Meaning of Culture - The Characteristics of Culture
The meaning of culture is reflected in the Native American Indian way of life. The characteristics used to define and describe the meaning of culture are: ethnicity, language, society, religion, beliefs, legends, mythology, customs, traditions, values, behaviour, dress, ceremonies and rituals.
Meaning of Culture - Cultural Diversity between Native American Groups
The Meaning of Culture can be described as that which distinguishes life in one group or tribe of people, from life in another group. Differences in race, ethnicity, language, nationality, or religion among various groups within a community result in the cultural diversity of the population of a region. There were originally over 4,000 Native American Indian tribes who spoke over 600 dialects of over 100 Native American languages. Scholars have organised the Native American Indians into to ten primary groups which are separated by location and categorised as:
- The Great Plains Indians
- The Northwest Native Americans
- The Northeast Woodland Indians
- The Southwest Indians
- The Southeast Native Americans
- The Great Basin Indians
- The Plateau Indians
- The Arctic Indians
- Sub-Arctic Indians
- The Native Americans of California
The meaning of culture is illustrated by the cultural diversity of each of the groups. Their way of life, or culture, was dictated by the differences in climate, geography and natural resources. These differences were responsible for different types of dress, housing, food and means of sustenance and lifestyle. Their way of life raged from nomadic to permanent and encompassed lifestyles of the hunter gatherers, farmers and fishers
Cultures lost due to Conflict between Indian Tribes
The Meaning of Culture can be described as that which distinguishes life in one group or tribe of people, from life in another group. When one Native American Indian tribe encountered another it was usually because one group was invading the territory of another leading to warfare and conflict. The Iroquois Confederacy aimed to create an empire by incorporating subservient conquered peoples into their culture. The Iroquois Confederacy destroyed several large tribal confederacies including the Hurons, Eries, Neutrals and Susquehannocks whose culture was then lost.
Culture Clash between Native Indians and Europeans
The Meaning of Culture and a further example of cultural diversity led to the ultimate culture clash between the Native Indians and the Europeans. The culture and pre-historic Stone Age lifestyle of the Native Indians had not changed to any great degree over hundreds of years. The Native Americans had never undergone the changes of the Bronze Age or the Iron Age. Their weapons and tools were all made of stone, they had not experienced the use of metals. Neither had they experienced the beliefs, behaviour, and way of life of the Europeans. These two distinct groups of people were literally from different worlds - neither understanding the culture of the other. Under these circumstances a culture clash was inevitable. Distrust and hostilities grew between the indigenous Native Indian population as the number of European newcomers increased. This culture clash was a major cause of conflict in the 1700 and 1800's.
Meaning of Culture - The Importance of Culture
The Meaning of Culture to different groups of people must be respected. Without due respect and understanding a culture can be totally lost and completely destroyed. The Meaning of culture is demonstrated in the unique values, attitudes, beliefs and customs of a society. The word 'unique' is critical when considering the importance of culture. Unique means only one of its kind, something that is irreplaceable. Culture is important because it is unique and therefore irreplaceable. The importance of culture is clarified when considering its loss. The Last of the Mohicans the famous historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper featuring Hawkeye reflects such a loss. The loss and importance of culture is reflected in the poignant words taken from the movie of the book as Chingachgook, the Mohican, laments the loss of his son and his people:
"Great Spirit and the Maker of all Life...a warrior goes to you swift and straight as an arrow shot into the sun.
Welcome him and let him take his place at the council fire of my people.
He is Uncas, my son.
Bid them patience and ask death for speed for they are all there but one -
I, Chingachgook - Last of the Mohicans."