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Question 1:

Comment on any points of difference between the native peoples of South and North America.


The words ‘Natives of America’ refer to the original population of America as existing in the pre-Columbian era. The natives of South America belonged to different cultural groups. Domestication of animals was practiced by the South American natives. Llamas and alpacas were domesticated for the purpose of transportation and food. The natives here were well-versed with agriculture. They produced potatoes, beans and chillies. The abundance or surplus production of cereals encouraged the beginning of settled and permanent agricultural societies in South America. Overtime, these permanent agricultural societies led to the emergence of powerful monarchical systems in South and Central America under the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas.

However, the life of the natives in North America was not the same as the natives in South America. They lived in small bands. Population was distributed among different environmental zones of North America. The North American natives basically followed a nomadic lifestyle and moved from one place to another in search of cereals, vegetables and meat. The nomadic lifestyle of the people of North America prevented them from establishing any kingdoms or empire. There was, thus, no territory that they could declare to be their own. This also prevented them from forming a collective identity. With no bond among the members of tribes of North America, they easily succumbed to the European powers without much resistance.

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Question 2:

Other than the use of English, what other features of English economic and social life do you notice in nineteenth-century USA?


Apart from the use of English, several other changes were introduced in the Economic and social life in the nineteenth-century-USA.

Economic life

• Large-scale agriculture in the USA expanded as huge areas were cleared and developed as farms, where crops like rice and cotton were produced to sustain the population.

• A number of industrial towns came up and the number of factories multiplied in the USA.

Social life

• Constitutional rights were given to the people of the USA. These rights were given to the whites in the USA and the blacks were not allowed to exercise these rights.

• Society was divided between blacks and whites. Although the blacks were the natives in the USA, they were not given the same status as that of the whites, who became privileged people in the society.

• By this time, many natives accepted the citizenship of the USA on the condition that they will be given equal status in the society.

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Question 3:

What did the 'frontier' mean to Americans?


The word ‘frontier’, basically means a borderland between two countries. In the context of America, the definition of frontier may be considered a bit elastic, that is, having separate meanings in separate contexts. At some references, frontier explains the boundary of the state till the place where the Europeans had reached after the expansion. At other instances, frontier is also considered  the zone of transition where the explorers and colonizers were arriving.  This 'frontier’ was also referred to as the land of opportunities by the explorers. To exploit these lands, expansion of the Europeans continued in the western direction.  When the USA’s continental expansion came to an end in 1892, the concept of frontier was also dissolved.

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Question 4:

Why was the history of the Australian native people left out of history books?


Leaving the Australian native people out of history books was a conscious decision of the colonizers. Under the colonizers, the history of Australia was traced from the time Captain Cook discovered the land.  This method gave an impression that Australia had no past history or any history worth mentioning or recording. Thus, colonial intentions of keeping English civilisation at a higher stand over the native civilisation was easily achieved by keeping the Australian native people out of the history books.

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Question 5:

How satisfactory is a museum gallery display in explaining the culture of people? Give examples from your own experience of a museum.


Before we move forward and reach a conclusion of how successfully museum galleries explain the culture of people, we need to understand two terms: museums and culture. Let's first define the two terms.

According to the Museum Association of United Kingdom, museum is defined as follows:
“They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.”

Culture, according to the Oxford Dictionaries is “The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.”

From the above definition of museum, we can derive that museums, basically, collect tangible objects for display. The question now arises that whether the collection of these tangible commodities are able to explain the culture of people. Let’s take the help of a few examples to understand the same.

Objects provide a link between the past and the present. Various aspects of an object, such as the materials used in making that object, the condition it was found in and the use of that object provide us with important information about the past. It helps us to understand the value and beliefs of the people. Let’s take the example of the ‘dancing girl’ excavated from Mohenjadro (preserved in the National Museum of New Delhi). This statue helps us to sketch the image of a society where dancing was one important way of entertainment. It can also be inferred that girls then had confidently established themselves in the society and nudity was not a taboo.

Often, specimens can be more expressive than words. Objects have the advantage as they help us to directly relate to the past. Let’s understand this by citing the example of a brick from Babylonia with the seal of King Nebuchadnezzar II. This is kept for display in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of Pennsylvania. If one observes this evidence carefully, there is a distinct footprint on the brick. This specimen takes us back to the urban culture of the Babylonian Civilisation. The political culture too becomes evident from the seal on the brick.

The above stated examples prove that museum galleries help us to understand the culture of people. But let’s think differently. Is culture only limited to tangible entities or does it extend to include the intangible cultural resources too?

To really understand the past and its culture, we need to understand several intangible cultural resources like cosmology, social organisation and also the knowledge required to use and preserve the tangible materials. It needs to be understood that, as stated by Makio Matsuzono, Director of  National Museum of Ethnology, Japan, “the tangible is always embedded in the intangible. It is u
nreasonable to divide the two forms of heritage.”

There are several civilizations and societies where there has been no practice of preserving the tangible cultural heritage. They rather believe in the transferring personal memories and communal histories and music and religion orally. Museums have failed to preserve these intangible cultural entities. It is only recently that the UNESCO has taken measures to safeguard heritage,  including identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection,  promotion, enhancement, transmission (through formal and non-formal education) and revitalisation of the intangibles such as expressions, knowledge, skills and practices of individual and groups.

Thus, we can conclude that museum galleries can provide only a glimpse of the culture of the people but not the whole picture. We can understand it only if we study the tangible along with the intangible elements of the cultural heritage.

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Question 6:

Imagine an encounter in California in about 1880 between four people: African slave, a Chinese labourer, a German who had come out in the Gold Rush, and a native of the Hopi tribe, and narrate their conversation.


If a former African slave, a Chinese labourer, a German who had come out in the gold rush and a native of the Hopi tribe were to encounter each other in California in about 1880, what their conversation would seem like is mentioned below.

The Chinese labourer would narrate about the contribution of the Chinese labour to the economic development of California and the West. Many industries relied heavily on Chinese labour. They came without their families and if they continued working, they might never see their families again. If they returned to China, a life of poverty awaited them. He would speak of some fellow Chinese who were hired to level roadbeds, bore tunnels and blast mountain sides for railroad construction.  He would recount how many of his kinsmen fell prey to numerous diseases and died due to their lack of faith in western medicines and lack of knowledge of the Chinese doctors.  He would speak of the days when he used to be active in the service trades. Many Chinese men found themselves doing work that was considered women's work in both China and the United States. They worked in occupations that served non-Chinese, such as servants and laundrymen and in occupations that crossed racial borders, such as that of cooks in homes, cafes and restaurants.

The German would tell stories about how one day he discovered gold while constructing his sawmill along the American River. He performed primitive tests to confirm whether it was the precious metal and concluded that it was, in fact, gold. However, he was very anxious that the discovery does not disrupt his plans for construction and farming. bl. He would woefully recount how his attempt at keeping the gold discovery quiet failed when the merchant and newspaper publicized the find. Large crowds of people overran the land and destroyed nearly everything he had worked for. He would recall how there was a feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold deposits. Large number of Americans migrated and settled in California to mine for gold. The gold rush was seen as a ‘free for all’ income option. While gold mining itself was unprofitable for him, he made large fortunes by turning merchant and providing transportation facilities.

The ex-African slave would talk about chattel slavery that existed in the United States of America. He would tell how slavery had been practiced in British North America from early colonial days, and was recognized in the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence. When the United States was founded, the status of slavery was largely limited to those of African descent. A system and legacy was created in which race played an influential role. Abolitionist laws and sentiment had spread in the Northern states only after the Revolutionary War,while the rapid expansion of the cotton industry led to the Southern states strongly identifying with slavery. While accounting for the Civil War, which caused a huge disruption of Southern life, many slaves either escaped or were liberated by the Union's armies.The slave would let out a sigh of relief to state that the war effectively ended slavery, before the Thirteenth Amendment formally outlawed the institution throughout the United States.

The Hopi tribesman would remember the day the first formal meeting between the Hopi and the U.S government occurred in 1850. Seven Hopi leaders made the trip to Santa Fe to meet the government representative. They wanted the government to provide protection against the Navajo, an Apachean-language tribe, but distinct from other Apache. The U.S. government established Fort Defiance to deal with their threats to the Hopi. After the defeat of the Navajo, the Hopi enjoyed a short period of peace. The Hopi have always viewed their land as sacred. Agriculture is a very important part of their culture and their villages are spread out across the northern part of Arizona. They never had a conception of land being bounded and divided. They lived on the land that their ancestors did. Even after reservation by the U.S. government, they had to fight with the Navajo over the right to land as they had different models of sustainability. He would speak about the Hopi being one of the original natives of America and how they survived throughout the period of colonization. He would talk about his faith in Christianity and how his people came to believe in it only after a father supposedly restored a child’s sight by touching a cross to his head.

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