Do All Indians Live in Tipis?
Two perspectives for Native American Heritage Month
Do All Indians Live In Tipis? Questions and Answers / from the National Museum of the American Indian
The answer to the book’s title is no. Most live in houses and apartments like their fellow citizens. The buffalo hide tipi was the traditional dwelling for only the Plains Indians. Other questions cannot be answered as succinctly, for example, there isn’t a single answer about correct terminology. Is it correct to say American Indian, Indian, Native American, or Native or is it correct to say tribe of nation? There is no clear consensus on this, so it’s best to ask, “How would you like to be referred to?” These and other questions are addressed in this series of two or three page essays about identity, origin, history, clothing, arts, crafts, ceremony and ritual, sovereignty, animal, language, education, marriage, dance, sports, land and popular misconceptions and stereotypes. And throughout the book are insights that are both surprising and profound.
- “While most people believe that the ‘lowest person on the totem pole’ is the least esteemed, totem carvers [of the North Pacific Coast] know that the figure on the bottom of the pole, holds a position of great honor.”
- “Jay Silverheels (Mohawk), the most famous of several actors who played Tonto [on The Lone Ranger] was born Harry Smith in 1912 on the Six Nations Indian Reserve in Ontario Canada.” Silverheels, which he uses as a stage name, was originally a nickname that he was given because of his speed and skill as a lacrosse player.
- “The constitution of the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois] Confederacy made an indelible impression on the United States Founding Fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, who used it as one model for the Articles of Confederation, which later were incorporated into the U. S. Constitution…”
Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World / Jack Weatherford
What would “Italian” cuisine be without the tomato? or Tex-Mex without the pepper? Where would modern transportation and machinery be without rubber for tires and hoses? These, Weatherford reminds us, were agricultural and industrial technologies taken from the American Indians.
Europe had no model of a pure democracy or representative government, aside from the oligarchies of Greece or the parliaments of Europe constituted by a severely limited electorate of the elite. The notion that each individual was free without being subject of a lord or the slave of an owner was at first incomprehensible to the Europeans when they encountered Americans whose “chiefs” were temporary charismatic leaders without authority or power to enforce their will. The political idealism that inspired the Age of Reason was inspired by the natives of the new world. The political institutions of the Iroquois Confederacy influenced political philosophers as diverse as Benjamin Franklin and Karl Marx and political institutions as different as the United States Constitution and the twentieth-century revolutions in Mexico of Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa.
Where Do All Indians Live In Tipis? gives one or two page answers, Weatherford goes into chapter length detail about how undervalued the contributions that the natives of the Americas are to civilization. He details how the gold and silver of Indians of North and South America transformed the world economy, and how their foods and medicine saved Europe from starvation, as well as their influence on fashion and religion is told in thought-provoking and accessible prose.