The linguistic and cultural study of the Indians started in mid-nineteenth century; however, the classifications were based mainly on genetically defined linguistic families or stock, without paying attention to culture (Sturtevant and DeMallie, 20001, p. 1).
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The American Indian culture is classified into geographical areas based on the U.S. National museum displays, with the plains Indians being artists by nature – for instance, the women painted their belongings for easy identification (Sturtevant and DeMallie, 20001, p. 9). According to Johnston (2006, p.9), the maintenance of the Native American art is suggested to aid students in maintaining their sense of belonging as well as attaining economic independence.
In addition, racial characteristics of American Indian mystical views are said to be engraved in the American culture, and are evident both in early European settler’s writings and in contemporary media. Indeed, the Indian culture is termed as a genuine virtue, which the non-Indians should strive to achieve (Snipp, 1989, p.29). This paper will discuss the Native American culture, as well as provide a comparison with the deaf culture.
Some cultural aspects of Native American culture
Art is one of the main fields that were used to incorporate the native Indians into the modern world mainstream. Art is a cultural tradition of the Indians and its interest to the non-Indians has made it to be easily incorporated into the modern mainstream as compared to other Indian cultures like dancing and hunting that are considered uncivilized.
In addition, art is an unimpeachably refined pursuit as demonstrated by handcraft projects of reformers’ (Johnston, 2006, p. 200). According to DeCora, “the artistic talent was inbred in Native Americans,” while the art skill is associated with the native’s superior understanding of the surrounding environment (Johnston, 2006, p. 203).
Cradleboards and moccasins are some of the traditional handicrafts that were suggested to be of high quality as compared to Euro-American manufacture products. Apart from the high standards of quality attained from products of Native American art, the contemporary artists working in literary fields is a source of pride (Johnston, 2006, p. 203)
According to Belgrad, the American Indian is branded as a positive symbol of survival in times of hardships that are oppressive mainly due to the endurance of the war in Europe and the continuing depression.
It is suggested that the American Indian had proved an outstanding ability to cope with the surrounding environment in order to construct a well-managed community and a high culture in harsh environment. Indeed, these are some of the achievements that are commonly known and the contribute in defining an Indian’s place in the society (Belgrad, 1998, p.54)
Native Americans culture is comprised of symbols that entail symbolic meanings. In 1940s Pollock’s work, the Inuit mask had a symbolic meaning and was purposely for effecting the dancer’s transformation into a spirit (Belgrad, 1998, p.66).
Belgrad asserts that several Indian painters converted into the alternative painting style of John Herrera as a solution to the commercialism of studio style. In addition, these artists sought to psychologically and socially create meaningful works by incorporating traditional cultures into present (Belgrad, 1998, p.69 and 70).
Culture of the deaf
The culture of the deaf is surrounded by beliefs and practices that mainly evolve around the sign language in day-to-day life, a characteristic that distinguish a deaf person from a hearing person. The hard-of-hearing people are the people who lost their hearing abilities late in life, and though they do not use sign languages, they use various adaptive communications.
The deaf people are categorized differently, from the definitely deaf people to the ones who hear nearly well (Padden, Humphries, 2005, p.1). Language rights are also some of the major issues that the deaf people are fighting for, as they dislike to be viewed as medical objects; indeed, the modern deaf life is full of battles against dominance and control (Padden, Humphries, 2005, p.9).
In professional industry, the ‘deaf middle class’ has existed in the USA for a period of time although the situation is different in UK mainly as evidenced by the fact that barely a dozen deaf professionals could be accounted for by the year 1976 (Ladd, 2003, p.184)
Similarities between Native American Culture and Culture of the Deaf
Adaptive: The two cultures, the Indian culture and the deaf culture, are both adaptive in nature. The Indians were adaptive by incorporating their native painting techniques into the modern style, while the deaf practices of seeing on the other hand are not logical and natural, instead, they have been heightened (Padden, Humphries, 2005, p.2). In addition to this, the hard-hearing people are said to use various adaptive communication methods (Padden, Humphries, 2005, p.1).
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Symbols and signs: Both cultures possess symbols or signs that represent a particular meaning. The Indian Americans for instance used particular masks to symbolize the transformation of the dancer to the spirit form (Belgrad, 1998, p.66); while on the other hand, the deaf culture used the sign language to communicate (Padden, Humphries, 2005, p.2).
Struggle: The element of struggle is depicted clearly in both cultures. The Indian Americans struggle to have their culture, which is termed primitive, to be recognized while the deaf are said to have day-to-day battles against dominance and control (Padden, Humphries, 2005, p.9).
Distinctions between Native American Culture and Culture of the Deaf
Attainment of culture: Both cultures are different in the sense that the Indian American culture is mainly attained because of naturally being born in the Native society while the deaf culture is attained due to hearing disabilities of a person.
Passage of the practices: The passage of the practices is different in both cultures; for instance, in the Indian American culture, the practices are passed to a person through collective Indian community participation, while in the deaf culture, the practices are passed on in specialized institutions (Padden and Humphries, 2005, p.29)
The Indian culture and the deaf culture are both cultures that are still present in the contemporary America. Although the native Indian practices have been diluted by modern world, that does not mean the culture has ceased to exist. The deaf culture on the other hand has improved with modern ways of communicating in different languages using the sign language. Moreover, the Indian culture is still eminent in the modern America media. It is presence in the origin of America is evident in the early European settlers.
Belgrad, D. (1998). The culture of spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in postwar America. Web.
Johnston, A. P. (2006). Seeing high & low: Representing social conflict in American visual culture. Web.
Ladd, P. (2003). Understanding the deaf culture: In search of deafhood. Web.
Padden, C, Humphries, l. T (2005). Inside deaf culture. Web.
Snipp, C. M, (1989). American Indians: The first of his land. Web.
Sturtevant, C. W, DeMallie, J. R. (2001). Handbook of North American Indians. Web.