The Native Americans history dates back to the Pre-Columbian era when the Paleo-Indians settled in America. The community believes that their ancestors fell from the sky, arose from the earth being transformed from ash trees to people and entered North America from Siberia through Bering Strait. Innumerable Indian people generations settled and worked out ways of living where they created communities and upheld their world spiritual relationships. Colonists, traders, and explorers estimate records used by scholars show that North America native population was more than one million in 1492. However recent years’ reports by researchers who used advanced demographic calculation techniques have raised the estimates and this suggests that the Native Americans had economic activities, social structures, and political systems before the European invasion. DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating were done on fossil feces found in a cave in Oregon indicated thatNorth American human habitation dates back to more than fourteen thousand years ago.
The Indian people in distinct regions and times practiced varied activities, for instance, for them to be able to farm in the deserts they set up irrigation schemes. The community also planted new types of crops like squash, beans, and corns, improved their fishing and hunting techniques and made efficient tools and weapons. Further, they exchanged ideas and commodities across widespread Trade networks. The California coastal regions supported hunters-gatherers large populations living in permanent communities. Tobacco was the only crop cultivated by the inhabitants though they harvested a variety of natural foods (Galloway, n.d). The women gathered and ground acorns into bread while the men hunted deer, mammals and fished from the ocean and river shores. Santa Barbara Chumash Indians followed the annual subsistence cycle that made it possible for them to harvest and storefish, marine mammals, acorns, pine nuts alongside other wild plants.
The Chumash traders participated in the far-reaching regional exchange network where their villages at times housed many people. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the diversified and sophisticated lifestyle of hunting and gathering supported three hundred thousand people population. There was the Poverty Point located in Mississippi Valley in Louisiana where thousands of people assembled periodically to elaborate constructed earthworks in a semicircle around an open plaza.Distant people as far as from Missouri Valley and Florida were connected by trade for raw materials used for personal adornment and ceremonies (Galloway, n.d). The exports were clay and stone items while the imports included copper, flint, soapstone and flaked stone (chert).
Winter counts are pictorial calendars compiled by Plains Indians for recording tribal events which are used for retelling significant events. They were painted on a buffalo robe in a curled shape designating successive years which accounted the history of people where each year was marked by a pictographic device that symbolized an event that was memorable. The symbols acted as mnemonic devices that could allow the chronicle keeper to draw memory and knowledge and recall events and other details in the future.At times, an individual would compose a winter count by recording his life years while others were compiled about two or even three generations(Galloway, n.d). In other occasions, one person would consult the elders who had a memory about the past events and people and then compile the winter count.
During winter evenings, individuals who kept the chronicles brought them out where they would be displayed and discussed around a campfire.Specifically, winter counts are important to the modern ethnohistorians where they are used concurrently with documentary evidence. The winter counts contain many references to the Sun Dance, deaths of prominent chiefs, horse raids, and tribal battles and were used to activate memories of the tribal events. However, similar to other history sources, winter counts have their drawbacks in that for their chronology to be conclusively proven it has to be cross-referenced to other sources andalso the mnemonic device’s interpretation can considerably vary (Galloway, n.d). Regardless of the limitations, winter counts present scholars with an exclusive tool for research, and if they are analyzed correctly, they give a platform for the accumulation of records for Indians and other non-Indians to establish a rich past story.
Galloway, C. FIRST PEOPLES: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History (4th ed., pp. 1-360). Boston: Bedford /ST. Martin’s.