Friday, August 23, 2013

The First American Bioregionalists

The American continent filled itself with people. These now “native” Americans settled into all parts of the land, and adapted to their new habitats.  A bioregion is an area that influences the local culture and diet.  Native American tribes used the local resources to dictate their homes, diets, and recreational activities.  Because of the huge diversity of the continent, the tribes could be fairly similar or wildly different.  The two groups that are the most obviously different are the Eastern Woodland and the Southwestern tribes.

The Eastern Woodlanders built their houses out of lumber, grasses and animal skins.  They used the canopy of the forest trees as means of insulation from the sun. Because of this, they could make their houses out of thin materials, like bark and animal hides, without having to worry about the heat from the sun. They also fished and hunted to gather food. They did so because there was an abundance of game in the forest and fish in the ocean. Recreational activities included lacrosse and other active games.  Lacrosse is a team sport that uses a rubber ball and sticks with nets on the end. It is a sometimes violent contact sport. Native American youth of the area would play this sport as a way to determine which tribe was strongest.

iroquois longhouse
Iroquois Longhouse
By Wilbur F. Gordy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

sioux playing ball
Sioux Playing Ball
Charles Deas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oldest house in santa fe NM
By Boston Public Library [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Southwestern Native Americans lived in the desert regions of the continent.  While the Woodlanders were able to use the forest canopy or protection, the Southwestern Native Americans needed another means of staying cool. They used bricks made of adobe, a substance made from straw and mud, to build thick-walled houses. The adobe acted both as building material and as insulation.  It acted just like the canopy in the eastern climates - keeping the homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Because many tribes were landlocked, they farmed for food. Tribes grew many crops, including: beans, corn, squash, melons, and peaches. Recreational activities included basket weaving and pottery – quiet activities that kept one from overheating in the up to 120 degree summers. Pottery was made from shaping clay into useful items like pots, and baskets were woven from straw. The tribes would compete trying to make intricate weaves and designs.

pueblo water jar
Pueblo Water Jar
By Brooklyn Museum, via Wikimedia Commons

Native Americans adapted to the areas they settled. They  used materials native to their areas for shelter and food.  Both the adobe and the canopy are very resourceful means of insulation. Each created a locavore diet. While completely different, each group showed off their strengths and competitive nature with recreational activities. Native American tribes became extremely diverse, with characterizations caused by the local resources of the lands they inhabited. 

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