Migration Theories

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2010 by bansal6

One of the things  I was interested in when I decided to pick this course was how Native Americans actually got to the American mainland. Where did they actually originate? What was their culture like before they migrated and how things changed when they moved? The most popularly believed theory is that the indigenous people from the Asian mainland crossed over the Beringia bridge and came to America. The other theory is that the indigenous people reached the Americas via water travel (coastal or watercraft theories). This theory suggests that the indigenous peoples were not just big game hunters but were adapted to maritime lifestyles. They traveled along the coastline from northeast Asia to South America. Other theories suggest that they migrated from Oceania and South Asia to South America. The land bridge theory is perhaps the most plausible one. Most of the indigenous people from Siberia were hunters who migrates across Beringia looking for big game herds. There is scientific evidence to suggest that Beringia, a 1000 mile wide bridge over the Bering Strait did exist. Water levels have risen considerably since about 50,000 years ago submerging the land. In addition, certain American Indian genetic studies have been conducted and show that the first occupiers of the American mainland emerged from single source ancestral population that lived in isolation and conditions very similar to that of Beringia. After crossing into America, the indigenous people eventually scattered across the continent and adapted accordingly to their surroundings. The Clovis theory explains the migration to the south. However, there are still some problems with some of these theories and further research is being conducted to generate facts.

Migration Routes from Beringia



Following up…

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 by bansal6

On my previous post, I mentioned that in my junior year in high school, I had been given a Native American origin myth to read and analyze in my very first class. The next day in class I remember our teacher making everyone sitting down on the floor in a circle, as if in front of a fire, and asking everyone to recite the story they had read. A pretty nice way to lighten everyone’s mood. When I went back home, I dug up old school files and found the story I had been given. This origin myth had been developed by the Apache Indians. The myth was a little too long, so I put a condensed form of it on this post.

In the beginning nothing existed, only darkness was everywhere. Suddenly from the darkness emerged a thin disc, one side yellow and the other side white, appearing suspended in midair. Within the disc sat a small bearded man, Creator, the One Who Lives Above. When he looked into the endless darkness, light appeared above. He looked down and it became a sea of light. To the east, he created yellow streaks of dawn. To the west, tints of many colors appeared everywhere. There were also clouds of different colours. He also created three other gods: a little girl, a Sun-God and a small boy.

Then he created celestial phenomena, the winds, the tarantula, and the earth from the sweat of the four gods mixed together in the Creator’s palms, from a small round, brown ball, not much larger than a bean. The world was expanded to its current size by the gods kicking the small brown ball until it expanded. Creator told Wind to go inside the ball and to blow it up.

The tarantula, the trickster character, spun a black cord and, attaching it to the ball, crawled away fast to the east, pulling on the cord with all his strength. Tarantula repeated with a blue cord to the south, a yellow cord to the west, and a white cord to the north. With mighty pulls in each direction, the brown ball stretched to immeasurable size–it became the earth! No hills, mountains, or rivers were visible; only smooth, treeless, brown plains appeared. Then the Creator created the rest of the beings and features of the Earth.


Native American Origin Myths

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 by bansal6

The first thing I remember doing in my first class (which was English) on my first day in junior year was talking about Native American Origin Myths. I thought that these stories were particularly interesting as it gave us an Indian cultural perspective on how things were created, much before science could explain how things worked. An important fact I learned was that most of these stories were passed on from generation to generation orally. These stories actively practiced the oral tradition of history which is such an important part of the Native American culture. I remember that certain characteristics of these myths were repetition, enumeration, use of archaic words and symbols, a particular structure and a short, terse style. These myths would always have a supernatural figure (The Creator, God), a hero and a trickster(the villain). Most of these myths had animal spirits in a more or less humanoid form. These origin myths were an important vehicle for the Native Americans to pass on their faith and beliefs about the natural world, social order, human nature and, good and evil. I’m guessing that the American Indians used these stories to teach their young ones about a lot things – doing the right thing, the possibility of change and the underside of life. In the end, each of us had to write an origin myth using a guide of the characteristics given to us. I wrote about the formation of the sun.


The Aztec Calendar

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 by bansal6

When I was looking for what the Aztec gold treasure might look like, I came across this picture. Also, the Aztec gold piece from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie closely resembles this symbol. This is the Aztec calendar. This calendar was also used by other civilizations in the Mesoamerican region. The Aztec calendar consisted of 2 cycles  – a 365 day calendar cycle called xiuhpohualli and a 260 day sacred cycle called tonalpohualli. The xiuhpohualli consists of 360 named days and 5 unnamed days (which are considered to be unlucky). It is very similar to the current Gregorian calendar. Instead of twelve, 30 day periods, it is divided into 18 periods, of 20 days each, called a veintena. The days of the month were not guided by the movements of the moon but by the days. The tonalpohualli was a rather complicated calendar. It did not have months. Instead, each day was a combination of a number and a sign. The days would be numbered from 1 to 13 and there were 20 day signs. After the end of each day, both quantities (the number and the sign) are incremented so the numbers and signs are never aligned during their cycles. Only after the 260 day year has ended, do the numbers and signs realign. No wonder it takes historians so long to figure out how these civilizations worked. Here is a site which shows an animated diagram of how the 2 calendars were used to generate a single date.


Aztec Treasure

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2010 by bansal6

The other day, I was watching the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. In the movie, the pirates were trying to return all the gold to the chest located on an unknown island. The stone chest contained 882 pieces of Aztec gold, blood money paid to Hernando Cortes to stop the slaughter of the Aztecs. This is what one of the gold coins looked like.

According to the movie, the heathen gods had placed a terrible curse on the chest. Anyone who stole from the chest would become immortal, but would not be able to experience any human senses. They were shown as rotting skeletons in the moonlight. The cursed would not be able to return to their original state until all the gold pieces were returned to the chest with the blood of those who took it repaid. I thought that was pretty interesting and wondered if any of the stuff was true. After doing some research, I doubt the “heathen god curse” part was true. However, archaeologists and treasure hunters are still looking for Montezuma’s treasure which is believed to be in the Kanab area. I thought the legend mentioned in the movie was a rather interesting deviation from the real deal. Even though the legend of the curse may not be true, there have been certain events that certainly make it interesting. A group of treasure hunters found an Aztec treasure sign, a circle with an arrow pointing down, above the water level in a lake 6 miles north of Kanab. They made a few diving expeditions they found in an underground tunnel. Each of them however, felt disoriented as they entered the tunnel and felt that someone was grabbing and choking them. They decided to abandon the expedition.


Use of Native American Names in Sports Teams

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2010 by bansal6

There have been several controversies over high school and college sports teams with Native American names and mascots over the years. Even several professional sports teams have been criticized for their names which are largely drawn from Native Americans. Examples include the MLB teams Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins of the NFL. One such debate was over a high school near my hometown of Cincinnati. The high school sports team was known as the Anderson Redskins. Two sides emerged in this debate: the American Indian Movement (AIM) who wanted the name to be abolished and the Save Our Skins (SOS) group, consisting mainly of Anderson residents who wanted to keep the name. Anderson principal, Michael Hall, refused to change the name saying that the term “Redskin” was not a racial slur. He said, “Our school has nothing but respect and admiration for the Redskin. It is not a term of disrespect but a term of respect.” I think he has a good point here. Most of these sports teams do not use names and mascots of Native American origin to offend them. On the contrary, it is used as a symbol to bring an entire community together. The school may not mean to harm the Native American heritage by using such names, but are they in a position to judge what’s right. I mean, many Native Americans then felt the term “Redskin” (used by Dutch bounty hunters on a dead Native American in older times) was rather offensive. An AIM supporter, Linda Hensley (a woman of Navajo descent) said, “If you want to honor American Indians, ask them how they want to be honored.” Coming under pressure from several Native American groups, the school decided to get rid of their mascot. Many American Indians had varying points of view on this issue. For example, Stacey Stahl, a 16-year old of Inca Indian descent wanted the mascot to be reinstated. Edward Simone, an Anderson graduate, who was part Native American, said he was proud to be a Redskin but realized that the mascot caused discomfort among others. So the question arises: What should be done about such names and mascots which are linked to Native Americans? Should they be maintained to keep all the supporters of the team and those faction of Native Americans who feel proud to see their symbol used happy? Or should they be abolished because a different faction of Native Americans feel they are offensive and attack their race?