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Native Americas Before Columbus


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Title: Native Americas Before Columbus

Native Americas Before Columbus
  • Lecture 2

Time on the Land
  • Whether we take at face value the common NA
    position that they were placed in their
    traditional lands at Creation or we look at the
    oldest dates for NA archaeology sites, they have
    been in the New World for at least 15,000 years.
  • As humans do, they learned about nature, used it,
    moved it, selected what they wanted from it, and
    integrated it into their ways of life (See
    Berkes, Folke, and Gadgil 1995).
  • We have developed a theory of how this occurs
    which is illustrated in the following article and
    can be read in Stoffle, Toupal, and Zedeno 2003.

5th Generation (125 years)
50th Generation (1250 years)
200th Generation (5000 years)
16th Generation (400 years)
1st Generation (25 years)
Dyachronic Learning Diagram
  • The previous diagram was developed to illustrate
    the basic idea that all humans learn.
  • No humans are smarter than others.
  • But some humans spend more time in place.
  • When people move to unique ecosystems they become
    again first generation new comers.
  • Naturally some humans choose adaptive strategies
    that eventually destroy their society and perhaps

Types of Knowledge
  • Local Knowledge recently learned by people who
    have just arrived in a ecosystem. Highly
  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge time-tested
    observations that are shared by a group who have
    remained in an ecosystem
  • Indigenous Knowledge awesome observations
    explained and supported by supernatural

Local Knowledge
  • What we can learn within a few generations in the
    same ecosystem.
  • Accessible observations just out there for the
  • Simple cause and effect.
  • Begins as individual lessons, moves to the family
    level, and may eventually (over generations) pass
    to the community level.

Local Knowledge Examples
  • Dry washes run wet some times some springs dry
    up in dry periods.
  • Decade cycles of rain and drought
  • Obvious single uses of plants, few combinations
    of plants and minerals
  • Migration and habitat shifts of animals

Traditional Knowledge
  • Technically this occurs when the people under
    question become traditional.
  • Shared knowledge cultural knowledge.
  • Time tested knowledge it works to predict.
  • More than two cause and effect relationships in a
    food web or trophic level.
  • Mixture of secular and sacred based knowledge.
  • TEK is used to describe traditional ecological

Traditional Knowledge Examples
  • Ojibwa wild rice harvesting
  • Paiute burning of Indian Rice grass (Waii)
  • Burning for male and female sages by the Dakota
    at Pipestone National Monument
  • Shoshone gathering of pine forest ants and eggs.

Indigenous Knowledge
  • Awesome knowledge along with high quality
    observations can predict ecology cause and
  • Deals with three or more non-intuitive
    connections along multiple food webs and
    different trophic levels.
  • Tied to sacred in most cases.
  • Example Eating ants to stimulate visions among
    American Indian people in southern California
    (Groark 1996).
  • Example Southern Paiutes indigenous knowledge is
    illustrated by medicine persons performing
    cataract eye surgery with the removed and living
    tail of a whiptail lizard as part of a Puha

Positive Disturbance
  • A World Wildlife Fund web site (
    2004) says most of the remaining significant
    areas of high natural value on earth are
    inhabited by indigenous peoples and this
    testifies to the efficacy of indigenous resource
    management systems.
  • Missing from this discussion is a convincing
    explanation of how positive impacts can occur.
    Most authors simply assume that traditional
    people know when they are hurting nature and back
    off from such behaviors.

Intermediate Disturbance
  • Connell (1978) found that intermediate natural
    disturbances in ecosystems can cause positive
    impacts on biodiversity and biocomplexity.
  • Intermediate in term of scale and frequency of
  • So do traditional people use their knowledge of
    ecosystems and consciously make intermediate
    human changes that have positive benefits?

Some Characteristics of Positive Disturbance
  • Traditional people can have a positive influence
    on the biocomplexity and biodiversity of their
    ecosystem. This is how we will define being
    good for the environment.
  • Critics of this position say that traditional
    people often do hurt nature (Martin and Wright
    1967) and if they dont it is because they lack
    the technology and the population size.

From Conservation to Sustainability and
  • What can people do that is good for their
    ecosystems? The literature shows that traditional
    people can have positive impacts by
  • clearing spaces in forests (Turner, Davison-Hunt,
    OFlaherty 2003),
  • moving seeds to new habitats (Nabhan 1989),
  • digging tubers (Wandsnider and Chung 2003
  • changing behavior of herding animals (Anderson
  • pruning wild nut trees (Fowler 2000 112), and
  • designing agricultural fields to stimulate
    animals and plant populations as well as provide
    sustainable farming (Atran et al. 2002).

Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica Source
Garcia-Serrano and Del Monte 2004
  • The Bribri and Cabecar Cultures of this area are
    a good example of TEK and Conservation.
  • They have a tropical home garden, rotating
    slash-and-burn agriculture, and plantain
  • These two cultures have different sets of
    traditional rules for use of plants in far
    space where 24 species are harvested and near
    space where 60 species are harvested.
  • Generation after generation of these people have
    had an agreement with nature. Agriculture, and to
    varying degrees wild plant harvesting and hunting
    and fishing, continue being their main
    activities. They have a balanced system of
    exploiting nature.

Location of TEK Study
Costa Rica
A Bribri Web Site
  • The Bribri People
  • For thousands of years the Bribri People have
    lived in harmony with nature. The Bribri are
    located in the mountains and low-lying Caribbean
    coastal areas of southern Costa Rica and northern
    Panama on the Talamanca reservation.
    Approximately 5200 Bribri people have maintained
    an indigenous culture that's different from the
    rest of the country. Indigenous means that the
    Bribri were the original inhabitants of
  • Agriculture is the main activity of the Bribri.
    They have roughly 120 wild and domestic crops
    used for food, building materials, medicine, and
    commercial trading. The Bribri are extremely
    isolated, and consequently, they have developed
    an extensive bartering system. Mostly the Bribri
    women participate in the trading of goods with
    neighbors. In addition to a bartering system, the
    Bribri isolation has caused them to have poor
    education and healthcare. They also have the
    lowest income per capita in the country however,
    this isolation has made the Bribri a relatively
    self-sufficient society where there are enough
    crops grown and livestock raised to sustain them.
    One small tribe of the Bribri, the Kekoldi, only
    has about 200 people. They partake in the very
    unique practice of iguana farming. Iguanas are
    very important to the forest, so due to
    over-hunting, the Kekoldi tribe has devised a
    very efficient way to replenish the iguana
    population. The farm has been operating for 11
    years and has about 2,000 iguanas and 2,000,000
    eggs. The iguanas stay on the farm until five
    years of age at which time they are then released
    into the wild.
  • The Bribri have their own language. They have a
    rich culture that has been molded over thousands
    of years and remained relatively untouched by
    western civilization.
  • References
  • Voices from a town meeting in indigenous Costa
    Rica http//
    Vandegrift, Darcie. University of California,
    Santa Barbara. 1996.
  • Community Development with the Bribri of Costa
    Rica http//
    Agroecology Research Group 1999.
  • Written by Lyle Arnason

Examples of Animals - Domestic
  • Dog everywhere
  • Turkey North America
  • Guinea Pig Andean
  • Llama Andean
  • Alpaca Andean
  • Muscovy Duck Andean
  • Tropical Birds everywhere for feathers. Aztecs
    made cloaks from humming bird feathers
  • Raptors raising eagles for feathers, North
  • Turtles penned and perhaps bred along the
    Amazon River near large settlements.

Managed Nature Moving Towards Cultigens
  • Agroforestry in Amazon variety of tree species
    involved including palms, cashew, and brazil nut.
  • Pacae Inga large mesquite tree with a foot
    long seed pod Pacific coast of Andes.
  • Willow Trees cut back to produce straight
    branches for basketry.

Examples of Cultigens
  • Peppers - everywhere
  • Corn - everywhere
  • Beans - everywhere
  • Squash Pumpkins - everywhere
  • Potatoes several species, Andean
  • Sweet Potatoes several species tropical
  • Manioc - Amazonian
  • Amaranth Mexico Andean
  • Chenopodium Mexico Andean
  • Pineapple tropical arid coastal
  • Lupin - Andean
  • Tree cotton 4 color varieties no dye needed
    both sides of Andes
  • Cacao (chocolate)- bean was a standard of value,
    grown in Central America by both Maya and Aztecs.
  • Coca middle altitude Amazon side of Andes.
    Controlled substance by the state.

TEK of Agriculture Examples
  • On island of Hispaniola Europeans noticed that NA
    did not have rows lacked the draft animals and
    plow, but planted multiple crops in hills of
    earth heaped up. Corn, pumpkins, and beans
    planted together symbiotically. Bean roots
    fertilized the corn while the stock served the
    runners of beans and pumpkins. Irrigated the
  • Cotton had its own fields because of a longer
    growing season.
  • Agroforestry trees and bushes like coca, and
    cacao were planted along edges of fields. Most
    agroforestry plants became more fertile the
    longer they were managed due in part to pruning,
    weeding, and mulching.

Terra Preta in Amazon
  • Making dirt. Enduring self renewal soil.
  • Dated 2,000 years ago from Amazon.
  • Made an organic mixture ( much like sour dough
    starter for bread) which makes a fertile soil.
  • Moved it in large pots to new areas. Once
    established it is largely self sustaining.
  • Instead of destroying the soil with tropical
    farming, they improved it.

See Mann 2002
One Study Area
See Mann 2002
Images of a Human Soil
People have been farming here for thousands of
years farming hard and we just have to learn
how to do it as well as they did (Quote by
Susanna Hecht in Mann 2002)
See Mann 2002
Inca Engineering
  • Built roads stone roads up and down the Andes
    2400 miles long north and south with right angle
    feeder roads east and west. Longest and best
    built roads until modern times.
  • Planted trees along roads to shade travelers.
  • Suspension bridges in Inca Empire with tall stone
    masonry towers on both sides with plant fiber
    cords as cables and wooden slats. Wide enough for
    two horses to pass. They had suspension bridges
    before Europeans.
  • Extremely long (up to 30 miles in length)
    irrigation cannels.
  • Chasquis curriers who ran along the Inca roads.
    Could bring fresh fish from the Pacific coast to
    Cuzco (Tawatinsuyu) Peru in less than 24 hours.
  • Quipus communication device.

  • Mineral pigment was mined everywhere in New
    World for decoration and ceremony.
  • Andean groups mined gold ore and smelted it and
    worked it into jewelry and ceremonial objects.
  • Made charcoal which was used in smelting went
    to about 1400 degree F, an effective smelting
    temperature. Smelting device of Inca was
    eventually adopted by the Spanish at high
    elevations in Andes.
  • Tin and copper mined in Andes, and could combine
    these minerals to make bronze metal.
  • Turquoise and jade mined and most valued of all
  • Emeralds mined in Columbia green ones highest
  • Copper mined in Great Lakes of North America.

  • Tenochtitlan (now Mexico) larger than any
    Spanish city of the time. London may have been
  • Chaco (now New Mexico) a massive ceremonial
    center with roads and connected service towns.
  • Casas Grandes (now Chihuahua, Mexico) was a
    ceremonial center and a city with an irrigation
    sewage system.
  • Cuzco (now Peru) massive high elevation city.

What NA Did Not Have
  • Maya had invented the wheel, but used it only on
    toys. Wheel was not used in New World.
  • Strong draft animals.
  • European-Asian diseases.

Made and Managed Landscapes
  • Whole Amazon Basin was a human landscape. Moving
    species, selecting species, clearing with slash
    and mulch.
  • Andes were intensively managed with systems of
    terraces and modifications of hydrological
    systems. Domestic animals grazed grasslands.
  • The peoples of the Antilles were largely farmers
    who cut down trees for fields and made salt ponds
    in the former coastal mangroves.

Caribbean Basin Societies
  • Arrival time unclear, but they were around the
    edges for 10K years and in the Greater and Lesser
    Antilles for at least 3,000 years.
  • Various arrival routes currently being considered
    , but some definitely came from northeast
    coast of South America.

Caribbean Indigenous Peoples
  • Common Names (linguistic and cultural referents)
  • Ciboney
  • Arawak (subgroups Tanoans, Lucayans, and Igneri)
  • Caribs
  • Temporal Reference Terms
  • Palaeo
  • Meso
  • Neo
  • Peoples connected to all mainland basin
  • Cultivated manioc as well as corn, beans, and
  • Agroforestry a kind of tree bush horticulture
  • Fishing
  • Canoe travelers up to 80 people in a sea-going
    canoe with canopies for cargo. Traded textiles
    cotton and specialty feather cloaks both used as
    a standard of value (like money). Gold dust and
    goose quills were used as money to settle debts
    in Mexico City markets.

The Ciboney People
  • In western
  • Cuba, cays
  • north and
  • south of
  • Cuba,
  • Guaicayarima
  • Peninsula of
  • Haiti.

Rouse 1948 497-503
The Ciboney People
  • Ciboney are not well known because the Spanish
    did not interact with them on a regular basis, so
    be careful about the following descriptions.
  • Thought to be the oldest people of the Antilles.
    Simple social organization and technology. Low
    population density. No agriculture. Simple
  • Assumed to have once occupied most of the
    Antilles but later replaced by Arawaks and
  • Survived in Cuba until early 17th Century when
    Spanish settlers offered rewards for their
    extermination because they shot cattle with bows
    and arrows.

Rouse 1948 497-503
The Arawak People
  • Farming fishing peoples whose ancestors
    probably arose more than 4,000 years ago along
    Orinoco River in Venezuela.
  • Found mostly in Greater Antilles in 1492.
  • Dense populations large cities
  • Complex social organization Chiefdoms
  • Distance Trading by Canoe made from dugout
    cottonwood or cedar trees. Chiefs canoe could
    hold 70-80 men and was painted. Propulsion by
    long blade paddles. Traveled all around big
    islands but also between islands. Individuals
    would go on long voyages alone in small canoes.
  • Oldest canoe found in region is from Florida and
    is dated many thousand of years old, and other
    Florida finds are 10s of thousands of years old .

Arawak Interesting Facts
  • Washing body was common. Used an aromatic fruit
    to form a lather in the water.
  • Cooked from a pot that was over the fire all the
    time called a pepper pot each day people
    would add food to it.
  • Painted and tattooed the body both men and
    women did this. Used red, white, black, and
    yellow paints from vegetables and resinous gum.
    Often painted Zemis symbols of spirits. Pierced
    ears and nasal septum and added plugs.
  • Gold was washed from streams and made into
  • Chiefs could punish subjects by death for theft
    and adultery.
  • Matrilineal personal property and chieftainship
    was inherited through women.

Who Are The Carib People?
  • In some respects this is one of the more
    important questions of this section, because
    whatever the Carib people were at contact they
    became the image of all Native Americans to
  • Think of them as newcomers to the Caribbean. They
    even remembered arriving.
  • Think of them as basically like the Arawaks
    farmers with good boats and some quirky traits.

Carib Boats
  • They were boat experts, having four types
  • Pirogues
  • Large canoes
  • Small canoes
  • Rafts
  • The first two types were dugouts, but the sides
    were built up with planks, sewn together and
    pitched with bitumen.
  • The average length of the piroque was 40 feet,
    some were large enough to carry 50 persons. Each
    one had a keel, a raised and pointed bow, a
    series of plank seats, and a flat-pooped stern
    carved with an animals head to frighten the
    enemy and often decorated with a barbecued human
  • In historic times, (and perhaps earlier) the
    pirogues had three masts and the canoes two, each
    supporting a sail made from cotton or from
    palm-leaf matting.

Rouse 1948 553-554
Who Has The Boat Technology Advantage?
Rouse 1948 Plates 91, 94
Cannibal Warriors
  • The Carib held assemblies to decide upon war and
    to fix a rendezvous at these meetings the old
    women harangued them on the cruelty of the enemy,
    the war chief exhorted them to revenge
    themselves, they became very drunk, and at the
    height of the festival they ate some enemy flesh,
    smoked and preserved from the last raid.
  • Each warrior was given a gourd full of pebbles, a
    string with knots quipu?, or a stick with
    notches, to tell how many days before he had to
    be at the rendezvous.
  • The primary weapon was the 6 foot long bow and
  • Caribs attacked at dawn to catch the enemy
    asleep. If the enemy was defeated, they pillaged
    the village and roasted and ate the enemy
    corpses. They bound prisoners and carried them
    home. They then ate the men and incorporated the
    women and children into their own families.

Rouse 1948 559-560
The Essential Carib
  • Cannibal Warrior Society or Agricultural Folks
    who could expand their territory and were a bit
    in you face with defeated groups?
  • Most contemporary analysts agree that the Caribs
    were culturally and socially similar to the
    Arawaks, but were more aggressive against
  • Key issue here is Did the Spanish select one
    cultural characteristic (i.e., eating defeated
    opponents) in order to essentialize the Caribs
    and to rationalize the conquest, conversion, and
    enslavement of all New World peoples?

The Foundation of Essentialization
  • After Columbus made contact with the Carib during
    his second voyage, in 1493, he purposely sailed
    farther south in order to investigate these
    fierce savages of whom he had heard in
    Hispaniola. Note here that he first developed
    this Carib assessment from their enemies the
  • He discovered a Carib village in Guadeloupe where
    he received on board six captive Arawak women.
    There was no battle because the Carib men were
  • He then proceeded to St. Croix where Carib
    warriors attacked his expedition before it
    departed for the Arawak island of Puerto Rico.

Rouse 1948 547-548
Essential Response
  • The Spanish made no attempt to settle the Lesser
    Antilles. There was no gold there, and the
    agricultural potentialities did not compensate
    the difficulty of subduing the Carib.
  • Note, that the small villages of the Carib were
    scattered on the high islands in isolated valleys
    that were difficult to approach and easy to
  • Note, that the Spanish had little interest in
  • The Spanish colonists did, however, make numerous
    slave raids against the Carib islands taking
    advantage, after the prohibition of such raids
    elsewhere, of a provision permitting their
    attacks on cannibals.

Rouse 1948 548
Expansion of an Essentialization
  • Why did the Spanish (and later other Europeans)
    care to characterize the Indians of the New World
    as cannibals?
  • Morgan (1997 176) argues that Europeans involved
    in conquest and slavery needed rationalizations
    for their actions. They accomplished this by
    developing stereotypes of American Indians (and
    later Africans) that would distance these peoples
    from the world of white civilization. Being a
    cannibal made the person a just candidate for
    slavery. Indian and African women were
    characterized in negative terms that would remove
    them from the protection of European norms, and
    in turn position them as valid candidates for
    slavery, abuse, and even death. Morgan
    illustrates this point with reference to a 1592
    book where an Indian woman was portrayed in a
    drawing as licking the juices of grilled human
    flesh from her fingers.
  • Jennings (1975) called the this process the Cant
    Of Conquest a battle of words and ideas in
    which the conquest and enslavement of others is
    deemed just and even good for them because it
    brings them out of a savage condition into a
    civilized state.

Selected References
  • Berkes, F., C. Folke, M. Gadgil (1995)
    Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Biodiversity,
    Resilience, and Sustainability. In Biodiversity
    Conservation C. A. Perrings (ed.). Pp. 281- 299.
    Dordrecht Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Carmony, N. and D. Brown eds. (1979) The
    Wilderness of the Southwest. Salt Lake
    University of Utah Press.
  • Castilla, Juan (1993) Humans Capstone Strong
    Actors in the Past and Present Coastal Ecological
    Play in Humans as Components of Ecosystems by M.
    McDonnel and S. Pickett (eds).

  • Connell, Joseph H. (1978) Diversity in Tropical
    Rain Forests and Coral Reefs. Science 199(4335)
  • Groark, Kevin (1996) Ritual and Therapeutic Use
    of Hallucinogenic Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex)
    in Native South-Central California. Journal of
    Ethnobiology 16(1) 1-30.
  • Jackson, Jeremy (et al.) 2001(July 27) Historical
    Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal
    Ecosystems. Science Vol 293, 629-638.
  • Jennings, Francis (1975) The Invasion of
    American Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of
    Conquest. Chapel Hill, NC University of North
    Carolina Press.
  • Mann, Charles (2002) The Real Dirt on Rainforest
    Fertility. Science Magazine (August 9) Vol. 297
  • Milanich, Jerald T. (1994) Archaeology of
    Precolumbian Florida. University Presses of
    Florida, Tallahassee, FL.

  • Morgan, Jennifer (1997) Some Could Suckle Male
    Travelers, Female Bodies, and the Gendering of
    Racial Ideologies, 1500 to 1770. William and Mary
    Quarterly 54(1) 167-192.
  • Rappaport, Roy (1968) Pigs for the Ancestors. New
    Haven Yale University Press.
  • Rouse, Irving (1948) The West Indies Part 3. In
    Julian H. Steward (ed.) Handbook of South
    American Indians, The Circum-Caribbean Tribes.
    Pp. 495565 . Washington, D.C. U.S. Government
    Printing Office
  • Stoffle, R., R. Toupal, and N. Zedeno (2003)
    Landscape, Nature, and Culture A Diachronic
    Model of Human-Nature Adaptations. In Nature
    Across Cultures Views of Nature and the
    Environment in Non-Western Cultures, H. Selin
    (ed.). Pp. 97-114. Great Britain Kluwer Academic
  • Stokstad, Erik 2001 (July 27) Fossils With
    Lessons for Conservation Biology. Science Vol
    293, 592-593.
  • Vayda, Andrew (1993) Ecosystems and Human Action.
    In Humans as Components of Ecosystems by McDonnel
    and Pickett (eds.) Pp.72-78.