Introduction to the Cultures of North American Aboriginal Peoples

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Introduction to the
Cultures of
North American
Aboriginal Peoples
Arctic Region
Inhabitants

Not “Indians”
– Difference based on physical differences:
 Blood
Types
– ABO
 Eskimo/Aleut peoples have percentages similar to
Euro-Asian peoples
 Indians lack antigen “B”
– MN Blood Groups
 Same similarities
 Physical
differences related to cold adaptation
– Length of limbs
– Breadth of trunk
Physical Anthropology

Group
Type
O
Type A
Type
B
Type
AB
Eskimo
(Alaska
)
38
44
13
15
Indians
(USA)
79
16
4
1
Navajo
73
27
0
0
Blackfo
ot
17
82
0
1
Czech
30
44
18
9

Modern groups in the
Arctic form a group
distinct from the rest of
the Americas’ aboriginal
inhabitants
This can be seen in a
number of physiological
and linguistic areas
– Eskimo-Aleut languages
are related to languages
spoken in eastern Siberia
and not to other
languages of North
America
– Blood type distribution
(see table)
– Y-chromosome and
mtDNA differences


32 Y-chromosome
haplotypes
Appears to indicate
relationship (Haplotype
31) with groups in
central Siberia
Genetic distance between human populations based on research by
Cavalii-Sforza
Regional Characteristics (1)

Arctic
– Stretching from western Alaska across the entire
continent to Greenland
– Area north of the tree line
– Classic tundra conditions during the Holocene.
 Cold, desert-like conditions.
 Growing season ranges from 50 to 60 days.
 Average winter temperature is -34° C
 Average summer temperature is 3-12° C
 Yearly precipitation, including melting snow, is 1525
cm
– Flora



Low shrubs, sedges (Cyperaceae), reindeer moss (Cladonia
rangifera), liverworts (Hepaticae), and grasses
400 varieties of flowers
crustose and foliose lichen
Climate
No region more
affected by climate
 Long winters

– Winter: Oct-May
– Summer Jun-Sept
Wind
 Relatively dry

20
15
10
5
High
West
East
Brno
0
-5
-10
-15
-20
-25
-30
I
IV
VI
X
Tundra (Alaska National Wildlife Refuge)
Coastal tundra
Arctic Fauna: Terrestrial Mammals
 Terrestrial
herbivores:
– Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) [sob]
– Musk oxen (Ovibus moschatus)
[pižmoň]
– Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) [zajíc
polární]
– Lemming (Synaptomys spp.) [lumík]
 Terrestrial
carnivores
– Wolf (Canis lupus)
– Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) [liška
polární]
Arctic Fauna: Marine Mammals (1)

Seals (true/eared)
– Harp seal (Phoca groenlandicus) tuleň gronský

Adult males grow to about 1.7 m and 130 kg; females are
smaller
– Ringed seal (Phoca hispida) tuleň kroužkovaný

Adult ringed seals are 99-157 cm in length and weigh 45-107
kg
– Ribbon seal (Phoca fasciata) tuleň pruhovaný

Adult ribbon seals average 155-165 cm in length and 70-80
kg in weight
– Bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) tuleň vousatý

Adult seals are 2.1-2.5 m in length, and weigh about 200-360
kg
– Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) mrož

Atlantic walrus males average 3.0 m in length and weigh
approximately 800-900 kg. Pacific walrus males are
somewhat larger, averaging 3.2 m and approximately 1200
kg. Females are generally smaller
– Northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) lachtan medvědí
Arctic Fauna: Marine Mammals (2)

Whales (toothed/baleen – ozubení/kosticovici)
– Beluga (Didelphinapterus leucas) běluha

Adults measure 3-4.6 m and weigh 1350-1500 kg
– Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) narval

Adults: 4-4.9 m, 900-1600 kg, tooth: 2-3 m in length
– Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) plejtvákovec šedý

Adults are 13.8-15 m long and weigh about 33,000 kg
– Northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) velryba
biskajská

Adults are 15-15.2 m long and weigh about 54,000 kg
– Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) velryba gronská


Adults are 15-18.5 m long and weigh 72-91,000 kg
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) medvěd lední
– Male polar bears grow two to three times the size of
female polar bears
– Males weigh about 350 to more than 650 kg and are
about 2.5-3 m long
– Females about 150 to 250 kg and are about 2 to 2.5 m
Diversity and Density




Western Arctic –
highest diversity
Central Arctic – lowest
diversity and density
Eastern Arctic – in
between
Stone tools:
– No suitable raw
materials for chipped
stone
– Emphasis on ground
stone tools (slate)

Extensive use of bone
and ivory tools
Knives
Left: Ulu (woman’s knife) made of ground
slate in a bone handle
 Right: Man’s knife made from ivory

Oil lamps
Only source of light
and heat
 Fuel is blubber (fat
of sea mammals)
 Used for melting
snow for water
 Heating water for
tea
 Not sufficient for
cooking

Other technology
Human mobility
 Summer
– restricted to water
– Reduced mobility
– Kyak
– Umiak
 Winter
– on land and sea (frozen)
– Increased mobility
– Dog sled
Umiak
Inuit kayak (max. length 5 m)
More kyaks
Kayak loaded with sealskin float,
weapons, etc.
Sled (toy)
Dog sled team
House Types - Summer
Simple whalebone
or driftwood frame
 Covered in animal
skins

House Types - winter

W. & E. Arctic
– Semisubterranean
sod houses
– Snow houses only
used for short term
living

C. Arctic
– Snow houses used
longer term
Seasonal residence patterns

Western Arctic
– Summer village
 50-100
people
 Whaling
– Winter dispersal
 Nuclear

family groups
Central Arctic
– Summer dispersal
– Winter village
 60-100
people
Winter Village

Engraving
from
Frobisher
expedition in
16th century
Diet
 Meat
 Blubber/fat
– No/minimal cooking
 Vitamnins
 Berries
in summer
– Cloudberry
 An
amber-colored relative of the raspberry
 Grows on very small bushes
Nerkraitorvik
 Hunting
companions
– Each hunter has 12
– Each of the 12 is referred to by a
specific part of the seal
– When a hunter kills a sea he exchanges
that part with his named partner
– Not necessary to participate in hunt to
make claim
Division of Labor

Men
– Hunting
– Fishing
– Butchering kills away from camp

Women
– Butchering kills in camp
– Preparation of clothing


Tanning leather
Sewing
– Family duties

Both
– Shamanism
– Spiritual activities
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