History of the Americas Essay

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Daniela Mota

Exam 1
Chapter 1)
Before the arrival of the Europeans to the Americas, Indians had lived and eventually developed different types of societies. The first and most simple of the type of society were called “nomadic societies”. These usually consisted of about fifteen to fifty people and usually no more than that. Men were primarily the hunters and women were the gatherers. These societies were also equalitarian which was a system based on everyone in the community contributing equally. Indian societies were also often matrilineal. They would heavily rely on women who were seen as the “backbone” of the tribe. Although men typically ruled these societies, women played a huge role in spiritual rituals and female elders helped select tribal leaders and took part in the gatherings. Due to the small number of people, they had the ability to move around frequently which helped the women figure out a system for successful farming. Another type of society was known as a “semi-nomadic society”. In the semi-nomadic societies they had larger groups of people usually consisting of approximately fifty to one hundred people. Because these societies had a larger number of people, their ability to migrate was nonexistent thus initiated the birth of domestication of plants and animals. This also helped develop the earliest form of agriculture which was called slash and burn. With this technique the Indians figured out that if you burn and slash your crops, they grow back much stronger and in a more abundant amount. Another outcome of these societies was came a form of headship within the communities. This form of leadership typically consisted of a council of elders because the Indians believed they have more experience in life and have lived the longest, they have valuable wisdom and knowledge to share. Sedentary civilizations soon followed in development. In these civilizations, class systems were established. At the top of the social pyramid were the priests and nobility who were typically land owners, warriors or educated nobles. Next in the social pyramid were merchants and artisans making useful products for the people, followed by farmers who were in charge of producing food for everyone and lastly, slaves who were usually prisoners of war or debt slaves. Some major sedentary groups were the Aztecs (“dirty dog”) who primarily lived in modern day Mexico with a population reaching two hundred and fifty thousand people and the Incas who lived in modern day Peru with a population of approximately nine million. Each Indian tribe had its own political system, language and/or set of religious principles. Different groups of different regions of the Americas also had different systems of agriculture. For example, tribes on the Pacific coast lived off of hunting sea mammals and fish as well as wild nuts and berries as opposed to the eastern tribes that primarily lived off of wild game such as bison and deer and crops such as beans, corn and squash. Although these different groups of Indians lived in the same continent they did not view each other as a “whole country” as the United States does today. When these different Indian trade routes crossed each other, they would often kill one another for goods, avenge their murdered relatives or seize captives. It wasn’t until the fifteenth century that various confederacies met to establish an order of unity and peace within each other’s groups. The diverse regional societies also shared a common ground with religion in some form. They believed that spiritual influence completed the world and that “sacred spirits” could be found in any form of life or inanimate things such as animals, plants, water and wind.

The Indians and the Europeans were two different worlds with two completely different ideas of freedom. The Iroquois were noted to hold, “such absolute notions of liberty that they allow of no kind of superiority of one over another, and banish all servitude from their...
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