Known as native Americans to some, and indigenous Indians to others, Indian Americans are a vast people dispersed throughout America, and are shown to be people of ancient culture, vast heritage and an intricate history, dating from pre-Columbian times to the 19th century, until the present time. In particular, the Indian American narratives, worldviews, and their impact on developing civilisations prior to that of the arriving Europeans left its mark on the emerging nation of the time, and the America as it is known today; this is discussed herein.
Although the worldview of the Indian Americans has continued to develop over time, it mainly holds to the concept of interrelatedness. In particular, their care and concern for the natural world is deeply embedded in their lifestyle and also their various practices and traditions, as handed down from one generation to the next. All things are seen to play a role in the natural realm and affect each other, which includes living as well as non-living organisms, such as humans, animals, water, vegetation, earth, and the sky. The ancient stories and narratives were also passed down between family lines and communities.
Since most Indian Americans hold to this worldview, it is still important to those who hold to it in the present day. The deep-seated respect for the environment carries overtones in which the Indian American people are seen to have a form of ‘oneness’ with the natural world. The relationship between nature and humans is one that cannot be broken, and must be preserved at all costs, according to many of the Indian Americans.
Many Indian Americans chose to leave their settlements and opted for relocation to urban areas. Although somewhat a forcible move by the Europeans of the time, Indian Americans eventually traded a sheltered lifestyle for the opportunities to be found elsewhere, particularly in populated cities. It is not uncommon in Indian American culture to move from house to house, in fact, it is generally expected. Therefore, many of the younger generation were able to move out to the urban areas for want of a better lifestyle, although many returned to their respective settlements due to culture shock.
As aforementioned, the lifestyle of the Indian Americans is deeply rooted in their moral understanding of their worldview. As such, this has also impacted and filtered into their own legal constructs, and rules for living. There are twelve rules by which the Indian Americans live by. Firstly, the rule of wholeness states that everything is interrelated, and should be treated equally. Therefore, everything that exists should be respected. Secondly, the rule of change states that everything is constantly changing. There are two types of change; the coming together of things, and the coming apart of things. Therefore, since everything is constantly changing, change should be embraced and reflected in one’s lifestyle.
Thirdly, the rule of connections states that there is a cycle or pattern of events. Therefore, each person’s standpoint should be taken as part of their perception, and must be changed if change has taken place. Fourthly, the rule of balance states that the physical and spiritual worlds co-exist. Therefore, they are one, yet governed by separate laws, and should be discerned as such. Fifthly, the rule of humanity states that the spiritual presence and the physical presence are not separate, but exist in the one being. Therefore, human life is to be respected. Sixthly, the rule of acquisition states that true learning is acquired through struggle. Therefore, the end result is quality through pain. Seventhly, the rule of learning states that that true learning is experienced through the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional dimensions of life. Therefore, these four dimensions should be understood by one who seeks to improve. Eighthly, the rule of human development states that the capacity to respond to teachings and theories, the capacity to accept teachings and theories as reflections of potential, the capacity to express learning, and the capacity to use such symbolism in reality are all part of the spiritual dimension. Therefore, they are to be treated in the highest regard.
Ninthly, the rule of participation states that one must actively participate in their own development. Therefore, it is imperative that development takes a central focus in one’s life. Tenthly, the rule of decision states that the path to development should be independently decided. Therefore, it is the individual’s responsibility to decide how to develop their own potential. Eleventhly, the rule of self-development states that assistance will be shown those who develop themselves. Therefore, it is shown that the influence of guides, teachers and role models are very important in early life, as seen by parents, relatives and extended family. Lastly, the rule of finality states that the only source of failure is the failure to follow instruction. Therefore, it is important for one to listen to advice and teaching early in life, to avoid disappointment later on.
There were five main tribal groups of the Indian American population, namely the Anasazi tribe, the Cahokia tribe, the Maya tribe, the Aztex tribe and the Mexica tribes. The Anasazi tribe were known for their architectural abilities, especially in regards to community centres, many of which have become national monuments. Though mainly designing houses and living abodes, the Anasazi tribe also constructed roads, highways and massive buildings.
The Cahokia tribe comprised of many other neighbouring tribes who shared the same language, and were skilled in linguistics. Communication was favoured among the population and was the main form of tribal bonds and close settlements among the people.
The Maya tribe were primarily idol worshippers, and held fast to idolatry through decades of civilisation. Known as the Mayans, they held to the rule of connections, although they were unwilling to change their practices until the Europeans settled nearby. It was then that Christianity was introduced, and many were converted. However, most of the Maya tribe became polytheists, and polytheism itself seemed to have been widespread amongst the tribe.
The Aztex tribe, also known as the Aztecs, had an interesting economy consisting of every social level, from commoners to nobility. Weekly markets were also known to have existed, as well as various professions such as pottery and agriculture. Trade between nearby cities was common, and the Aztec economy was also known to have its own currency and mode of commercialization.
Finally, the Mexica tribe had interconnected political associations with metropolitan cities, which later became the state of Mexico. Due to political expansion, it became an independent country apart from the nation of America.
In summary, the Indian Americans are a diverse people, whose worldview is based on the concept of interrelatedness. This continues to impact their lifestyle, as shown by the concept of change in their changing demographics. However, the main tenets of morality and religion have developed over time, and each tribe is seen to have espoused certain distinctive traits over others. However, these rules and laws still govern the way of life for many of the tribes and descendants of the ancient tribes, and continues to impact the cultural landscape of America, both now and perhaps for future generations.
Asariisechunkh. “500 Nations The Story of Indian Americans Part 1”. YouTube. Web. June 2013.