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Cherokee Chief
Cherokee Chief
Native American Indian (NAI) Profile©

The Search for an American Indian Identity 
By: Hertzberg, Hazel W., (1971;  repr.  1981). 

In 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed at the Caribbean island 
of Hispaniola, he believed that he had reached the East Indies. 
Consequently, he labeled the inhabitants of the island Indians, a 
misnomer still in general use referring to the indigenous peoples 
of North, Central, and South America.  In 1735 the Swedish 
taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus gave formal biological recognition to 
the original inhabitants of the New World by labeling them the 
"American," or "red," race.  Thus many millions of humans, in 
2,000 or more different cultures, came to be lumped together 
under totally inappropriate racial and cultural terms.  These 
native Americans were neither "Indians" nor "red," nor could they 
easily be classified under a single cultural heading because of 
their great variety.

Earliest European impressions of native Americans had been of a strong, 
handsome people, neither inferior nor superior to Europeans.  In the 
course of European settlement of the New World, however, Indians came 
to be considered different physically, inferior intellectually, and 
limited in cultural potential compared with their white conquerors.
Extensive physical anthropological research, however, failed to find
significant differences between native Americans and members of any other
human population group.

Physical Characteristics
Physically, the native Americans encountered by early explorers, from 
the Arctic to the tip of South America, were more homogeneous than 
any other continental population.  In skin color the Indians were 
yellow brown to ruddy brown, or "medium light" on a world color scale;
thus they were probably no darker than, if as dark as, some of Columbus's 
sailors. Hair and eye color was uniformly dark;  reports of "white" 
or blue-eyed native Americans referred either to albinos or to offspring 
resulting from early miscegenation.  Head hair was coarse and capable 
of growth to the ground; body hair and beard were scant.  In all these 
respects the physical characteristics of native Americans reflect 
their ancient north Asian ancestry.

Native Americans vary greatly in body size, but their average height 
is about that of the human species as a whole:  1 m 62 cm to 1 m 66 
cm (5 ft 4 in to 5 ft 6 in) for males;  about 10 cm (4 in) shorter 
for females. Certain native-American groups of northeast North America, 
of portions of the American Southwest including Baja California, and 
of southern South America tend to be taller than average.  Lips and 
noses vary markedly among individuals and groups of native Americans. 
Most possess relatively large faces, high cheekbones, and weak chin 

Blood group O is the most common type among native Americans; types 
A and B appear to have been absent in pre-Columbian South America.  In 
North America type A-1 reaches its highest percentage of any world 
population among the Blackfoot of Alberta and Montana, and type M, 
its world high among the Sarci, Naskapi, and other northern North 
American peoples.  Rh negative was probably absent in the New World.

   Origins and Population Estimates
The ancestors of the native American people entered America from Asia 
more than 20,000 years ago.  Some archaeologists have suggested that 
this migration began much earlier -- by at least 40,000 years ago.  The 
first Americans passed into the New World by way of the BERING LAND 
BRIDGE, an expanse of dry land that connected Siberia and Alaska 
during late Pleistocene times.  Archaeological findings indicate that 
foragers and hunters were dispersed throughout North America by 17,000 
years ago and had passed through to the tip of South America by 12,000 
years ago. 

Little agreement exists among anthropologists on the number of people 
inhabiting the New World on the eve of its discovery by Europeans. 
Estimates have ranged from a low of 8.4 million to a high of perhaps 
112 million.  An error of only 50% in estimate would be remarkable, 
considering the scarcity and frequent distortions to be found in early 
records and the unknown impact of new diseases.  Scholars supporting 
the higher estimate have contended that new diseases (smallpox, measles, 
diphtheria, whooping cough, influenza, and possibly yellow fever and 
malaria) introduced into America through contact with newcomers may 
have been responsible for upward of 80 million deaths.

It is, however, certain that for centuries after European contact, 
native-American populations suffered rapid decline. Only in the 20th 
century has the number of Indians in most countries of the Americas 
begun to increase, partly as the result of a declining rate of infant 

   Contributions to World Culture
Discovery of the New World brought about a revitalization of European 
culture, which would lead to the Industrial Revolution and the pursuit 
of raw materials and markets, which in turn would lead to worldwide 
European colonialism on a grand scale. The Americas' contributions 
to world culture included tobacco, rubber, a new form of cotton, hundreds 
of new plants of medicinal value, turkeys, toboggans, moccasins, snowshoes, 
and numerous material items of lesser significance.  The domestication 
of previously unknown food plants, however, was perhaps the greatest 
of native American contributions to the Old World:  of the hundreds 
of plant species the Indians cultivated, more than 50 are now of major 
significance worldwide. Maize ("Indian corn"), beans, potatoes, manioc 
(cassava or yucca), and sweet potatoes have become staple foodstuffs 
of people on all continents. Tomatoes, chili peppers, cacao, pineapples, 
squashes, artichokes, cashews, and maple sugar are other important 
plants first cultivated by native Americans.

The history of native-American culture is sometimes divided into
pre-Columbian and post-Columbian eras.  Although literally meaning the
periods before and after the arrival of Columbus, this chronological division
is generally used to refer to the periods before and after European conquest 
of Indian lands. The term pre-Columbian is especially used in referring 
to cultures of the first regions to be dominated by Europeans--namely, 
the Caribbean area, Mexico, and Peru.  Most areas of the Americas 
came under foreign control at a much later date, although the European 
presence elsewhere on the continent often affected a given area long 
before its actual settlement by Europeans.  This sequence was especially 
the case in the forest regions of North America, where a European-organized 
fur trade flourished, and in the Great Plains, where the European 
introduction of the horse completely disrupted the way of life of 
indigenous Plains dwellers.

   Social and Political Units
By far the greatest number of societies inhabiting the greatest extent 
of terrain in the New World before European contact consisted of nomadic 
bands of from 20 to 50 people who subsisted by collecting wild plant 
and animal foods.  The culture of these simple foragers was in general 
characterized by a simple technology;  by a system of dispersed settlement 
based on seasonal occupation of sites located near food resources;  by 
consensual leadership exercised by older persons, usually males;  and 
by weak commitment to precise territories.  These band-level societies 
were generally peaceful most of the time.

By about 9,000 years ago certain native-American peoples had begun 
to domesticate plants to supplement food that was foraged.  By the 
time of European contact maize, beans, and squash, supplemented locally 
by manioc, potatoes, and highland grains such as quinoa, were in wide 
use in areas where they could be grown.  Simple slash-and-burn cultivation 
of such crops without the use of irrigation or other more-advanced 
techniques was usually undertaken on small patches of land. Vegetation 
had to be cleared and burned before the seeds were planted by means 
of either a digging stick or a hoe, the two basic American horticultural 

Horticultural groups generally lived in tribes of about 100 to 1,000 
or more members.  These tribes tended to build relatively permanent 
houses and villages, usually with village leaders associated with 
lineage or clan organizations.  Such tribal societies often had craft 
specialists and substantial inventories of material items for utilitarian 
or ritual use. Feuds, raids, and wars between tribes occurred often, 
in part because of the capacity of tribes to expand into new territories 
and their attendant inability to predict the intent of unfamiliar 
neighbors;  wars were often waged for revenge or to preempt anticipated 

Only in Mexico, Central America, and the central Andes (collectively 
referred to as Nuclear America by anthropologists) did cultures possessing 
cultivation techniques--including irrigation, terracing, and fertilizing-
-develop sufficient surpluses to permit the formation of towns and cities.
The Aztecs, Inca, and Maya attained the highest level of sociopolitical 
development in pre-Columbian America, characterized by chiefdoms or 
states with thousands to millions of citizens organized into hierarchical 
castes and classes.  Other features of Nuclear American civilization 
included priest- idol-temple complexes; markets to facilitate redistribution 
of goods and wealth;  and means to unify the labor force for public 
ends, including military service.  War was often the focus of life.
Absolutist kings, nobility of great privilege, complex state architecture
for religious and civil purposes, and predatory military expansionism 
all mark the Nuclear American civilization as a functional equivalent 
of that which appeared in the Near East and from which European culture 
was derived.

   Indian schools
The U.S.  government, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, provides 
funds for the education of Indian children living on Indian-owned 
or restricted trust lands.  In 1990-91 the bureau operated 166 elementary 
and secondary schools for about 38,000 children and 14 dormitories 
for about 1,700 children attending public schools.  Currently, the 
bureau also provides special supplemental programs for about 175,000 
Indian public school students, and a very small number attend private 
or parochial schools. The government program, which includes adult 
education, vocational training, and various forms of aid to higher 
education, applies to natives of Alaska--that is, Indians, Eskimos, 
and Aleuts--and to children of one-quarter degree or more of Indian 
blood.  The bureau also operates two post- secondary schools:  the 
Haskell Indian Junior College, in Lawrence, Kans., which famed athlete 
Jim Thorpe, of Sauk and Fox descent, attended; and Southwestern Indian 
Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.Mex.  The bureau also funds 
22 tribally conrolled community colleges.  In 1985 a unique process 
was completed in Alaska when that state took over the operation of 
what had been federally funded bureau schools located in the state. 
(Source Bibliography:  Adams, Evelyn C., American Indian Education: 
Government Schools and Economic Progress (1946;  repr.  1971); Fuchs, 
Estelle, and Havighurst, Robert J., To Live On This Earth:  American 
Indian Education, rev.  ed.  (1983); Johnston, Basil H., Indian School 
Days (1989);  Jones, Louis T., Amerindian Education (1972);  Szasz, 
Margaret, Education and the American Indian:  The Road to Self-determination 
since 1928, 2d ed. (1977).

   Kin Groups
The vast majority of native-American societies were organized on the 
basis of kinship.  Only in Nuclear America and adjacent areas did 
nonkinship groupings and social stratification become important.  Lineages 
and clans existed in many culture areas of the Americas, particularly 
in the Eastern Woodlands of North America, among western Pueblo groups, 
and in Amazonia. Division of societies into reciprocating halves (moieties) 
for ceremonial, marriage, or competitive purposes was common.

Marriage for women usually took place in early adolescence, soon after 
the first menstruation and often to older men. Premarital sexuality 
was usually allowed and occasionally made all but mandatory.  Some 
societies, however, such as the Cheyenne of the Great Plains, prized 
chastity for all the unmarried.  Adultery was often harshly punished.

The incest taboo prohibited sex and marriage between close relatives 
and, not infrequently, between any relatives.  Many societies practiced 
marriage with cross-cousins, usually in association with lineage or 
clan organizations.  Marriage to a brother's widow (levirate) and 
to a sister's husband (sororate) were common customs.

Most native-American cultures encouraged men to have two or more wives 
(polygyny), although most men had only one. Residence after marriage 
was usually with the family of the husband, but residence with the 
family of the wife commonly occurred in eastern North America, in 
the American Southwest, and in the Caribbean.  Inheritance usually 
correlated with the postmarital residence patterns.

Diet and Subsistence Methods
Most native-American cultures traditionally relied upon the harvest 
of wild plant foods for their basic subsistence.  Few groups did more 
than merely supplement plant foods with animal products;  some exceptions 
were the Inuit (Eskimo) and various subarctic peoples and coastal 
shellfish gatherers.  Among the most important wild plant foods in 
North America were acorns, pine, walnut, hickory, and other nuts;  grass 
and plant seeds (including amaranthus, pigweed, sunflower, and salvias);
roots and bulbs (onion, Indian potato, camas, and cattail);  dozens of kinds 
of fruits and berries;  and wild rice.  Desert regions of the Americas 
provided aloes, opuntias, and many other xerophytic plant foods.  In 
South America palms provided fruits and nuts as well as hearts, shafts, 
pith, and beer.  Other South American plant foods included algarroba 
pods, chanar fruit, and mistol seeds, as well as wild rice in swampy 
areas such as the upper Paraguay River.  Many plant foods required 
complex processing in order to remove harmful substances (such as 
tannin from acorns or prussic acid from bitter manioc).

The most widely available animal food was shellfish, as evidenced 
by the remains of huge shell heaps found by archaeologists on river 
banks and seacoasts throughout the hemisphere.  Most foragers ate 
larger quantities of small animal life (insects, larvae, worms, snakes, 
bird eggs, and rodents) than they did the more desirable but rarer 
large animals.  In South America the primary large game were members 
of the camel family (llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna) as well as 
peccaries, tapirs, monkeys, iguanas, anteaters, cats, alligators, 
crocodiles, and freshwater and saltwater mammals. Two or more species 
of deer, common in parts of South America, were the most widely hunted 
large game animals in North America.  Also in North America were sizable 
regional herds of bison and caribou;  smaller local herds of wapiti 
elk, pronghorn antelope, and mountain sheep and goats;  as well as 
black and brown bears, badgers, raccoons, opossums, coatimundis, wolverines, 
and a host of other game animals.

Freshwater and saltwater fish, especially the anadromous varieties--such 
as salmon, alewives, steelhead trout, and striped bass--provided abundant 
food for peoples along the northern coasts of North America and in 
Amazonia.  Fish were hooked;  netted;  trapped;  or poisoned with 
over 50 different plant poisons, mainly in South America.  Birds also 
served as a source of food, particularly for peoples located on land 
along the migratory flyways and in winter haunts and summer rookeries.

For most Indian cultures foraging enabled the population to survive 
in most years, to thrive in some, but in others to experience severe 
privation and even starvation.  Bad years -- particularly two or more 
occurring consecutively -- effectively limited the population growth 
of most native-American societies.  Marked population increases occurred 
in parts of Nuclear America, however, where plants had begun to be 
domesticated about 9,000 years ago.

By 1492 many Nuclear American peoples had become almost entirely reliant 
on cultivation.  Hundreds of species of plants were domesticated for 
use not only as foods, but also as raw materials (such as pima cotton), 
as poisons, and as hallucinogens and stimulants.  Domesticated plants 
and agricultural techniques gradually spread to other parts of the 
Americas, although most other New World cultivators, such as those 
in the tropical forest of South America and in the Southeast and Southwest 
of North America, continued to supplement cultivation with ancient 
food- collecting techniques.

   Hallucinogens and Stimulants
Tobacco was the most widely cultivated plant in native America, grown 
by some foragers who grew nothing else.  It was used mainly by men 
in ceremonial settings by smoking, chewing, sniffing, or in enemas.  Jimson 
weed was the next most available drug in North America;  it was used 
mainly in the West -- especially in California.  In Mexico and Central 
America peyote, mescal bean, the mushroom called teonanacatl, and 
a seed called ololiuqui were used.  Coca, the source of cocaine, was 
grown in the eastern Andes, where the leaves are still chewed by the 
Indians.  In Amazonia numerous hallucinogenic plants were known.

Before the introduction of the distillation process, only beers and 
wines were known in the Americas.  The principal types were maize 
beer and alcoholic beverages fermented from manioc, agave, sotol, 
mesquite beans, saguaro fruit, persimmons, and sea grapes.

   Hunting, Planting, 
   and Cooking Technology
Several varieties of bows and arrows were the commonest hunting implements;
thrusting lances, harpoons, atlatls (throwing darts), clubs, bolas, and
slings were also used.  Blowguns with poisoned darts were used in eastern 
North America, the Caribbean, and Amazonia.  Poisoned arrows were 
widely used in the tropical rain forests of South America.  Woven 
nets, deadfalls, nooses, and dogs were also employed in the hunt.

Farmers cleared fields either by chopping trees with stone axes or 
by girdling trees and burning them.  Sharpened sticks, simple hoes, 
and human labor were the means of planting.  In Nuclear America complex 
irrigation works (with ditches and dams), terraces, and urine, potash, 
and guano fertilizers were developed.

Foods were prepared by boiling, roasting, broiling, or baking in preheated 
earth ovens.  The addition of hot rocks to water and food that had 
been placed in either watertight baskets or stone vessels was another 
widely practiced cooking method ("stone boiling").  Foods were preserved 
by drying, smoking, salting, or packing in containers with animal 
lard (Pemmican); in Arctic and subarctic areas foods were simply 
frozen in permafrost.  Salt was an important item sought in trade, 
especially by horticultural people.

A concentrated, high-energy food, pemmican -- the word is Cree for 
"fat" -- is a North American Indian invention. Thinly sliced lean 
venison or buffalo meat was dried slowly and then pounded into a powder 
with dried wild cherries or other berries and mixed with an equal 
amount of hot fat. The thick, doughy substance that resulted, packed 
into waterproof hide casings, would keep indefinitely. Another dried 
meat food, the South American Indian "charqui", is so tough it must 
be pounded between stones before being cooked. Jerked beef, or "jerky," 
is essentially the same food.

   Housing and Architecture
For shelter simple foragers generally used brush windscreens or small, 
portable tepees, tents, or wigwams of poles, bark, or hides. Semisubterranean 
pit houses served as traditional dwellings for various Arctic and 
subarctic peoples. Rectangular single- or multiple-family dwellings 
constructed of posts and beams were used by cultivators in North and 
South America.  Large rectangular structures "longhouses" housing 
entire lineages or tribes were built in Amazonia and among some tribes 
of northeastern North America.  In the American Southwest multistory 
apartment houses in the form of pueblos made of stone, mud, and beams 
were made by the ANASAZI, possible ancestors of the Pueblo peoples.

Temple and burial mounds were built widely in Nuclear America and 
in the Eastern Woodlands and the southwest of North America.  East 
of the Mississippi River are the remains of an estimated 100,000 mounds, 
ranging from a few feet in height to that at CAHOKIA (in Missouri), 
with its base of 6.5 ha (16 acres) and a height of 30 m (98 ft).  The 
most spectacular monuments of pre- Columbian American architecture 
are found in Nuclear America, where entire cities with pyramids, temples, 
palaces, convents, civic buildings, and astronomical observatories 
were built in great splendor.

   Clothing and Personal Adornment
Little clothing other than loincloths, draped hides or cloth mantles, 
and headgear was worn by most native Americans except in Nuclear America 
and in the extreme north.  Before needles became available through 
trade, only the Eskimo and their neighbors possessed tailored clothing.
Tanned deer hide (buckskin), bison hide, and the furs of small animals were 
common clothing materials in North America.  Feathers, bark, and various 
wild- plant materials were also commonly used, especially in the Pacific 
Northwest and California.  Woven cotton cloth was the dominant material 
in the American Southwest and in much of Mesoamerica, where costumes 
often reflected social status.  Many tribes in North America wore 
MOCCASINS to protect their feet;  sandals made of plant fibers were 
also common in the Great Basin and the Southwest.  Hide sandals made 
from dehaired skins were worn in Mesoamerica and in parts of South 

Body painting and tattooing;  head and tooth deformation;  lip, ear, 
and nose plugs or rings;  and bracelets, arm bands, necklaces, and 
head ornaments were traditionally used by many groups to enhance beauty 
or to indicate status.

   Metallurgy, Craft, and the Arts
Beginning as early as 3000 BC raw copper was worked by simple hammering 
for use as weapons or as ritual objects;  this process was widely 
practiced, particularly in the Great Lakes region of North America.  By 
AD 500 gold, copper, and silver were being smelted and cast, soldered, 
gilded, and alloyed in Ecuador and elsewhere in Nuclear America;  objects 
of copper combined with lead also appeared about this time in Mexico. 
Bronze was apparently in use in Bolivia by about AD 1100, but native 
Americans had not discovered the use of iron before European contact.

Throughout the Americas native artisans traditionally embellished 
tools, containers, houses, and sometimes even the human body with 
artistic designs and decorations.  Local traditions of painting, sculpture, 
pottery, jewelry, tapestry weaving, and architectural decoration were 
well developed in various parts of North America.  (See Chapter INDIANS 

In Nuclear America libraries of the AZTECS, INCAS, and MAYA contained 
thousands of illustrated books (called codices) with accumulated thought 
and knowledge about ancient ways.  The invading Spaniards systematically 
destroyed these manuscripts, which they thought to be works of the 
devil. Working on walls, in the round on solid stone, in bas-relief, 
and with semiprecious stones (jade, turquoise, serpentine, amber, 
and others), artists of these and other pre-Columbian cultures produced 
items of both representational and abstract art ranking with the finest 
human productions anywhere. 

Traditional native-American music tended to be highly rhythmic and 
monophonic and was usually played and sung by men for either ritual 
or social occasions.  Harmony was absent, and most scales were pentatonic. 
Lyrics generally had symbolic but not morphemic meaning, and most 
songs lasted less than three minutes.  Indian musical instruments 
included drums, rattles, clappers, and sticks and other percussive 
devices, along with flutes, whistles, and shell trumpets.  (See Chapter 

   Politics and Warfare
The political complexity of most native-American societies was generally 
in direct relation to the mode of food production: foragers rarely 
had more leadership than a headman, a person respected but with little 
real power.  Simple cultivators and, following European contact, many 
foraging peoples -- particularly those who became horse nomads -- 
elevated successful war leaders and SHAMANS (part-time religious leaders) 
to posts of power during war.

True central government was found only in Nuclear America and adjacent 
areas, where privileged chiefs or kings, noble councilmen, and priests, 
supported by armed militia, possessed absolute power over thousands 
of people.  War was a frequent activity in the complex political societies 
of Mesoamerica and the Andes.  Highly organized armies of tens of 
thousands massed and moved under central leadership unknown elsewhere 
in the Americas.

Foragers were characterized by a relative peacefulness made possible 
by low population density, close kinship ties to neighboring peoples, 
and patterns of resource use that aided in avoiding conflict.  Feuds 
did erupt over sexual jealousies and accusations of witchcraft, but 
these feuds usually involved only a few people and were of short duration.
Simple cultivators and horse nomads, on the other hand, with an investment 
in fields, in stored foods, or in herds, engaged in frequent and often 
bloody conflict.  Various peoples on the Great Plains, on the Pampas, 
in Amazonia, and in the Eastern Woodlands of North America for a time 
became as warlike as any group ever known:  they were at war at all 
times with all people with whom they did not have an immediate alliance.

   Religion and the Supernatural
The traditional way of life of native Americans was characterized 
by beliefs and practices stemming from an acceptance of a universe 
controlled by supernatural beings and forces, with humans, at most, 
as junior partners.  All cultures had beliefs in souls;  in animistic 
spirits that occupied natural objects (rocks, trees, unusual landforms, 
bodies of water, or lightning);  in powerful, distant, usually diffuse 
creator beings;  and, often, in numbers of other, more-immediate godlike 

In most cultures the supernaturals of greatest importance were the 
good and evil spirits capable of influencing the outcome of hunts, 
gambling, fights, the pursuit of love partners, the search for health, 
and other human strivings.  These spirits might inhabit dark places, 
such as caves or forests, deep canyons, high mountains, beasts, or 
even other people. In order for a native American to succeed in life 
a constant balance had to be maintained between the spirit forces 
and human needs, a balance made difficult by the presence of evil 
spirits.  The souls of the dead (ghosts) were often believed to be 
the most malignant of spirits.

Most native-American cultures possessed beliefs in a diffuse supernatural 
power anthropologists call MANA.  This power was sought through ceremonies, 
vision quests, self-privation or mutilation, drugged states or dreams, 
or control of powerful natural entities who could then lend power, 
or "medicine." Most native Americans believed that many animals and 
natural objects possessed this power and if violated by humans might 
cause pimples, ill health, painful menstruation, accidents, bad luck, 
or even death.  Taboos surrounded many commonplace events: birth, 
puberty, sexual relations, war, and hunting all required constant 

All native-American cultures possessed supernatural techniques with 
which to face most of life's unpredictable events.  To effect cures 
part-time religious leaders, shamans, were usually consulted.  They 
massaged, danced, sang, smoked tobacco, or took drugs in order, with 
the aid of spirit helpers, to search out the cause of ailment, generally 
considered to be the result of either the loss of the soul or the 
intrusion of a foreign object.  The source of the illness was almost 
always believed to be witchcraft, despite the fact that in practically 
no native- American cultures were there individuals who attempted 
to practice sorcery to harm others.

Other than those associated with curing, rites were of passage (birth, 
puberty, marriage, death);  of crisis associated with war, rain, and 
other natural phenomena;  or of maintenance (propitiation of the sun, 
moon, animals, and other forces) designed to assure harmony among 
humans and all other elements in the universe.  At death the possessions 
of the deceased were sometimes given away or destroyed, names forgotten, 
and all verbal references to the person's existence terminated.  In 
Nuclear America and in some adjoining areas, where ancestor worship 
was practiced, ceremonies accompanying death were aimed at maintaining 
ties with the now-powerful departed.

Priests served as interpreters and intermediaries in Nuclear America's 
rich ceremonial complex.  Public ceremonies, often conducted on top 
of temple-pyramids or in elaborate public buildings, were designed 
to provide continuing power to the leaders of the chiefdoms and states.
Priests were usually drawn from the upper classes, were well educated, and 
served as custodians not only for formal theology and ritual but also 
as scholars, engineers, and scientists.  Up until the time of the 
Spanish conquest, priests were in possession of the most advanced 
and esoteric forms of knowledge associated with the ancient traditions 
of civilization developed in Nuclear America.  As a class they were 
routinely slaughtered by the Spanish.

Over 2,000 separate languages were spoken by native-American peoples 
at the time of European contact.  Approximately 1,400 of these existed 
in South America, and roughly 200 were spoken in the territory constituting 
present-day California.  All American languages possessed complete 
sound-signaling systems (phonemes), thousands of meaning units (morphemes), 
and ordering systems for utterances (syntax).  Only in pre-Columbian 
Mexico did hieroglyphic writing develop;  nowhere in the Americas 
had phonetic-phonemic writing been invented before European contact.

Few people who are not native Americans have ever mastered Indian 
languages, in part because of their difficult sounds and unfamiliar 
grammar systems.  No feature of native-American languages, however, 
is without parallel in languages elsewhere. Except for the Eskimo-Aleut 
language, which belongs to Chukotan, a northeast-Siberian language 
family, no definite ties have been established between American languages 
and Old World languages.  Efforts continue to group the numerous American 
languages into families of related languages.  In 1891, John Wesley 
POWELL proposed 57 language families for North America.  D.  G.  Brinton, 
at about the same time, estimated 60 families for South America.  Linguists 
have reduced the number of apparently unrelated language families 
in North America to about a dozen and as few as four for South America.

Today 500 or so of America's native languages are spoken.  In Paraguay, 
95 percent of the people speak Guarani, where it is the colegal language; 
native-American languages are also spoken widely in Peru (QUECHUA) 
and Greenland (INUIT).  The NAVAJO represent the largest group north 
of Mexico to speak a native-American language.  NAVAJO, along with 
200 or more other native-American languages, now may be phonemically 
written. Many national governments are impatient with speakers of 
Indian languages, however, and civil administrators, teachers, and 
missionaries have often contributed to making European languages dominant 
among native-American peoples.  It is highly probable that before 
long the number of Indian languages still being spoken will diminish 
to a handful.

The original Americans came from northeast Asia tens of thousands 
of years ago.  Southeast Asians may have reached the northwestern 
shore of South America (Valdivia, Ecuador) about 3600 BC;  Vikings 
established a limited number of settlements on Newfoundland about 
AD 1000.  Experts agree, however, that native-American culture developed 
indigenously, and efforts to trace its origin to these or other outside 
sources have been proved unsuccessful.

The earliest Americans encountered a bounty of plant and animal foods. 
Hundreds of animal species, many large and numerous, were hunted vigorously.  The 
remains of these animals, occasionally associated with stone tools 
-- as at Folsom, N.Mex. -- provide the best evidence of paleo-Indian 
culture in the Americas.  About 10,000 years ago more than 50 large 
game species began to become extinct.  Their disappearance is attributed 
by some archaeologists to human hunting and by others primarily to 
climatic change.  As available game diminished, humans came to rely 
more on local resources, particularly plant foods, for their subsistence. 
New food- processing tools -- the mano and metate, mortar and pestle, 
and others -- made new foods available, and gradually a pattern of 
regional adaptations developed that would characterize portions of 
native America until the arrival of European and American settlers.  North 
America has been divided into the following major culture areas:  the 
Arctic, Subarctic, Northwest Coast and Interior Plateau, Great Basin, 
Great Plains, Eastern Woodlands, and Southwest.  The major culture 
areas of Latin America are Mesoamerica, the Caribbean and North Andes, 
the Central and South Andes, the Tropical Forest, and the Marginal 
Areas of South America.

   Arctic and Subarctic 
   Hunters and Fishers
The Arctic culture area comprises the longest continuous stretch of 
terrain occupied by any common culture and language group on Earth:  it 
extends from southern Alaska into northeast Siberia and around the 
northern rim of North America to eastern Greenland.  Two primary native-
American groups are found in this region:  the INUIT (Eskimo) and the ALEUTS 
of the Aleutian Islands.  For a discussion of the traditional way 
of life of the Arctic culture area.

The Subarctic culture area includes all of Canada, except the Northwest 
Coast and the Arctic margin, and south to where cultivable lands and 
the Great Plains begin.  This cold, wet region of forests and tundra 
provided a harsh climate for human survival.  Heavy rains in the summer, 
deep snows in the winter, as well as endless chains of rivers, lakes, 
swamps, and muskeg (waterlogged land), traditionally prohibited travel 
except by canoe or toboggan or with snowshoes.  The hundreds of independent 
local groups can be divided into two major linguistic blocks:  the 
Athabascan speakers of western Canada and interior Alaska (CARRIER, 
YELLOW-KNIFE, and others) and the Algonquian speakers of eastern Canada 

Vast migrating herds of caribou were hunted by most Subarctic peoples 
and along with other game (moose, bear, and deer) and fish provided 
a largely protein diet.  Residence was in small groups, usually in 
hide or bark-covered tepees or wigwams that could be easily moved.  Family 
heads were usually the leaders; although great suspicion of one's 
neighbors was common, interband conflict was slight.

Religion was essentially informal, with few widely held beliefs except 
those concerned with guardian spirits or witchcraft. Many people, 
particularly among the Algonquian speakers, believed that the forests 
harbored "Windigos", 9-m-tall (30-ft) monsters who could turn humans 
into cannibals.  Menstrual taboos were as strong among the northern 
Athabascans as among any known culture.

The eastern Subarctic, especially the Great Lakes region, was disrupted 
by the fur trade in the 16th and 17th centuries.  The possession of 
guns gave great power to the CREE, OJIBWA, and others, some of whom 
moved to the Great Plains to hunt bison. In the eastern and central 
Subarctic little of the ancient way of life remained after about 1700.
In western Canada and interior Alaska many bands were left relatively 
undisturbed until well into the 19th century, but disease, alcohol, 
trading posts, missions, and other manifestations of Western influence 
have since brought cultural dissolution.

   Eastern Woodlands Cultivators
Many Indian cultures flourished in the great forests of the Eastern 
Woodlands culture area, which stretched from the Mississippi River 
to the Atlantic Ocean and from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Coniferous in its northern and southern portions, this abundantly watered,
often humid region was covered in its mid-portion by 50 or more different 
species of deciduous hardwood.

The peoples of this area were descended from an ancient cultural tradition 
that culminated in the construction of more than 100,000 earthwork 
mounds and walled towns of up to 30,000 inhabitants (see MOUND BUILDERS).
These mound-building cultures possessed priest-temple-idol complexes and 
a highly stratified set of classes and castes, all of which were in 
part derived from the high cultures of "Mesoamerica".  The northeastern 
subsection of the woodlands did not experience the full impact of 
cultural elements from this southern influence, but the southeastern 
portion of the woodlands is considered by some scholars to be a northern 
hinterland, or Chichimeca, of Mesoamerican culture.

The Northeast subsection was peopled by numerous societies that can 
be classified into two principal divisions:  Iroquoian speakers, including 
and NEUTRAL;  and Algonquian speakers, including the DELAWARE, FOX, 

Cold weather and a short growing season in the Northeast and around 
the Great Lakes tended to limit horticulture and force heavy dependence 
on wild foods.  Where available, fish, game, maple syrup, and wild 
rice were all important food sources. Among cultivators men generally 
cleared the fields, and women did most of the farming.

The Iroquoian-speaking peoples were organized into matrilineal villages, 
each governed by a council;  women played a prominent role in village 
leadership.  The IROQUOIS were intensely committed to raids, warfare, 
and the taking of captives, with torture and cannibalism inflicted 
upon the noblest male captives.  Sometime during the 16th century 
the five tribes CAYUGA, MOHAWK, ONONDAGA, ONEIDA, and the SENECA, 
later joined by the TUSCARORA united into the powerful IROQUOIS LEAGUE, 
a military and political presence that held the balance of power in 
North America until the end of the 18th century.

Along the eastern seaboard, extending north and west to the Great 
Lakes, were the Algonquian-speaking peoples.  They lived in small, 
semisedentary villages, except for the PAMLICO, POWHATAN, and others 
along the south Atlantic coast, who were strongly influenced by their 
southeastern neighbors. Horticultural activities were less developed 
along the coast, where foraging was usually excellent.  Group leadership 
was generally weak, territory ill defined, and political organization 
similar to that of tribelets elsewhere. Algonquian groups were among 
the first native North Americans to suffer destruction at the hands 
of Europeans;  the cultures of many effectively ended before the 18th 
century began.

In the Southeast prominent groups included the ALABAMA, CADDO, CHEROKEE, 
TIMUCUA, and TUNICA.  Many of these peoples achieved the most advanced 
cultural development north of Mesoamerica, by which their cultures 
were strongly influenced. Productive horticulture engaged in by both 
men and women and supplemented by abundant products of the forests 
provided the basis for large-scale settlements and political forms 
characteristic of chiefdoms.  Villages with hundreds of inhabitants 
were palisaded against attack;  inside they contained mounds on which 
were temples with perpetually burning fires, as well as residences 
of the highly ranked. Chiefs and kings possessed absolute political 
power over their noble or commoner subjects and in some cases commanded 
a dozen or more villages. Raids and wars took place primarily to obtain 
wealth and honor but also to secure captives for slavery, sacrifice, 
and group cannibalism.

Disease and the effects of war destroyed many of these peoples before 
any but the most superficial accounts were written by European explorers 
and settlers.  Nearly all groups to survive the period of exploration 
and colonization were forced by the U.S.  government to move west 
to INDIAN TERRITORY (present-day Oklahoma) during the early 19th century.

   Great Basin Desert Foragers
Southwest of the Interior Plateau was a vast, dry, upland expanse 
of mountains and basins with interior drainage and sharp extremes 
of temperature occurring in winter and summer. Major groups included 
others. Nearly all spoke "Numic" (Shoshonean) languages.

Small foraging bands, sometimes a single family in size, spread over 
the inhospitable land with population densities as low as 1 person 
per 130 sq km (50 sq mi).  Summer foods included seeds, roots, berries, 
cactus fruits, and pine nuts;  ants, locusts, snakes, lizards, and 
rodents (particularly mice and rabbits);  along with occasional pronghorns 
and deer.  Coyotes were not eaten because they were believed to be 
endowed with supernatural power.  In winter, foods were minimally 
available; stored summer foods were relied upon, and the threat of 
starvation was ever present.

Brief periods of plenty and the barren winter months were times when 
people traditionally grouped together in larger bands, usually composed 
of bilaterally related people.  Leadership was informal and in the 
hands of respected elders, usually males. Interband conflict, although 
rare, occasionally occurred as the result of witchcraft accusations 
or rivalry over females. Little existed in the way of formal religion.
Powerful spirits could be known through dreams or visions;  such
associations were believed to bring with them the power not only to
cure but also to hunt pronghorns or to gamble.

After obtaining horses in about 1680, the UTE helped to spread them 
north to the COMANCHE and to other Great Basin peoples. Thereafter, 
many Basin societies took to the Great Plains in pursuit of the bison 
herds.  In 1805, "Lewis and Clark" became the first white explorers 
to cross the Great Basin;  later pioneers, who used to call the Basin 
Indians "diggers" because they dug for roots, freely dispossessed 
these impoverished peoples of their lives and land.  Basin culture, 
based upon the narrowest margins of survival, quickly succumbed.

   Plains-Prairie Bison Hunters
From the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River, from southern Canada 
to the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Plains formed the vast, undulating, 
sod-covered home of one of the world's great animal populations--the 
60 million or more bison (American, buffalo) that migrated seasonally 
in huge herds. Three dozen or more tribes made use of the Great Plains 
in the early historic period (c.1700-1850), including the ARAPAHO, 

The Great Plains had been occupied for thousands of years by pedestrian 
nomads who foraged a living in its river bottoms and developed various 
methods of exploiting its bison herds.  More than a thousand years 
ago peoples of the Eastern Woodlands cultural tradition established 
farming villages along the western tributaries of the Mississippi 
River.  After 1600, when horses were introduced by European settlers, 
and by 1700, when horses became available throughout the Great Plains, 
the area became a melting pot of former sedentary peoples intruded 
upon and sometimes displaced by mounted hunter-warriors from neighboring 

Former foragers and farmers spent the summers based in encampments 
of dozens of portable tepees arranged in large circles for the purpose 
of bison hunting on an intensive scale. Here public ceremonials, particularly 
the SUN DANCE ritual, served to unite groups in common purpose. Individual 
power, first sought through the vision quest accompanied by self-mutilation 
and severe privation, was furthered by participation in raids and 
the counting of war honors (coups) against enemies.  Warrior societies 
grew to be the primary war-making bodies;  occasionally, they also 
served to police some of the large encampments.  Individuals joined 
the societies as young men and then proved themselves by "Counting 
Coups" (scalping, stealing horses, killing, or touching a dead enemy) 
against enemies or by performing an act of conspicuous bravery.  Success 
in raids (usually carried out by fewer than a dozen men), possession 
of many horses, and power obtained through visions or in the Sun dance 
served to bestow high rank on the Plains Indian and his family.

Plains culture was in full flower in the 18th and early 19th centuries. 
With the introduction of guns and the westward movement of trappers 
and pioneers, the fate of the bison and Plains culture was, however, 
soon sealed.  By 1880 bison no longer existed in sufficient numbers 
to permit the summer hunts, tribes were being shunted to reservations, 
and the Great Plains culture was essentially destroyed.  The often-fierce 
and bloody conflicts between Plains Indians and whites culminated 
in 1890, when a group of SIOUX followers of the revivalistic "Ghost 
Dance" movement encountered cavalry units at "Wounded Knee", South 
Dakota, where nearly 300 native Americans, mainly women and children, 
were massacred by the 7th Cavalry, Gen.  George Armstrong Custer's 
former unit.

Although the resistance of the Plains peoples was eventually broken, 
many of the most powerful tribes escaped being driven outside their 
own territories.  Although on the reservations they had little or 
no opportunity to maintain their traditional way of life, certain 
aspects of Plains culture have nevertheless been preserved although 
in adjusted form. Indian activism in the 1970s was especially strong 
among the former Plains dwellers.  "Wounded Knee" again became a symbol 
of native-American protest when in 1973 it was occupied by the militant 
"AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT" (AIM). (See Chapter American Indian Movement, 
AIM for Continuation.)

   Southwest Cultivators and Foragers
The Southwest culture area is a hot, arid region of mountains and 
intervening basins within which oases are often located. It comprises 
present-day Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of adjoining states 
and northwest Mexico.  The Southwest was the homeland both of foraging 
peoples--including the APACHE, Havasupai, Seri, Walapai, and Yavapai--and 
of horticultural peoples--such as the MOJAVE, NAVAJO, PAPAGO, PIMA, 
PUEBLO peoples (including the HOPI and ZUNI), YAQUI, YUMA, COCOPA, 
and OPATA.  In spite of its arid conditions the region provided substantial 
quantities of wild food, both plant and animal, for the foragers of 
the Southwest, who occupied either matrilineally or patrilineally 
organized settlements within a given range of territory.  Raids against 
settled farmers in adjacent areas were common.

Maize cultivation first appeared north of Mexico in the Southwest, 
probably by about 200-100 BC.  Introduced by the HOHOKAM, an ancient 
culture centered in southern Arizona, agriculture was also practiced 
by the ANASAZI, ancestors of the present-day Pueblo peoples, from 
AD 400 to 1300.  When Spaniards visited the Southwest in 1540 the 
irrigation works, ball courts, and settlements of the Hohokam had 
fallen into disuse.  The PIMA and PAPAGO, believed to be their descendants, 
lived in small, semiindependent patrilineage villages and were frequently 
at war with Apache bands.

The PUEBLO people inhabited perhaps 90 independent villages in 1540, 
which ranged along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico and northeast 
Arizona. As village-dwelling cultivators they constructed multistory 
apartment houses focused around subterranean religious rooms ("kivas").
Political power was vested in religious organizations, and each member
of PUEBLO society took part in the intense ceremonial cycle that filled each 
year. Warrior societies existed in each village, but they were primarily 
oriented toward defensive actions.

The APACHE-NAVAJO, speakers of Athabascan languages closely related 
to those of northwest Canada, appear to have arrived in the Southwest 
less than 1,000 years ago. There they acquired semisedentary residence 
patterns, horticulture, and many cultural items borrowed from the 
region's more ancient inhabitants, probably the PUEBLO.

From 1589 on, Spanish priests and settlers sought to control the Southwest;
in 1680 the PUEBLO people under POPE drove them out only to see them 
return in greater force.  The Apacheans and others successfully fought 
off Spanish domination but later succumbed to the U.S.  Army after 
the annexation of the Southwest in the 1840s.  GERONIMO, the last 
Apache headman to resist, surrendered in 1886.  Today the NAVAJO, 
the largest surviving body of Apacheans, constitute the largest native-
American group in the United States.  They and their PUEBLO neighbors, the 
HOPI, are generally considered to possess the best-preserved traditional 
cultures in North America.

   California Foragers
The California culture area covers approximately the extent of the 
present state minus the southeast section along the Colorado River.  Among 
its aboriginal population, estimated at more than 200,000 people, 
more than 200 independent dialects existed.  Prominent groups included 
WINTUN, YOKUTS, YUKI, and the so-called "Mission Indians":  CAHUILLA, 

All Californians were primarily foragers who relied heavily upon acorns, 
grass seeds, cattails, and other plant foods. Shellfish and fish were 
important along the coast, as were deer, wapiti, bears, rabbits, and 
other animals in the interior.  The single village (tribelet) of 100 
or more people, bounded by its own dialect, was often the largest 
unit of political integration.  Exogamous moieties were common, thus 
permitting village endogamy.  In the south localized patrilineages 
were the common residence type.

Headmanship, inherited in some groups, served to organize social and 
ceremonial life but carried little political power. Organized conflict 
between villages was rare.  Curing ceremonies were frequently held;  drug 
cults and male puberty ceremonies were especially important.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first explored California in 1542, followed 
by hundreds of boats whose impact on the native inhabitants remains 
unclear. The first California mission was established in 1769;  within 
about 100 years most Mission Indians were gone.  When hordes of Americans 
arrived in California during the Gold Rush of 1849, many Indians were 
ruthlessly overrun and often wantonly massacred.  By 1900 fewer than 
15,000 survived, and native-American cultural traditions were largely 

   Northwest-Coast Fishermen
The Pacific rim of northwestern North America and the plateau drained 
by the Columbia and Fraser rivers formed a uniquely hospitable niche 
for its native-American inhabitants because of salmon-spawning streams 
throughout, draining into the north Pacific.  From north to south 
important groups were the TLINGIT, HAIDA, TSIMSHIAN, KWAKIUTL, NOOTKA, 
SALISH, HUPA, YUROK, and KAROK.  Most languages spoken in the Northwest 
Coast culture area are of Athabascan, Penutian, or Mosan linguistic 

Several species of salmon endowed the region with an abundant annual 
harvest.  Candlefish, herring, halibut, and other fish; sea lions 
and whales;  and mussels, clams, and oysters were available from the 
sea.  The land, too, was generous:  caribou, moose, mountain sheep 
and goats, deer, and a wealth of small animals combined with numerous 
roots and berries to provide a rich and varied diet.

Villages traditionally consisted of 100 or more related people, usually 
politically independent of all other such groups. Great variation 
in kinship patterns existed, but one feature was common to all:  each 
village ranked its members according to their closeness to the headperson 
or chief.  Only war captives and debt victims, who formed an outcast 
or slave category, were excluded from this strictly hierarchical ranking 

Great emphasis was placed on individual and group wealth, measured 
by the enumeration of possessions such as cedar-bark blankets, dentalium 
shells, dried fish and fish oil, dugout canoes, coppers (native copper 
hammered into a shield, named, and ascribed a set value), ownership 
of resources, and slaves. Wealth was exchanged on a number of occasions 
in reciprocal "Potlatch", or gift-giving sessions between parents 
and children, between relatives, and even between competitors or enemies.
In the latter case, a potlatch recipient had to return within a stipulated 
time goods equivalent to those given but with high interest;  if unable 
to do so, the recipient and all relatives whose goods were involved 
could be economically and socially ruined.  Intertribal conflict, 
characteristic of the 19th century, was probably less frequent earlier.
Disputes over territory, valued resources, or succession to high rank might 
involve bloody conflict but could also be resolved by paying indemnities.

Religious practices, based mainly on faith in mythical ancestors, 
often took on dramatic flair in public dramas involving spirit quests 
and encounters.  Highly stylized representations of these ancestors 
were everywhere, not only on "Totem" poles but also on house facades, 
boat prows, masks, bones, and blankets.

The Northwest Coast area, first visited (1741) by Vitus Bering, was 
later frequented by at least 100 foreign ships between 1774 and 1794.
Disease, guns, conflict, and alcohol took a rapid toll.  During these same 
years the decorative art for which the region is world renowned reached 
its greatest elaboration.  By the end of the 19th century the traditional 
economy and culture was increasingly undermined, but the people remained 
on or near their ancient lands.  Many, now working in forestry, have 
attempted to restore portions of their ancient life;  there is also 
a strong resurgence in arts-and-crafts production.
Interior-Plateau Foragers

   Northwest-Rocky Mountains
The Interior-Plateau culture area, located east of the Northwest Coast 
to the Rocky Mountains, was a high, relatively well watered, wooded 
region peopled by numerous small groups of peaceful, foraging village 
dwellers. Some of the best-known Interior-Plateau tribes are the FLATHEAD, 
LILLOOET, THOMPSON, and UMATILLA.  They subsisted on an abundance 
of game, fruits, and salmon harvested from the upper reaches of the 
Columbia and Fraser rivers and culturally resembled their Northwest 
Coast, Great Basin, and California neighbors.  The languages of most 
groups were of Mosan or Penutian linguistic stock.

After horses reached the Umatilla in about 1740 and then spread northward, 
many plateau peoples began to participate in the great bison hunts.  Fur 
trappers arrived during the early 19th century, followed by missionaries 
and tens of thousands of pioneers.  Disease and bloody conflict led 
to loss of life, culture, and land;  by 1860 little remained of the 
traditional Plateau way of life.

In Latin America many Indian populations succumbed completely when 
faced with European domination.  Others were enslaved on plantations, 
where they intermingled with African slaves and survived mixed in 
race and culture. Other Indian peoples, however, particularly throughout 
the densely inhabited centers of Nuclear America, gradually entered 
into the economic, religious, and social life of their conquerors 
and became the lowest class or caste of the colonial society.  Some 
ancient Indian communities in Mexico, Guatemala, and the Andean countries 
resisted domination and have managed to survive into the 20th century 
in ethnic enclaves that constitute what has been called a corporate 

The first Spaniards came to the New World on a quest for gold and 
adventure.  Often they intermarried with the indigenous peoples, producing 
in Latin America a large, mixed class called MESTIZOS.  In Canada 
the first French explorers were mostly trappers and traders;  they, 
too, often intermarried with the Indians, and they maintained generally 
friendly relations based on cooperation and trade partnership with 
the Indians.

In contrast with these other European groups, the earliest Anglo- 
Americans generally came to North America with their families in order 
to set up colonies;  most of them were seeking, above all, to settle 
the land. Because virtually all of North America was already in use 
by the indigenous inhabitants, conflict was inevitable.  The Dutch 
and British began early a policy of buying land, a practice never 
understood by the native-American sellers, who generally believed 
that they were granting the newcomers rights to use rather than to 
own the lands occupied by the Indians.

After the American colonists won their independence from Great Britain, 
the U.S.  government continued the British practice of treating the 
tribes as sovereign nations;  between 1778 and 1871, when the policy 
was ended, a total of 389 treaties had been signed and ratified (see 
INDIAN TREATIES). Nonetheless, many of these treaties were relentlessly 
broken in the 19th century as large numbers of white settlers moved 
into Indian lands.  In addition, beginning about 1815, federal policy 
supported the forced removal of Indians from their traditional territories 
to isolated reserved areas that were administered as trusts by the 
U.S.  government.  Between 1830 and 1840 more than 70,000 highly
acculturated southeastern peoples (including the Cherokee, Choctaw,
Creek, and other members of the FIVE CIVILIZED TRIBES were removed
to the newly established Indian Territory in Oklahoma, land already
in use by other native-American peoples.

Many Indians fought bitterly against their forced resettlement on 
reservations (see INDIAN WARS).  By the mid-1800s, as white settlers 
pushed westward to the Pacific Ocean, tragedy after tragedy was visited 
upon Indians of the Great Plains and the Far West.  The doctrine of 
Manifest Destiny fueled the frontier people into hostile actions against 
even peaceful peoples, and massive slaughter of men, women, and children 
sometimes resulted.  The spread of disease also contributed to the 
defeat of the Indians and the suppression of their traditional way 
of life.  Only in the American Southwest did ancient cultures such 
as the HOPI, ZUNI, and NAVAJO manage to insulate themselves against 
the white man's unrelenting hunger for land, which destroyed many 
native-American cultures throughout the continent.

In 20th-century America no single definition of precisely who is an 
Indian exists.  To be eligible for federal Indian aid in the United 
States, a person must live on or near a federal reservation or be 
of Eskimo or Aleut descent.  Persons who are listed on the rosters 
of state reservations or who can prove one- fourth or more Indian 
ancestry are generally accepted as Indians by the U.S.  government.  In 
the eastern United States some groups with mixed ancestry (such as 
the LUMBEE of North Carolina) have claimed Indian status but have 
not always been granted it by the federal government.

In Canada native peoples legally defined as Indians are known as "status" 
Indians (those who belong to a band with a treaty with the government 
or those registered Indians outside treaty areas);  all are granted 
equal benefits and privileges from the federal government.  "Nonstatus" 
Indians are those who have lost their legal status.  People in these 
categories may or may not be of unmixed Indian ancestry.  The 1982 
Constitution Act defines the aboriginal population as Indian, Inuit, 
and Metis (mixed), but because of past historical and legal differences, 
they do not share equal rights.  Generally, no continuing Metis rights 
are recognized under federal law.

In Latin America cultural style rather than physical type or even 
ancestry is generally the criterion that determines whether one is 
deemed an Indian.  Individuals or groups who speak Indian languages, 
wear Indian clothes, and participate in Indian cultural activities 
are identified as Indians.  Many members of the Spanish-speaking mestizo 
class are genetically little different from persons classified as 

   Now In the United States
In 1990, 1,959,234 Indians, including Eskimos and Aleuts, lived in 
the United States.  The native-American population is growing at a 
rate of 3.8% per year.  Most native Americans live west of the Mississippi 
River, especially in the states of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, 
South Dakota, and California. In 1989 an estimated 949,075 people 
lived on or near the 287 federally recognized reservations.  In 1990 
the total land held in trust by the federal government and administered 
by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency of the Interior Department 
(see INDIAN AFFAIRS, BUREAU OF) was about 22 million ha (54.4 million 
acres).  In 1989 the total federal budget for Indian programs was 
$3.3 billion.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries the governmental policies 
toward Indians were disastrous from the point of view of the Indian.  In 
1887 the Dawes Act, also called the General Allotment Act, authorized 
the breaking up of tribal lands into small property units of 16-65 
ha (40-160 acres), to be given to individual Indians.  This action, 
supposedly aimed at encouraging the Indians to become farmers, led 
instead to the widespread sale of tribal lands to whites.  By 1934, 
when the Wheeler-Howard INDIAN REORGANIZATION ACT overturned the General 
Allotment Act, the land owned by Indians had dropped from about 63 
million ha (155 million acres) in 1887 to about 19 million ha (47 
million acres).  The new legislation restored tribal ownership of 
reservation lands.  It also provided reservation Indians with self-government 
on a limited scale and partnership with the BIA in the development 
of land and resource management and other programs. In 1946 the Indian 
Claims Commission was established to settle claims of Indian groups 
that could prove loss of lands due to past governmental malfeasance.  The 
commission and its successor agencies have received numerous claims 
and have so far awarded about $1.5 billion.

In another federal policy shift during the 1950s, Congress called 
for the termination of special federal programs and trust relationships 
with Indians.  It was hoped that this policy would hasten the assimilation 
of Indians into the larger white society.  For the Menominee of Wisconsin, 
the Klamath of Oregon, and a number of other tribes whose trust status 
was ended, termination took place too quickly and without the necessary 
preparation for independence, and economic disaster followed.  The 
government abandoned the termination policy by the mid-1960s, following 
its widespread opposition by both Indians and non-Indians.

Beginning in the 1970s, partially stimulated by militant Indians of 
the American Indian Movement and the writings of VINE DELORIA and 
others, many native-American groups became more forceful in searching 
for their rights. Although a federal act of 1790 -- the "Indian Trade 
and Intercourse Act" -- had prohibited sale of Indian lands without 
prior federal approval, vast sections of the eastern United States 
passed from Indian control after that time.  

In recent years many native peoples have sought substantial recompense 
for these losses.  In the late 1970s the Narragansett, the Dakota, 
the Oneida, and other Indian peoples received favorable claims decisions. 
In the Pacific Northwest native- American fishermen have been upheld 
by the Supreme Court in their claim to half of the fish in Puget Sound. 

In the Southwest the Apache, Paiute, Pima, and others have pressed 
their legal claims to the increasingly valuable water rights in the 
region.  Various western Indian groups, who control perhaps one-third 
of the total U.S.  coal reserves, have worked to ensure equitable 
treatment when the coal is mined.  Other struggles have involved efforts 
to have relics and remains of Indian ancestors removed from museums 
and returned to the tribes for burial.  In late 1990 legislation to 
protect Indian grave sites and provide for the return of remains was 
passed.  In 1991 a federal-court ruling established the right (with 
certain restrictions) of the Chippewa Indians to hunt, fish, and gather 
plants from reservations in Wisconsin.

Many Indian tribes are seeking greater self-determination to combat 
social ills.  On reservations about 50% of the population do not graduate 
from high school;  unemployment runs at 40% or higher;  birth and 
death rates are high;  and suicides occur at twice the national rate.  For 
a number of years beginning in the 1950s, the BIA supported a relocation 
program for native people choosing to move to cities.  By 1960 more 
than 33,000 were relocated, and altogether about 166,000 Indians were 
living in cities. Most relocated Indians, however, lacked skills useful 
in urban areas, and many escaped reservation poverty only to find 
urban poverty and often returned to the reservation.  Alcoholism and 
crime rates were and remain high among Indian communities in cities 
and on reservations.  More recently the BIA has been involved in vocational 
and job-training programs in an effort to combat poverty.

Despite the present bleak picture, Indians themselves have assumed 
greater control of their own destiny.  The BIA (87% of whose staff 
are now Indian) has been called an Indian bureaucracy and often has 
come under criticism, but it remains the sole protector of Indian 
interests in the federal government.  Some members of Congress, however, 
have called for the abolishment of the BIA to be replaced by a "new 
federalism" for U.S. Indians.

   American Indian Movement
The American Indian Movement (AIM) is an activist Indian group concerned 
with the civil rights of American Indians. It was formed in 1968 in 
Minneapolis, Minn. The names of the actual founders of the organization 
remain unknown, but Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Miller 
(Ojibwa Indians) were prominent in its formation. The group was initially 
organized to deal with discriminatory practices of the police in the 
arrest of Indians in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The appeal of the social 
movement quickly spread to other urban areas in the United States 
and Canada, where chapters of AIM were formed. In November 1972, AIM 
was instrumental in the week-long occupation by Indians of the Bureau 
of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. Early in 1973 the group's 
10-week takeover of WOUNDED KNEE, an Oglala Sioux hamlet on the 
Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, attracted worldwide attention. 
Although largely an urban phenomenon that arose in response to racist 
attitudes in urban ghettos, AIM has also become involved in tribal 
affairs on Indian reservations, where some chapters now operate. Many 
tribal peoples disclaim affiliation with the movement, which has been 
accused of provoking confrontation and of usurping funds from church 
groups in its demands for reparations. AIM has established "survival 
schools" in urban areas. It has also sponsored international treaty 
conferences on several Lakota Sioux reservations, resulting in the 
1977 International Treaty Conference with the United Nations in Geneva, 
Switzerland. In addition to being a social activist movement, the 
group claims to be oriented toward native religion. Members are not 
considered bona fide until they have participated in the SUN DANCE 
ritual on the Pine Ridge reservation, and AIM is often cited as a 
spiritual movement. AIM reported a membership of about 5,000 in the 
late 1980s.

   National Congress of American Indians
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is a national, intertribal 
organization dedicated to the protection, conservation, and development 
of Indian land, mineral, timber, and human resources.  It serves the 
legislative interests of Indian tribes, cooperates with the Bureau 
of Indian Affairs, and seeks to improve health, economic, and educational 
conditions for Indians.  Founded (1944) in Denver, Colo., as a corporate 
body representing more than 50 tribes, it allows individual membership 
for those with tribal heritage and nonvoting membership for non- Indian 
associates.  At the end of the 1980s 155 tribes (representing 600,000 
Indians) and 2,000 individuals were members.  It administers the NCAI 
Fund for educational and charitable purposes, conducts research on 
Indian problems as a service to Indian tribes, and has established 
a legal-aid program.  At present the largest Indian organization in 
the United States, the NCAI has been challenged by the formation of 
more-militant Indian organizations, such as the AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT, 
the National Indian Youth Council, and regional associations of tribal 
groups that speak for Indian interests.

End of File!

Reference & Source Notes!
   File: NA_VOL01.TXT
   Revised: Jan. 15, 1995
   By: Paul R. Sarrett, Jr. 

NAI - Index
SFA - Index

Would like to Exchange and Share information on SARRATT / SARRETT / SURRATT Families, contact me at:
E-Mail: Paul R. Sarrett, Jr. Auburn, CA.

Text - Copyright © 1996-2001 Paul R. Sarrett, Jr.
Created: Dec. 01, 1996; Aug. 10, 2001