California, being the third largest state in the United States of America, naturally will have a good division of geographical regions. This division entails a diverse climate, landforms, and cultures which people live by. The life of all civilizations is their people. And what characterizes a people is not only their physical appearance, but more so they are identified with their ways of life and traditions, or in other words, culture. California, being a single landmass, most of its original inhabitant Indians are believed to have been living here. It is their ancestral homelands and each of these unique cultures have their own folklores about creation. Widely differing versions of these stories of creation propagate even within the small congregations. Even though each of the populations take heed of the other’s stories, their general opinions on each other’s version is: This is how we tell it; they tell it differently.
The origin of the majority of the population of the indigenous population came from Asia who crossed into North America through the land bridges. The exact time when these people came to be can not be pinpointed but it is approximated that they have been living there for fifteen thousand years before the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century.
Focusing on two major cultural areas, the Northwestern Culture Area and the Northeastern Culture Area, we study the differences and similarities between these two sample populations. The researcher chose these two areas because of their proximity and yet distinct differences, by examination of these two areas, the researcher wishes to establish a more academic ground in the study.
Among the people of the Northwestern Culture are the Yurok, Hupa, and Shasta. The area’s more distinct features are its vast natural resources. Because of this, a family’s social status is often determined by possession of objects of wealth. Political power often rest on the wealthiest, with their families around them.
The Yurok pride themselves on their villages along lagoons, and mouth of streams. They share a common trait with other population in the vicinity of valuing material wealth. Usually, the wealthiest members serve as hosts for ceremonial gatherings by showcasing their dance regalias. As an added implication, their clothing is generally described as lavish and highly decorative as opposed to the commoners. Language was also more elaborate. The Yurok people lived in year-round villages because of rich natural resources. Salmon, sturgeon, eel, surf fish, sheelfish, sea lions, deer, elk, and acorns are their steady food. Dense forests also provided the people with wood for construction and architecture, not only of shelter, but also household items such as stools, storage boxes, cooking implements etc. Some of the more advanced craftsmen also were able to build canoes from large redwood logs.
The Hupa people on the other hand inhabit most of the lower course of the Trinity River. They share a common trait with other populations in this region. Social rank was determined by the amount of wealth, and political power was passed on from one generation to another. Their steady food source was salmon and acorn. Religion included mostly world-renewal rituals that are performed each year.
The Shasta are the people who occupied the rugged mountain area whose villages were mainly in the river valleys. The Shasta people are quite different from the Hupa and Yurok in the sense that they do not value material wealth too much. The families instead owned hunting and fishing grounds, tobacco plots, and oak trees. These real estate property was passed on from generation to generation on a paternal basis. Their specific currency was the clamshell disks. Furthermore, trade with the Wintu people, the Achumawi, the Karok, the Hupa, and Yurok was also evident. Their main imports from these neighboring villages are baskets, abalone, and other shells and their mane exports were obsidian blades, and juniper beads.
The northeastern culture area mostly composed of plateau culture area and the Achumawi and Atusgewi are the prime inhabitants. Some tribes lived in the richly endowed land and lead lives similar to the ones in the northwestern culture area, but most inhabited desolated areas where food was scarce and the majority of the people tend to busy themselves with hinting and gathering. This area is generally thinly settled.
The Achumawi included nearly all the lands along the Pit river. These people used pitfalls along animal trails in order to trap deer, thus naming the river, Pit River, and the people the Pit River Indians. Deer was the primary target for the hunters because of their numerous population and deerskin was also used in making clothing and other accessories. These people included elaborate puberty ceremonies especially for females. Dowry was present in marriage, often seen as a form of mutual purchase. These people are identified as very spiritual people. The tribesmen’s deaths are occasions for great mourning and usually honored in a funeral pyre. Shamans were also present. They were mainly healers who got their powers from tamakomi, translated as medicine or power. Most of these Shaman were women.
The Atsugewi inhabited the valleys along north of Mount lassen. Their land was mainly barren and hard work was evident in their culture. The parents usually taught their children not to be lazy. The rags to riches story due to hard work was considered the social ideal. There were a few lakes and along the Atsugewi territory. Trout was their main fish and hinting for small game was their main source of food. These people also included plays and celebrations. Every sixth day was a day of rest, and annual celebrations during autumn are called when enough food has been gathered for the incoming winter season.
The main reason for the similarities among these people are geographics and demographics. The land which they live in have similarities, and the people also took similar measures to adapt and live. For example, if they live near woodlands and rivers, naturally hunting and fishing would be a source of livelihood, but by also the same reason, differences arise. The fish in a certain river is not necessarily the same species of fish in the other river and these people may have accumulated different diseases and different cures, different types of wood, different types of furniture, and housing. Geography is probably the largest factor in pinpointing these people’s similarities and differences.
CaliforniaHistory.Net, 2000 ‘The First Californians: Native Cultures’ [online] available at <http://www.californiahistory.net/Native_1.htm>
Globe Corner Bookstores, 2007 ‘ Geographic Catalog Northeastern California’ [online] available at <http://www.globecorner.com/g/i1594.html>
Wikipedia. 2007, ‘Northern California’, [Online] Available at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_virus >