Much of what we think we understand about Native Americans today is outdated – stereotypes and misrepresentations perpetuated by outdated textbooks and portrayals in film and on television. But by digging a little deeper and trying to learn more about native tribes, we can see their influence and appreciate their contributions to the culture we all share today.
Originally coming from regions near Alaska and Canada, Apache Indians were a nomadic people that constantly traveled around the southern half of the United States. Buffalo was a valuable commodity for the tribe; not just for the meat they provided for food, but for the clothing their strong hides offered as well. The Apache were a very resourceful people. In fact, many historical texts have cited the Apache as one of the first Indian tribes to learn how to ride horses and use them for other beneficial purposes.
The Chickasaw tribe migrated from what we now know as Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee to south-central Oklahoma in the mid-19th century. Like many Native Americans, the tribe has a strong connection with nature and the elements, which is still preserved today. Although this tribe had a softer spot for nature, they were also fearless warriors – known as the “unconquered and unconquerable.” Traditionally, Chickasaw men hunted for food and went to war to protect the tribe and their families, while the women would farm, care for the children and cook. One notable skill of the Chickasaw is their admirable skills in storytelling, traditional medicine and art of countless varieties, which can all be experienced in a visit to the Chickasaw Nation.
Most people have read about the Cherokee Indians, but very few know about the cultures and customs that make this tribe unique. For example, in many of the Cherokee’s surviving oral histories, animals were assigned the roles of deities – like the Great Buzzard that created the earth by flying over the land and flapping its wings to create mountains and air. Another interesting fact is that Cherokee were pioneers of the religious idea of baptism. During the four-day First New Moon of Spring Festival, participants would be ritually purified with water as a spiritual celebration of the harmony of nature.
The Comanche tribe is often left out of historical texts because it didn’t exhibit the same elaborate rituals or ceremonies that attract anthropologists, writers and other scholarly figures. However, the Comanche tribe played an important role in the development of the western United States, even supplying settlers with mules and horses during the California gold rush of 1849.
So little is understood about Native Americans, and yet many tribes have cultural centers that allow visitors to learn about them and their contributions to modern society. While many people take pride in being “American,” it’s not possible to truly understand what that means without knowing about the people who lived here long before the first settler ever set foot in the New World.
Cassandra works for Good Morning Bloggers. Her interest in Native Americans comes from her grandfather, who is part Seminole Indian.