Research Papers on the Culture of Native Americans
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Paper Masters suggests a topic on the culture of Native Americans would be to write a research paper on the "Art of Storytelling Among Native American Tribes" as part of their culture. When writing this, your research paper should focus on storytelling and the different types of passing on information used in the Native American Tribes, past and present. How the tribes used animals and all living things in the telling of their stories. It will discuss how they tell stories: oral, cave painting, totem poles, etc. It will examine the importance of this art form to the culture of Native Americans. The research paper will focus on different tribes among the different culture areas of North America, ie Southeast, Plains, Northeast, Southwest, Great Basin, Plateau, Sub Arctic, Arctic, North West Coast and California. The paper will center on the tribes that are well known for their storytelling.
Cultural Traditions of Native Americans
The arts, both drama and picture creation, are so important in today’s society, as it was in our heritage. Understanding past societies and how it evolved into our own is a very worthwhile pursuit. And to actually be able to explore the history of a culture and see how it taught its young and shared its history with all generations that follow.
When discussing the ethnic population of Native Americans, there are several things that need to be kept in mind.
- First of all, Native American culture is not a monolithic idea. There are many different religious views, cultural aspects, and even languages that make up the more than 500 different recognized tribes in the United States. This can complicate things because even tribes that are in proximity to each other can hold very different ideas.
- Even the definition of Native American changes depending on the industry or organization that is using the name.
- For instance, the United States Census Bureau’s definition of Native American is anyone who calls themselves a Native American while the Department of Defense believes that someone “who has origins back to the original peoples and maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community reorganization”, is a Native American.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs has an even stricter definition. Their definition states that in order to be considered Native American, a person must be one quarter Native American, live on or close to Indian lands (reservations and other trusts), be listed on a tribal role, and be able to trace the ancestry back three generations.
- Each tribe has their own definitions of who is considered Native and who is not.
With all the confusion, it would be difficult to differentiate a Native American from the rest of society. In reality, many if not most tribes tend to share the same types of values. For example there are similarities in their social structures. Most families in Native American cultures consist of both a nuclear and extended family. In the family structure, the extended family has a greater significance than in other subcultures of the United States. There are a number of reasons for this including economic but also cultural differences that have been passed down through the generations. These cultural differences held that each person in the community played a different role at a different time in their lives in order for the tribe to be able to function. For example, women were responsible for growing crops, setting up dwellings, and having children, men were responsible for hunting and protecting the tribe. Similarly, everyone helped to raise the children of the tribe. The elders usually were the people who had the most knowledge and educated the younger generations. There are a greater number of single female run households as well than in the rest of society.
Things have changed since the old times, but the extended family is still seen as making a huge contribution in the lives of tribal people. The community also makes up a huge part of Native American culture. These communities and tribes make the foundation which lets a Native American maintain a different cultural identity than other Americans. It is the communities and the tribes that bring in money for their people. It is also up to the tribes to maintain languages, and teach cultural values to their youths so that the tribe will not be completely assimilated and therefore, lose their culture and heritage.
Religion plays roles in the tribes and the lives of its members as well. Many of the Native Americans belief systems have merged with those of the surrounding communities. Keeping the religion sacred, was once an issue because of missionaries and other Euro American influences that tried to wipe out the cultural identities of these people. The cultural identity was directly linked to the religious identity of the people. Today, most Native Americans have a religious belief that is a mixture of Native American religions focusing on the earth and nature and the Christian philosophy that focuses on Jesus, God, and being saved.
Research on the Struggles of Culture in Native American Societies
Native Americans are unique because they see themselves as members of two different and unique nations. The first nation is the tribal nation. There are many different tribes, each with different members. Members of the tribe see their reservations and land holdings as a separate nation than the United States. This is because, when treaties were signed, the wording in most of the treaties, led to the land and people of the tribe to be sovereign. Sovereignty is very important to the identity of many of these people. At the same time, the cultural influences of the world around them have an affect on the way the tribe perceives itself.
When WWII was around, many tribal people signed up for service. They believed that they were part of the country that was going to war. Some of the more famous of these tribal people were the Navajo Wind talkers. It is these people that were credited with helping the allies win the war because the Germans could not decode their language. Even now, there are many people who are Native American who have enlisted and are serving the United States all over the world. Native Americans are a patriotic as a majority of the people in the United States. Because of past beliefs and current ideals, many Native American groups are interested in the environment as well. There are organizations set up which are made up of Native Americans that fight against environmental hazards.
There are currently 285.7 million people in the United States. Of that, 2.5 million are Native American with another half million whom categorize themselves as part Native American and part something else. Of these, about 50% of the households are located outside metro areas. The population is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years; some prospects expect a growth of 54.2%. Mirroring that of other demographics, females slightly outnumber males. Also, the largest age groups are the baby-boomers (ages 49-62) and children. Both of these groups will change the buying power of all generations. These two demographics offer future options as they both age. The average adult will have to start looking after not just their child but their aging parents as well. Economically though, Native Americans lag behind the rest of society.
Native Americans have the highest poverty rate for the ethnic groups in nation. Currently it is at 26% while the rest of the nation average was less than half that. Native American households also earn less than 25,000 annually, with the lower middle class making up the largest share of the community. Resources available to the individuals in a tribe vary. Many people in the community do not have access to telephone, (46% compared to 76% for the rest of the country). This is a direct reflection of the education of the Native Americans. Native Americans lag behind others in all areas of education. In middle school, the average drop out rate is 12% compared to 4% for the rest of the country. High school dropout rates are high as well, with as many as 56% drop out. Males are more likely than females to drop out of high school but males are more likely if they stay in school to go onto college. The likelihood of a Native American in college is small. Right now, Native Americans only represent .4% of the minority population in college. Of Native Americans, 7.6% have a Bachelor’s degree, and 4% have an advanced degree.
These add to the issues that many Native Americans face. Three of the major issues are unemployment, education, and loss of cultural identity. These issues are faced by plenty of tribes. The unemployment rates differ depending on the tribe, in the Lakota, the unemployment rate is as high as 85%. This has a number of factors, the lack of education, the rural ness of some of the reservations, the unwillingness to leave to look for jobs, and the social context of things such as alcoholism and teen pregnancy. Each of these things adds another dimension to the reasons why these people have such high unemployment. Education is also an issue that is related to the unemployment issue. Because most tribes are poor, they do not have enough money to hire qualified teachers. At the same time, many of these children do not see a need for an education because of the environment in which they are raised. Another major issue is trying to keep a cultural from dying. Young Native Americans begin to see the life that their parents and grandparents have lived without understanding the forces behind it. Instead, they believe that if they change and therefore give up all the culture and languages of their people that they can fit better into society. American society can be tempting with its games and televisions, McDonald's, and other fast food joints. So what is being done? Tribes are doing a number of things such as opening up casinos for revenue, setting up drug and treatment centers, and creating tribal colleges that teach both college course materials and “also fight the prevalence of poverty, illiteracy, and cultural loss in their communities.” Tribes also seek and receive help from the federal government in forms of grants to help Native Americans go on for further education, so that they can come back and teach their own people. There is rampant alcoholism on many reservations today which needs to be curbed. Cultural revivals are in full swing to teach their young the importance of their heritage and also to teach them to be proud to be Native American.