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Incredible – The Oldest Surviving Footage of Native Americans

Neil Patrick

Native Americans are generally thought to be people who are ancestors of pre-Colombian people who were indigenous to the lands that later became the Americas. They were made up of a vast number of ethnic groups and tribes and many survive fully to this day.

Charging Thunder and his wife

Charging Thunder and his wife

Native Americans use a variety of terms to refer to themselves. Older people might to use ‘Indians’ or ‘American Indians’, whilst the younger generations tend to use ‘Indigenous’ or ‘First Nation’. When referring to them as an outsider, it has been a controversial topic as to what name to use.

Bad Bear

Bad Bear

Native Americans created entire nations without all the “advanced” gadgets that we have now, and yet they were a thousand times more capable of surviving in nature. These tribes are probably the best example of how to live off the land, still respect it and save it for the generations to come.

They lived in harmony, protecting their resources and taking care of the environment. Native Americans were first class survivors. Their traditional skills are mostly forgotten or ignored by our modern society, instead of learning from these master survivors.

Amos Little

Amos Little

Since the end of the 15th Century, European migration has gone on to give centuries of adjustment and exchange between New World societies and Old World societies.

The majority of Native American tribes had always lived as societies which were hunter-gatherers and used artwork and oral traditions to preserve their histories; this resulted in the first ever written source of the conflict brought on by European settlers.

Wife of American Horse

Wife of American Horse

When the first contact occurred, the Native American peoples were very different from the Christian and proto-industrial immigrants. The bulk of tribes utilized their agricultural lands and hunting grounds to use for the entire tribe. Whereas European people had ideas of property rights, that related to land, that were completely alien to the natives.

These differences led to violence, social disruption, and political tension.  Following the revolt against Great Britain by the 13 colonies, the United States of America was established, with President George Washington and Henry Knox coming up with the concept of ‘civilizing’ Native Americans to best prepare them to become US citizens.

This pressure to assimilate them as citizens was both voluntary and forced; it became a major policy via American administrations. Within the 19th Century, tensions rose, and warfare occurred between Native Americans and settlers from the newly-formed U.S. The US Congress, in 1830, passed the ‘Indian Removal Act’ which gave authorization to the US government to remove and relocate Native Americans to lands which were established West of the Mississippi River.

American Horse

American Horse

This was to accommodate the expansions of European-American people.  The long, forced marches leading them to their new homes came to be known as The Trail of Tears.

There were many ‘Indian Wars’ up until the 1890s, and even up until the early 20th century, though less frequent. Eventually, the US forced a range of treaties and land cessions and established numerous reservations for Native Americans across western states. In 1924, any Native American who was not already a US citizen was automatically given that status by Congress.

Interestingly William “Buffalo Bill” Cody launched his Wild West Show in 1883, and it ran for thirty years. His traveling show consisted of hundreds of horses, buffalo, deer, elk, cattle, donkeys, mules, twenty-five cowboys, around a dozen cowgirls and over one hundred Native American performers.

Due to the shows usually portraying Native Americans as the aggressor in re-enactments, many saw them as degrading. In fact, the Native Americans who participated in the show lived better lives than if they had stayed on the reservation.

Related Video: Fascinating Photos of Chiefs and Warriors of the Sioux Tribe

While many Native Americans were being forced to abandon their beliefs, Cody’s shows became lessons about Native culture. Tribal costumes, which were forbidden on the reservations, were celebrated in the show. Tribal dances, an art that was being lost due to Native assimilation into American culture, were demonstrated and encouraged. The earliest footage of Native Americans is above.