The Unifying Aspects of Cultures


Frontier Metamorphoses: Americanization and Otherness

Roger L. Nichols (University of Arizona, Tucson, USA)
Acculturation and "Otherness": Native American Experiences

Throughout its history American society has included as wide a variety of differing peoples as any nation in the modern world. From the early Puritan efforts to enforce comformity in colonial New England to the present actions aimed at keeping the borders closed, many Americans have been unwilling to accept groups representing the "other".

For American Indians this meant that they faced continuing government policies and actions by the general population meant to force them to become acculturated and then to assimilate into the general society. Working through the school, church, and farm, the U.S. government sought to persuade Indians to abandon their native cultures and to become "real Americans".

The paper examines the broad outlines of federal actions as well as Indian reactions and initiatives. Its thesis is that many tribal people rejected government efforts at forced acculturation. Rather through religious syncretism, political and legal actions, and a determination to retain their culture and identity, they survived and in a few cases have even prospered.