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Great Basin: precontact life ways, changes during contact, and colonialism - Essay Example

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Great Basin:
Precontact life ways, changes during contact, and colonialism Introduction The Great basin region is a vast region that is predominantly a desert land. The region was first inhabited in the early 10,000BC (Pritzker, 221)…
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Great Basin: precontact life ways, changes during contact, and colonialism
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Download file to see previous pages Most of these groups were hunters and gatherers, hunting game meat and gathering seeds, berries and greens from plants (Great Basin National Heritage Area, p3). But some took it a step further and incorporated agriculture as was the case among the Paiute. However, there was a transition in their social, economic and political organization from the pre-colonization era, to the colonialism era. Geographical conditions of the Great Basin region The Great Basin region is an area that encompasses the regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. This whole area is a high desert region. It stretches up to the North in Colombia Plateau and down to the South in Colorado Plateau. The zones included in this territory are Idaho, Oregon, Western Wyoming, Eastern California, Nevada, Utah and Southern Oregon. The area is predominantly a low rainfall and intense temperature area and its rivers do not flow into the ocean; rather they vanish in the sand. It is an area that to the average eye seems inhospitable to human existence. This is because it has sparse vegetation and extreme weather variation. The summers of this region are extremely hot while the winters are extremely cold. In spite of these harsh conditions, the Indians have lived in the region for centuries. For the Indians to survive in this region, they had to have a good knowledge of this vast region which had varying ecologies. They had to have a vast wealth of environmental knowledge for them to survive (Macllwraith, pg 263). Social Organization The Indians of this Great Basin region spoke languages that had a similar origin. This was with the exception of the Washo community. They spoke languages that originated from the Numic subclass of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family. The numic people divided into the western, central and southern subgroups around 2000 years ago. Then around 1000 years ago, they spread to the North and East. Archeological and linguistic data suggests that the numic people spread from the Southeastern California into the great basin. The communities of the Great Basin region were mainly organized into nuclear families that composed of a father, mother and children (Gibson, pg7). Often times there would also be another member of the extended family such as a grandparent, a younger sibling or a widowed relative. Past this nuclear family the people of the Great Basin were linked by kinship, marriage, friendship and adoption. These numerous connections were very critical to the nuclear family as they provided a safety net especially in times of drought and food scarcity. The Great Basin region was culturally characterized by sexual egalitarianism. Youngsters were allowed to engage in experimental sex with the intention of marriage. Trial marriages were allowed and were the norm. Knowledge on contraception and abortion was readily available to the youngsters. Furthermore, divorce was a simple process and only involved the process of one of the parties moving back to their paternal home. In some of the tribes like the Shoshone and the Paiute, the woman could marry more than one man. Often they were brothers and the practice was aptly named fraternal polyandry. This was a contingency measure borne out of need. There seems to have been a scarcity in eligible mates and this was a remedy to that shortage. In other instances, the woman would marry two unrelated men or cousins. However, the woman rarely married more than two men. Due to the extreme harshness of the Great Bas ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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