American Culture Essay: Customs and Traditions of the …
Our fascination with the diverse, complex and unique native cultures of the Pacific Northwest is a measure of how satisfying they were to the people who created them. The progress of these ancient cultures was rudely interrupted by contact with the West and the forcible inclusion of their members into the social systems of expanding nation-states. The fact that the inclusion may at times have been directed by a spirit of sincere idealism cannot obscure the reality that it was often cruel and destructive. At the time of the treaties, most Americans assumed the native peoples would vanish like the frontier itself. In most cases, however, neither the people nor their cultures disappeared entirely, and today many are experiencing a revival. This reassertion of identity has led to a salutary change in attitude of many non-Indians who are less likely to perceive native people to be anachronisms, irrelevant or Hollywood stereotypes.
American Culture Essay: Customs and Traditions of the ..
At best, 2,300 photographs and 7,700 pages of text can serve only to introduce an extraordinary cultural mosaic of profound complexity and antiquity. Indeed, that is the collection's purpose, but it also provides important primary materials to students and scholars and points them toward other sources of information. To facilitate this, several regional authors have written essays on topics that focus on specific cultural groups and pertinent cross-cultural topics.
So how are we to deal with the information in this collection? Because it is organized as an online resource, it is much easier to access and cross-reference material and to have more facts at hand than before. The authors of the essays have included glossaries to explain uncommon terms and bibliographies to direct readers to other sources of information, and they have also included study questions that teachers may wish to use as they develop curricula in their schools. We would also strongly encourage you to visit tribal centers and reservations with respect and patience and to talk to Native Americans and others familiar with them.
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To the surprise of many, the people, the Native Americans, survived the transformation, and in our own day they have reclaimed a place of honor in the civic household, restored vitality to many of their ancient traditions and crafted new ones adapted to novel conditions. Their voices insist upon a hearing and the cumulative wisdom of their long residence in this land offers rich insights to those willing to listen. The challenge now is to find a way to make knowledge of the ancient traditions, the experience of change and the living reality accessible and available.
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In 1998, the University of Washington Libraries received a grant with the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Grant Competition to create a digital collection of writing and photographs dealing with Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest that would be available to students and researchers using the Internet. In collaboration with the Chaney Cowles Museum/Eastern Washington State Historical Society in Spokane and the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, the UW Libraries created a collection of some 2,300 photographs and 7,700 pages of text as well as metadata (captioning).
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It is part of the Library of Congress American Memory site, the goal of which is to create digital collections of primary sources relating to the history and cultural development of the United States. To adapt a technical term, it creates a meta-library that gives users access to information scattered around the country simply by typing in a web site address and clicking an icon. Made available are historical photographs recording aspects of native life along the Northwest Coast and on the Plateau east of the Cascade Mountains, selected pages from the Annual Reports of the Indian Commissioner, selected articles from the University of Washington Publications in Anthropology and the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, copies of several treaties with tribes in Washington and Oregon and a series of essays authored specifically for the collection that describe and interpret selected topics.