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Dynamics of cultural transmission in Native Americans of the high Great Plains.

Lycett SJ - PLoS ONE (2014)

Bottom Line: Famously, there is a mixture of powerful internal and external factors, creating-for a relatively brief period in time-a seemingly distinctive set of shared elements from a linguistically diverse set of peoples.Moccasin decorations exhibit a pattern consistent with geographically-mediated between-group interaction.However, group variations in the religious ceremony of the Sun Dance also reveal evidence of purifying cultural selection associated with historical biases, dividing down ancient linguistic lines.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Amherst, New York, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Culture is a phenomenon shared by all humans. Attempts to understand how dynamic factors affect the origin and distribution of cultural elements are, therefore, of interest to all humanity. As case studies go, understanding the distribution of cultural elements in Native American communities during the historical period of the Great Plains would seem a most challenging one. Famously, there is a mixture of powerful internal and external factors, creating-for a relatively brief period in time-a seemingly distinctive set of shared elements from a linguistically diverse set of peoples. This is known across the world as the "Great Plains culture." Here, quantitative analyses show how different processes operated on two sets of cultural traits among nine High Plains groups. Moccasin decorations exhibit a pattern consistent with geographically-mediated between-group interaction. However, group variations in the religious ceremony of the Sun Dance also reveal evidence of purifying cultural selection associated with historical biases, dividing down ancient linguistic lines. The latter shows that while the conglomeration of "Plains culture" may have been a product of merging new ideas with old, combined with cultural interchange between groups, the details of what was accepted, rejected or elaborated in each case reflected preexisting ideological biases. Although culture may sometimes be a "melting pot," the analyses show that even in highly fluid situations, cultural mosaics may be indirectly shaped by historical factors that are not always obvious.

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Schematic geographic distributions (after DeMallie (2001)) of the tribal groups considered here, circa mid-late 19th century.Shaded area on inset shows extent of Great Plains (both short-grass high plains and tall-grass prairie regions combined). Note: The Gros Ventre are also referred to as the Atsina.
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pone-0112244-g001: Schematic geographic distributions (after DeMallie (2001)) of the tribal groups considered here, circa mid-late 19th century.Shaded area on inset shows extent of Great Plains (both short-grass high plains and tall-grass prairie regions combined). Note: The Gros Ventre are also referred to as the Atsina.

Mentions: As case studies go, attempting to understand the factors determining the distribution of cultural variations among Native American groups of the High Great Plains during the late 19th century would seem to present particular challenges. The High Plains is a semi-arid, grassland region which, until their decimation by European migrants, was home to large herds of migratory buffalo (Bison bison). By the 1700 s, the introduction of horses to the region had created new opportunities for more extensive pursuit of buffalo in the High Plains, an area running west from approximately the 100th meridian to the Rocky Mountains, and from southern Canada in the north, to west Texas in the south [11]−[13] (Figure 1). Famously, these factors created what became known as the “Great Plains culture” [12], [14]−[16]. Although the subregion of the Great Plains referred to as the “High Plains” is by no means environmentally uniform [11], [13], the region is united by a common set of ecological conditions that drew herds of buffalo and, ultimately, increased numbers of equestrian hunters [17]. Groups who came to occupy the High Plains adopted the nomadic pursuit of buffalo to the greatest extent, and exhibited traits that unite them as a particularized cultural phenomenon during the 19th century. Most notably, Wissler [14] based this on their mobility via use of horses and dog travois, buffalo hunting economy, absence of agriculture, use of tipis, lack of pottery production, adoption of Sun Dance, and elaborated working of rawhide and skins. The latter was particularly exemplified in geometric art including painting, beadwork and quillwork [16]. While none of these traits is unique to the High Plains, in combination they mark a particular historico-geographic phenomenon. This seeming cultural “homogeneity” was, however, the product of groups of people from at least six different language families, most of whom are known to have been recent migrants to the region [18], [19]. Such migratory episodes were also connected to events precipitated by European migrants in the east [20]. In effect, as a result of the newly created dynamics, the region became a “melting pot” for traditions, casting new cultural patterns over the High Plains.


Dynamics of cultural transmission in Native Americans of the high Great Plains.

Lycett SJ - PLoS ONE (2014)

Schematic geographic distributions (after DeMallie (2001)) of the tribal groups considered here, circa mid-late 19th century.Shaded area on inset shows extent of Great Plains (both short-grass high plains and tall-grass prairie regions combined). Note: The Gros Ventre are also referred to as the Atsina.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4221622&req=5

pone-0112244-g001: Schematic geographic distributions (after DeMallie (2001)) of the tribal groups considered here, circa mid-late 19th century.Shaded area on inset shows extent of Great Plains (both short-grass high plains and tall-grass prairie regions combined). Note: The Gros Ventre are also referred to as the Atsina.
Mentions: As case studies go, attempting to understand the factors determining the distribution of cultural variations among Native American groups of the High Great Plains during the late 19th century would seem to present particular challenges. The High Plains is a semi-arid, grassland region which, until their decimation by European migrants, was home to large herds of migratory buffalo (Bison bison). By the 1700 s, the introduction of horses to the region had created new opportunities for more extensive pursuit of buffalo in the High Plains, an area running west from approximately the 100th meridian to the Rocky Mountains, and from southern Canada in the north, to west Texas in the south [11]−[13] (Figure 1). Famously, these factors created what became known as the “Great Plains culture” [12], [14]−[16]. Although the subregion of the Great Plains referred to as the “High Plains” is by no means environmentally uniform [11], [13], the region is united by a common set of ecological conditions that drew herds of buffalo and, ultimately, increased numbers of equestrian hunters [17]. Groups who came to occupy the High Plains adopted the nomadic pursuit of buffalo to the greatest extent, and exhibited traits that unite them as a particularized cultural phenomenon during the 19th century. Most notably, Wissler [14] based this on their mobility via use of horses and dog travois, buffalo hunting economy, absence of agriculture, use of tipis, lack of pottery production, adoption of Sun Dance, and elaborated working of rawhide and skins. The latter was particularly exemplified in geometric art including painting, beadwork and quillwork [16]. While none of these traits is unique to the High Plains, in combination they mark a particular historico-geographic phenomenon. This seeming cultural “homogeneity” was, however, the product of groups of people from at least six different language families, most of whom are known to have been recent migrants to the region [18], [19]. Such migratory episodes were also connected to events precipitated by European migrants in the east [20]. In effect, as a result of the newly created dynamics, the region became a “melting pot” for traditions, casting new cultural patterns over the High Plains.

Bottom Line: Famously, there is a mixture of powerful internal and external factors, creating-for a relatively brief period in time-a seemingly distinctive set of shared elements from a linguistically diverse set of peoples.Moccasin decorations exhibit a pattern consistent with geographically-mediated between-group interaction.However, group variations in the religious ceremony of the Sun Dance also reveal evidence of purifying cultural selection associated with historical biases, dividing down ancient linguistic lines.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Amherst, New York, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Culture is a phenomenon shared by all humans. Attempts to understand how dynamic factors affect the origin and distribution of cultural elements are, therefore, of interest to all humanity. As case studies go, understanding the distribution of cultural elements in Native American communities during the historical period of the Great Plains would seem a most challenging one. Famously, there is a mixture of powerful internal and external factors, creating-for a relatively brief period in time-a seemingly distinctive set of shared elements from a linguistically diverse set of peoples. This is known across the world as the "Great Plains culture." Here, quantitative analyses show how different processes operated on two sets of cultural traits among nine High Plains groups. Moccasin decorations exhibit a pattern consistent with geographically-mediated between-group interaction. However, group variations in the religious ceremony of the Sun Dance also reveal evidence of purifying cultural selection associated with historical biases, dividing down ancient linguistic lines. The latter shows that while the conglomeration of "Plains culture" may have been a product of merging new ideas with old, combined with cultural interchange between groups, the details of what was accepted, rejected or elaborated in each case reflected preexisting ideological biases. Although culture may sometimes be a "melting pot," the analyses show that even in highly fluid situations, cultural mosaics may be indirectly shaped by historical factors that are not always obvious.

Show MeSH