It Is the story of all that is holy and good to tell and of us two legged sharing it with the four legged ND the wings of the air – all green things; for these are the children of one mother and their father is one spirit” Initially out first impression of the plains Indians from simply this source, is that they are peace loving, good natured folk with pure hearts and love and respect for all creatures, we find them referring to all creatures as equal.
This In one way makes them appear more civilized from their white American brothers, as we know that the Americans did not believe that humans were equal to plants or animals. These beliefs of the plains Indians give us a first impression that causes us to disagree with the initial question. From source five on page thirteen, Black Elk describes his vision, this is probably where we, as historians may choose to question their level of civilization compared to the white American folk, and even us.
We In the 21st century certainly do not go about searching for visions and neither did the white Americans. So does this cause me to question how classed the plains Indians actually were? To be perfectly honest, no it does not. I believe it is just like if one were to question the religion of another person, the Indians did not quest for scions and talk to spirits because they were less developed and/or less civilized than us or the white Americans, it was simple their tradition and belief, much like Islamic belief In the teachings of Muhammad.
This life of conversing with spirits and questing for visions suited them perfectly and does not change my opinions on them so far. Perhaps the second thing we encounter In this unit Is the various rituals and dances the plains Indians took part in, at first this does not seem to strange as it is another one of their beliefs and traditions, however after we have studied these in ore detail we might be somewhat shocked to learn the details of a few dances in particular, one of these dances (the sun dance) is considered rather horrific and brutal In my opinion.
The sun dance involves an Indian brave, having gashes cut Into his back, and ropes latched onto the flesh Inside and hung from a tree, this young brave would then partake in dancing and praying to the great spirit (known as Waken Tank). This is one of the things that greatly shocked the white American people, to them it was considered horrific and taboo, they thought such beliefs of the plains Indians were ludicrous, and caused their opinions of the tribes to waiver, and think them bloodthirsty and immoral. Studying the tribes, I can say I agree.
This was Just but another one of the Indians’ traditions, they knew In their hearts that good would a bloodthirsty act, perhaps it was interpreted so by the white American people, but to the Indians it was Just a perfectly normal and customary tradition that bore no maliciousness or anything considered (to them) bloodthirsty. Moving on, we began to study in detail how the plains Indians hunted and gathered food, namely in the form f hunting buffalo. The main way, in which the Indians hunted buffalo was on horseback, using bows and arrows in order to kill the game and being back the carcasses for food, and many other uses.
This would seem normal to them, however to the white Americans it could be somewhat frowned upon and seen as uncivilized, again I disagree. When the Americans learned that the buffalo was used for more than Just meat one can imagine their reaction, they were not used to such treatment of animals, normally the American people would Just take the meat and possibly the did. However the plains Indians used almost every single part of the beast, including many of the organs and bones.
Naturally the Americans who would obviously be afraid of their cultural differences saw this as ‘bloodthirsty when of course the Indians were Just being practical, rather than uncivilized. I can empathic why the Americans might have thought the way they did though, I mean wouldn’t you be surprised if your neighbor started using dung as a form of fuel for their car? Continuing on to another significant point of reference was the family life of the lain Indians; this is probably where the white American folk acquired all their assumptions of the plains Indians.
To being with, the Americans probably frowned upon the fact that the Indians were always moving, I can understand why as the American people were probably settles, happy and content with where they lived, however the plains Indians always being on the move might have caused them to seem somewhat homeless, like a vagrant on the streets to the Americans perhaps? I disagree with this because I believe that the plains Indians thought the whole plains s their homes, not Just one little settlement.
Source nine on page twenty five, an extract from a book by George Cattail explains that women who are giving birth pass through the painful process with ease, although there is little evidence to show this, perhaps this was also thought uncivilized by the American folk, this might be because the women, who were simple giving birth with no huge amount of suffering, leads us to believe they encounter such labor in daily life, or have adapted to such conditions, the Americans clearly could not cope with child birth in the same way that he Indian women could so they may have thought that their lives were a lot more physical, stressful and tiring compared to theirs. This however is not true in my opinion because the Indians Just went about their lives in the way that they did, and this somewhat of an adaptation was a mere side effect of their nomadic lives (being on horseback often).
Another reason that causes me to disagree with the statement is the way that children are treated, it is said on page twenty five that the children of the tribe were very rarely misbehaved, and were taught to respect all living things ND elders from birth. They were also rarely punished, and in extreme cases they merely had cold water thrown on them. This seems a lot less harsh than the way modern man deals with children and also the how the American folk did too. This is another reason that makes the Indians seem more civilized in a way, as their children seemed to be a lot better behaved, despite being breast fed for longer. Moving on to and cruel.
The whit American folk would care for their elders, put them in homes so they could be treated to help them live longer and keep them happy. However old people often were Just left behind when they became too weak to travel, to die on their own. Or some even went off to die by themselves. This I must admit seems rather cruel, but it was usually by the elder’s choice and so it does not seem as bad as it initially seems to be. Widows also, seemed to be dealt with in a strange manner compared to today, when a brave was killed in battle, the widow would soon be married to another man, to keep the woman protected, and also so more children could be conceived.
Moving on once more, I think that in terms of how law and order ere kept, the Indians were a lot less organized, however this worked for them very well. In source two on page twenty nine, we find that the Comanche tribe elect chief in a very unconventional way, it is said “No one made him such; he Just got that way’. This suggests that the actual chief of the tribe was not selected because of diplomatic, politic or people skills, he Just simply seemed a goof man for the Job. This would give an impression of uncivilized behavior toward said white Americans, but once again, to them it seemed normal and thought well of. As we move on to talk bout battles, this is probably where all the accusations of blood thirst and cruelty matter most.
The Indians had very different beliefs and ideas about battles and bravery, the most prominent example of this is of course, ‘scalping. Scalping is the art of literally, cutting off an enemy’s scalp in the midst of battle, now this seems very harsh at first look, the poor victim doesn’t necessarily have to be dead to receive this treatment, so why does it happen? What makes these people so cruel? Is it because they are indeed, bloodthirsty and malicious? After careful study of various source, I o not believe so. Although to the victim, and to the historian who observes this act for the first time, it seems that this is simple bloodless in the heat of battle, the plains Indians have very different reasons for this treatment.
You see, within a tribe there are various ranks of men, these ranks are determined by how brave the particular warrior performs in battle, to touch and enemy, to steal a horse, to kill a man is all counted toward the Indians honor, to bring back an enemy scalp is not a thirst for blood or an act of cruelty, it is a prize of honor, and proof to the tribe that the airier is skilled in battle. These scalps are dried out and hung, or used to adorn the warrior’s body to show what a skilled warrior he was. However as white Americans believed bravery was achieved by simply standing and fighting until you died for your country, naturally this reaction was probably one of fear, and perhaps disbelief.
These accusations of being uncivilized and cruel are by no means true in my opinion, I believe it is down to ignorance of the white Americans who observed the Indians, it is not that they are bloodthirsty, but the clash and blatant differences in the cultures ads the more ‘civilized’ in to believing so. If one was in a situation where you Were’ in one of these Indian tribes, you would by no means think you are bloodthirsty, uncivilized and cruel. So to conclude, I disagree with this earlier statement because I believe the Indians were Just behaving in a way which seemed normal to them, and I strongly think that the Indians did not believe that they were cruel. Which I believe is what matters most. These rituals and battle procedures were important, spiritual and normal to them, and that in my eyes does not make them bloodthirsty or malicious in
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