Intro to American Indian Studies


I. What is an Indian?

A.  Indian people certainly thought themselves to have tribal/national and familial identity before European contact.

1.  Divisions are thought to include moieties, sibs, and lineages.

a. Some traced inheritance through their mother's side of the family (matrilineal).

b. Some traced inheritance through their father's side of the family (patrilineal).

i.  lineage - a family group consisting of children, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great-great grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so forth.

ii.  moiety - a marriage group - never marry anyone of your own moiety.

iii. sib - a group made of lineages that function together.

2. Indian people thought of themselves as united on a macro level for sure.

3. Indian people did not think of themselves as a "race" of people separate from others.  This means no ideation of racial separation.

B.  The idea of Indian is a construction of colonialism. 

1. Creating the concept of "Indian" results in feelings of separation between Indians and Others.

a. This is a mechanism of colonialism.

i.  It serves as a justification for feelings of superiority and paternalism.

ii. Then land can be seized and people enslaved.

b. This implies "insider" and "outsider" roles.

i.  Allows nonIndians to lump all Indian peoples into a single group.  Cahuilla and Pomo are not the same. 

2.  Colonialism extends to changing peoples' names for themselves.

a.  All over the globe humans name themselves "The People.

i.  Some groups have kept their own names for themselves:Yokuts, Maidu, Atsugewi, Chemehuevi, Yurok, Hupa.

ii.  Many groups are referred to by names given by outsiders: Cahuilla, Diegueņo, Luiseņo, Cupeņo,

iii.  Others are regaining their own names: Gabrieleno>Tongva, Diegueņo> Kumeyaay, Yuma>Quechan.

C.  Who and what determines Indian identity?

1.  Federal Government distinction given to some people based on enrollment.

a.  Gov't agents went to locations where Indian people lived and "enrolled" them.

i. Listed their names in ledgers and assigned each of those listed a number.

ii.  Not everyone wanted to be enrolled.

iii.  Some who wanted enrollment were denied.

b.  Those who can prove themselves to be descended from those initially enrolled are considered to be enrolled.

i. Some restrictions apply


III.  Divisions of North American Indian Art.  How to get a handle on the subject.

A. The three major temporal divisions of Native North American culture.

1.  An exception to this is in the dry caves of the Great Basin and Southwestern deserts where coprolites, mummies, hides, feathers, clothing, wooden implements, cotton cloth, baskets, mats, sandals remain

2.  A few objects were taken to Europe before 1500 and they remain there in museums and royal collections.

3. Encapsulation with mud can create anaerobic preservation.

a. Precontact - before 1492.  Rock art, shell, silver, copper, bone, pottery, and stone are the materials which have survived until now.

b. Historic - 1493 until 1890.  All of the materials already mentioned remain plus a wide variety of introduced materials including, iron, german silver, brass, tin, silk and wool fabric, cotton broadcloth, glass, paper, graphite pencils, crayons, ink, .

c. Contemporary - post 1890.  Introduced and synthetic materials.

B. The seven major geographic divisions.

1.  Eastern Woodlands and Subarctic.

2.  Great Plains and Plateau.

3.  Arctic.

4.  Southwest.

5.  California.

6.  Great Basin.

7.  Northwest Coast.

C. The six major language divisions.

1.  Inuit - Canada, Alaska, Greenland

2.  Uto-Aztecan - Mexico, Plains, Southwest, California.

3.  Hokan-Sioux - California, Southwest, Plains.

4.  Athabascan - Subarctic, Southwest, California.

5.  Algonquian - Eastern Woodlands, California.

6.  Penutian - California only.

7.  Unique languages - the split was so long ago as to be untracable

Yuki  - California only.

Keresan - Southwest only.

D.  The eight ecological divisions of North Ameica.

1.  Too much cross over to define groups tightly

a. Coastal tidelands collectors.

Northwest Coast, California, Southeast, Northeast

b. Coastal sea hunters and fishers.

Arctic, Southeast, California, Northwest Coast

c.  Riverine and lake dwellers.

All Areas

d.  Semiarid gatherer/hunters

California, Great Basin, Plains

e.  Semiarid hunter/gatherers.


f.  Woodlands hunters/gatherers

Subarctic, Northeast, Southeast, Northwest Coast

g.  Desert gatherers and hunters.

California, Platueau

h.  Agriculturalists.

            Woodlands, Southwest, Plains, California.

E.  Tribal divisions

1.  Impractical on a continental scale.

a.  more than 250 tribes in California alone