (Anthropological androcentrism) (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Historians have learned much from poststructuralist critics, concepts such as experience, dominance, and voice, everything must be questioned, situated and interrogated (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). The power relations between the scholars and those they study are not easily undone (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Creating space for plurality of voices within written work to unfetter ourselves from crippling white solipsism, or epistemic humility (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). The claims and the criticism of poststructuralism and postcolonialism and the problematic nature of historical sources draws attention to the fact that colonizing intentions of many sources remains an inescapable element of research on Indigenous People (Kelm & Towsend, 2006).

The sophisticated use of oral history sought to create new sources and capture Indian’s voices that were silent in standard historical accounts (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “(…) oral history allows us to an opportunity to explore the construction of (…) historical memory.” (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). The oral history recordings produced illustrates the desire to communicate how they came to understand their changing world (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Native’s history should not be reduced to nuggets of evidence but should be seen as statements of cultural identity, the inherent and often silenced dialogues that exist within all historical sources (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). The historical process in which Aboriginal was made, imperialists envisioned its subjects through a lens of racialized masculinities and femininities (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Scholars have demonstrated that the hierarchies and gendered identities crafted in the colonies were imported and applied to the genders, classes and ethnicities at home (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “Canada Aboriginal history, built on these new insights and situated in a colonial context in which the colonized and the colonizer resided as neighbors, opens up new possibilities for understanding the influence of colonial discourses, and the aboriginal people they sought to frame, in the history of Canada.” (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). The question and augment historical methodologies and common historical conceptualizations, the relation of power, will change our assumptions about how things are (Kelm & Towsend, 2006).

The centrality of colonialism transfers a feel for relation of power (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Colonialization dramatically affected the social construction of native communities (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). Racism, sexism, patriarchal colonialism, theories of evolution and racial differences developed alongside prevailing misogynistic views (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “Over the past two decades, anthropologists, historians, lawyers, sociologists, activists, and Native and Non-Native scholars alike have contributed greatly to our understanding of how Euro-Canadian laws have significantly altered Native identities” (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “Their work also reminds us that tarred with their patriarchal inequalities, imperialism and colonialism drew their darkest lines along boundaries of gender.” (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “(…) make clear that we must contextualize the attempts to regulate Native’s woman sexuality with broader notions of gender, race, colonialism, and the evolving relationships between customary law and the Canadian legal system. (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “Research and writing are potent political forces(...) the production of knowledge is powerful. This force can be harnessed to consolidate the dominant position of Europeans, to deny First Nations access to land and resources, or to loosen their ties to each other.” (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). The violence of words and the violence on the body, the distortions of the historical records (Kelm & Towsend, 2006). “The future of our families, communities, nations and planet depend on us finding our voices (…) reclaiming our authority and power.” (Anderson, 2000).

The ways Native history was written a lot of stereotype was created (Anderson, 2000). “Young women need to see how they are written out of the white ideal and how their identities have been negatively constructed through our historical experiences.” (Anderson, 2000). Indigenous must past their stories, the strength and the teachings of their experience (Anderson, 2000). “Native woman are preparing the grandmothers of the future by teaching them about Aboriginal history (…) to help them know their heritage, where they come from.” (Anderson, 2000). “The belief that rejection of tradition and of history is a useful response to life is reflected in America’s amazing loss of memory concerning its origins in the matrix and context of Native America.” (Allen, 1992). By using sources creatively and critically, through an engagement with oral history, and by an increasingly acute awareness of Native history we can alter how we study Aboriginal people’s past (Kelm & Towsend, 2006).

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