Since the Native Americans and their culture don’t seem to play any role in the modern world, it is still peculiar to find out what has driven such great culture to a complete collapse. An idea which has been suggested by Sayre is that the process of decentering of the culture has taken place, which led to the decay of the culture.
Tracking the reasons for civilizations to disappear or their culture to vanish, the researcher found out the phenomenon of decentering, which is in fact the merging of two cultures and the final domination of the leading culture. The challenges that the nations had to meet to preserve their national and cultural identities wee far too hard for the peoples to handle. They disappeared without a trace, and the knowledge of hundreds of years was gone.
As the people whose culture has been buried under a thick layer of the brutality of the invaders, they had no other chance but to submit to the lifestyle that was foreign and unnatural to them. One of the wisest nations which has ever existed, they dissolved in the puddle spilt on the terra incognita by a European passer-by.
Although the great civilizations of the past were both wise and powerful, they still did not manage to survive through the years. The reasons for their decay can be different, yet there is something that embraces them all, explaining what had led the great people s of the past to fall into ashes and cease to exist. One of those that have been most recently suggested is the reason of decentralization, explained by Sayre (1999, 419). According to the idea of the scientist, there were some other reasons that led the ancient people to their disappearing.
Sayre provides the idea of decentering as the reason for the Native American culture to come to decay and finally dissolve in the melting pot of the Europeans coming to the continent and taking control over everything that was there within their reach, along with the culture of the Native Americans. Since the latter were of no interest to the newcomers, the Europeans simply tossed the culture that had been handed to them away.
Considered now as an act of savage attitude nowadays, it was a common thing to do with the conquistadores that came to discover the brave new world. Even though the Indians tried to resist and protect their culture, there was hardly anything that they could do, since the effect of decentralization could not be turned back or stopped. The culture of the Indians was doomed to be long forgotten and neglected for several hundred years.
Beginning with the early nineteenth century, when the expansion began to grow and the presence of the foreigners was seen more clearly than ever, the Native Americans began to feel that their culture is slipping through their fingers, while they are slowly dissolving in the crowd of foreigners.
They spoke different concepts of life values and suggested another lifestyle, which could not be accepted by the native population. The point of crucial importance was the European Americans’ attitude towards the nature which the Native Americans worshipped so much. Conflicts were rising constantly, and there seemed no end to this continuous argument. As Warren says,
Contrary to the perceptions of the invalid European Americans, indigenous Americans saw humans as part of a natural world of communities, communities made up of extended families, unlike the European concept of a city of people who are strangers to one another and came together only in defiance of nature. (155)
With such perception of the environment and wildlife the Native Americans could not resist the savage culture of the Europeans who came to concur and to enjoy the victory. Thus, a very important element, which was a touch with the earth and the natural resources, was lost for good for the Native Americans.
It is clear now that merging with the European culture has led the Native Americans to the decay and the further disappearance. In fact, they did not have any other choice but to submit to the environment that was grasping them in attempt to take over their culture, traditions and land.
However hard it is to acknowledge this fact, the Native Americans were wiped from the face of the Earth due to the European conquerors who came to discover the new lands. Not taking into account that these lands already belong to someone else, they mixed their culture with the one of the American Indians, leaving the latter no other choice but to swallow what the new culture suggested.
Naturally, the natives could not take such attitude for long time. Escaping the savages that came from the Old World, the Indians were to keep close to each other and preserve their culture as long as they could. However, the last attempts were of very little use.
The abovementioned case is a clear-cut example of culture decentering. Once there was the influence of another ethnic group, it will inevitably lead to the merging of the cultures, and in case the new culture is implanted forcefully, the result is always lamentable. However, it must be noticed that the Native Americans were not about to cry – on the contrary, they decided to face the sudden trouble with a chuckle of laughter. Perhaps, that was a wise tactic.
“They have found a humorous side of nearly every problem and the experience of life have generally been so well defined through jokes and stories that they have finally become a thing in themselves” (Quennet 108)
Actually, he people who can laugh at their own troubles are worth respect. Nevertheless, the ability to laugh did not help the Native Americans to prevent their culture from decentralization described by Sayre (419).
The problem described above is in fact close to the one that the modern American population, which makes the descendants of the European invaders, often encounters. However strange that might sound, they feel the urge to visit England, the country which they have never seen but where their real, historical home actually is. Gienow-Hecht describes this problem rather vividly:
Every native-born American wants to visit Europe, and the first place that he wants to visit is England, so that he can see for himself all that he has read of, heard of, thought and dreamed. We can meet that ambition half-way by selling England to him on screen. (39)
However hard a man could resist to the influence of the foreign culture or the culture that has become foreign to him or her, sooner or later this person will get tired of constant battles with him- or herself, and the prize will go to the prevailing culture. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be changed about that. This is what can be defined as the natural selection process in the cultural sphere. Although this might sound a bit cruel, the cultures that prove weaker than the others are bound to die.
Naturally, the idea of the Native Americans being wiped off the continent by the people who came from Europe to explore the new land can be argued, just the way Hsu does it:
These explanations dissimulated the fact that Native Americans were actually hastened to extinction – educated about firearms in far more violent ways than Brown here suggests. Historians have highlighted “the effect of the Indian frontier as a consolidating agent in our history”, nothing that wars and treaties with Native Americans “accounted fro five-sixth of all federal expenses between the years 1790 and 1796” (29)
In spite of the fact that such actions cannot be called chivalrous and decent, the abovementioned fact cannot excuse the extinction of the culture that was the essence of an entire nation.
The Europeans were savage enough to intrude into the sphere of cultural life of the aborigines, and the latter did not have enough force and desire to save their heritage from the conquistadors. Although the culture that has vanished was vast and embracing such spheres of life which the Europeans had never heard of, it was crushed mercilessly.
Nowadays one of the greatest regrets of the entire mankind, the decentering of American Indian culture was nothing to be worried about three hundred years ago. Such twists of fate make people think of the consequences that are triggered by every step that a person makes. Even a glance cast upon another culture or civilization can lead t unpredictable consequences, and the decentering of the American Indian culture is a sad but convincing proof for this.
Gienow-Hecht, J. C. E. (2007) Decentering America. Providence, RI: Berghahn Books. Print.
Hsu, L. H. (2010) Geography and the Production of Space in Nineteenth
Century American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Print.
Quennet, F. C. (2001) Where “Indians” Fear to Tread: A Postmodern Reading of Louise Erdrich’s North Dakota Quartet. Munster: Lit. Verlag Munster. Print.
Sayre, R. F. (1999) Recovering the Prairie. Madison, WS: University of Wisconsin Press. Print.
Warren, C. A., Vavrus, M. D. (2002) American Cultural Studies. Springfield, IL: University of Illinois Press. Print.