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Flashcards in Native American Society Deck (6)
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The Native Americans were not one people, but many tribes, name some famous tribes.

The most famous tribes were the Apache, Sioux, Blackfeet and Cheyenne, each one led by its own Council of Elders.


What did settlers on the great plain, think of the native americans?

The Native American way of government led new settlers on the Great Plains to think that the earliest inhabitants of the land had no government at all. This was not true, but their government was based on principles that the newcomers had difficulty in understanding.


Give examples of how the native americans were governed?

- a Native American chief had no power over his people, although he did have great respect from them, based on his bravery in war.
- the only 'police' in Native American society were warriors called dog-soldiers, who selected and broke camp, fed the old and the weak, stopped buffalo being scared away, and controlled the hunt.
- The hunt was the only occasion when everybody had to obey.
- The Native American tribes did not need strict laws, because the harsh environment forced them to work together. Consequently, most tribes had few laws, and the worst punishment was banishment (which meant death, given the harsh Plains environment).
- The only duty that members of the tribe had was to pray.


Describe marriage in native American culture?

- Because there was a need to take care of the women and children of the tribe, marriage was easy.
- At 17 a youth paid a dowry of horses and took his bride (aged 12-15).
- The Native Americans practiced polygamy (they had more than one wife), because many men died in the struggle to survive, so there was an excess of women to be cared for.


Describe the community spirit on the plains.

- The whole tribe had to join together for the buffalo hunt.
- The young braves thought it was an honour to feed the old and the weak.
- Old people voluntarily committed exposure (wandered off to die), as the tribe couldn't afford hangers-on.
- They considered the worst crimes to be not looking after one's parents, hurting people who were sick, or harming the religion.
- Horse stealing (from other tribes) was admired.


What was the Native American view of war?

- War was based on ambush and skill (eg stealing a tied horse).
- No one was forced to go to war - individual warriors chose to follow the chief to war or not, as they felt best.
- The aim of war was to capture horses and to show bravery.
- The bravest act of war was to score a coup (where a warrior tapped his enemy with a stick and escaped).
- Native Americans scalped their enemy to stop him going to an afterworld they called the Happy Hunting Ground.
- The main aim in war was to stay alive, in order to care for the family (community spirit).