Essay on native american culture
As megafauna became scarce and cold-weather flora retreated north, groups began to prey upon smaller animals such as deer and elk, to catch fish and collect shellfish from inland rivers and lakes, and to use a wider array of plant foods, including seeds, berries, nuts, and tubers. People became somewhat more settled, tending to live in larger groups for at least part of the year; they often built seasonal residences along waterways. They also developed systems of trade between different geographical areas. These changes in diet and settlement and the development of trade are some of the defining characteristics of the Archaic cultures.
Archaic technology included grinding tools mortars and pestles , woodworking tools grooved stone axes and gouges , and items such as plummets whose use is not clear. Large fluted points became less popular, replaced by smaller side-notched points more appropriate for dart-based hunting.
In adopting a broad array of social, economic, and technological innovations , Archaic peoples enjoyed a long period of relative stability. Although the duration of the Archaic Period varied greatly depending upon location, it persisted from as early as bce until at least bce in most of Northern America. In areas that were either unusually prosperous or, conversely, unsuitable for agriculture—the rich microclimates of California and the salmon-rich Plateau and Pacific Northwest in the former case and the cool interior of northern Canada in the latter—foraging societies persisted well into the 19th century ce.
See also agriculture, origins of. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. American Indian. Article Media. Info Print Print. Dams constructed to provide waterpower for sawmills also restricted the annual runs of fish up coastal rivers. Virginia established a closed hunting season on deer in Other colonies outlawed night hunting and the killing of does, two measures designed to relieve some of the pressure on the deer herds. Such laws, however, were almost impossible to enforce and in , Virginia decided to invoke a four-year moratorium on deer hunting in an effort to save the lucrative trade in leather products.
Wringing money from southern soils and forests required an extensive labor force, a need England first met with white indentured servants and, by the early eighteenth century, with African slaves. The shift to slaves resulted from several factors including a growing shortage of white labor, English racism, and the profitability of the slave trade , but the cash crop economy and the southern environment also played crucial roles in the changeover. In Virginia and Maryland, as tobacco fields became exhausted, planters eventually developed a system of field rotation in which laborers first cleared a plot in the Indian manner by girdling trees and burning off the underbrush.
The first year, planters grew corn and beans on the new tracts, then as the land became more open and fit for cultivation several crops of tobacco, followed by wheat. Fields then lay fallow—sometimes for as long as 20 years—before they recouped enough fertility to produce more food and cash crops. As a result, any planter actively engaged in growing tobacco had a constant need for labor to clear new fields. The shift was gradual, but between about and , most Chesapeake planters seem to have concluded that environmentally sustainable tobacco farming went hand-in-hand with slavery.
The southern climate and disease environment figured into the shift as well. The mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria might have been present in North America before Europeans colonized the South; anopheles mosquitoes capable of carrying the organisms flourished in the swampy environs of the Atlantic coastal plain. However, because southern Indians lived in relatively small villages and frequently moved in conjunction with the seasons, malarial outbreaks were rare before European settlement.
As the English became established along Chesapeake Bay and in South Carolina, they seem to have brought malarial parasites with them. By the s, vivax malaria a comparatively milder form of the disease began to afflict colonists in Virginia and Maryland; by the s, it was present in the Carolina low country. In the first decades of the eighteenth century, falciparum malaria a much more virulent form of the disease became prevalent in both regions.
Because many of the slaves imported to work on tobacco and rice plantations came from West Africa where malaria was common, they brought with them both acquired and genetic protection against some of the more virulent strains of malarial parasites, another trait that, in the eyes of English planters, made Africans better suited to work in tobacco and rice fields. Colonists paid a high biological price for their decision, however.
Slaves imported to the region brought in new strains of malarial parasites and either slaves or slave traders eventually introduced yellow fever, a much more deadly mosquito-borne disease, into the town of Charleston. In addition, the boggy habitats of the ever-expanding rice fields provided acres of new breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Malaria and yellow fever would plague the South for decades to come. Planters relied on slaves for more than labor.
Africans brought crucial environmental knowledge to southern fields and forests. Many of the first slaves imported into South Carolina probably had some prior experience with raising cattle on the open range. The use of fire to clear new fields was also a technique used with which Africans had long been familiar. Much evidence suggests that slaves from West Africa, where rice had been grown for generations, aided rice planters in harnessing coastal tides to provide irrigation, an innovation that came to the Carolina low country in the s.
One thing, however, seems certain: Where Europeans saw uncultivated, worthless land, slaves often saw opportunity. In the forests that bordered the tobacco and rice fields, slaves hunted rabbits, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, and other small game, perhaps employing snares and other trapping techniques perfected in Africa.
Around their cabins or in other areas not frequented by white folks, some slaves kept garden plots and in some instances raised chickens and hogs, all used to supplement the meager diet provided by white masters. In the ocean waters of the Outer Banks, in Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, up the tidal rivers and numerous small creeks that spilled across the North Carolina coastal plain, slaves worked as boatmen, stevedores, and fishermen. Although they helped turn hefty profits for their masters, these watermen also had a measure of independence.
Some ran their own fishing operations, catching mullet, shad, herring, and other fish that they sold in local markets, either with or without consent of their masters.
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Traditional African practices likely played important roles in the construction of nets, seines, fish traps, and the temporary shelters at slave fish camps. Black watermen frequently harbored escaped slaves or helped them find safe passage by sea to northern ports, a practice that became even prominent in the antebellum period. In the years after the American Revolution, the Great Dismal Swamp located on the border between North Carolina and Virginia harbored a large maroon community.
Similar societies could be found in remote areas along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.
African slaves—no less than Europeans or Indians—used the environment to meet their needs, even to the point of reshaping southern swamps into places of sustenance, refuge, and freedom. Students will need to be reminded that the world Europeans encountered in the South was not some idyllic Eden, but a land already changed by Native American practices such as hunting and agriculture.
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You can also point out some of the general similarities between European and Indian culture, especially dependence on agriculture and well-developed systems of trade. Why, then, did the European system come to dominate? In arriving at an answer, the class will need to grapple with two key factors that made the cultural exchange uneven: disease and alcohol.
It helps to note that Europeans themselves did not yet understand what caused infectious disease and probably did not anticipate that their presence would set off epidemics.
Likewise, Europeans had a long cultural history with alcohol and might not have foreseen its effects on Indians. Finally, in discussing European-Indian relations, remind students that the continent had undergone plenty of environmental change before either group arrived on the scene. Note that 10, years earlier a mere instant in geologic time the continent had been much colder; indeed many of the forests Europeans encountered had been in the South only , years. The goal here is to get students not just to think of Europeans as agents of change they certainly were , but to see them as agents of change in an already highly changeable world.
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Any discussion of the shift from white indentured servitude to African slavery must be approached with care. Some students like Ulrich B. Many students will not know that slaves had knowledge and skills that proved especially adaptable to the southern environment. The notion of slaves as experienced cattle herders or hydrologic engineers able to manipulate the tides will help combat still-too-prevalent stereotypes of Africans as unskilled field labor. Coupled with the discussion of Indian-European relations, this approach to colonial slavery should make clear that if the landscape reflected the values of European capitalism, it was also a distinctly American countryside—one shaped as much by red and black as by white.
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