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2021新托福阅读背景知识:美国原住民

2021-06-11 19:20

来源:新东方网整理

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点击查看》》2021新托福阅读背景知识汇总

  Native Americans

  Native Americans were living in North America for many hundreds of years before Europeans reached the continent. For a long time white people called them Indians. Today, many people do not like this name since it is based on a mistake: it was given to the people living in the Americas by Christopher *Columbus who, when he arrived there, thought he had discovered India. Instead, people prefer to use the term Native Americans. There are also native peoples living in *Alaska and Canada, e.g. *Inuit’s and Aleuts, but they are separate groups and are not called Native Americans.

  Early contact with Europeans

  in *Pre-Columbian North America there were many tribes who lived by hunting animals and gathering plants. Many of the tribes moved from one place to another according to the season and what food was available. Most of what is known about Native Americans dates from the time when they came into contact with Europeans.

  The first place in the US where Europeans settled permanently was *Jamestown, Virginia, founded in 1607. At first Native Americans were positive about the Europeans and were happy to have the many new things they brought, e.g. metal cooking pots, cloth and guns. But the Europeans also introduced diseases that Native Americans had no resistance to, so many became ill and died. They also brought alcohol, the effects of which Native Americans did not know. Some Europeans took advantage of this by getting them drunk and then paying low prices for their goods.

  The worst problem for Native Americans, which lasted into the late 20th century, was that the new settlers wanted their land. To Native Americans owning land was a strange idea. Tribes moved around as they pleased and shared land with any other tribe that was friendly. They did not understand that a person might believe a piece of land was theirs, or that they would try to keep others from using it. The settlers, on the other hand, assumed that they would take control of North America and used all means to do this, including making agreements, which they usually did not keep, tricking Native Americans into selling land cheaply, and taking it by military force. Native American chiefs like *Sitting Bull, *Tecumseh and *Geronimo fought against the settlers.

  As Whites began moving west, Native American tribes had to be moved on. Some were forced to go to other parts of North America, to areas very different from the ones they were used to. The *Trail of Tears was one of many terrible examples: in the cold winter of 18389 17 000 *Cherokees had to move from their land in the south-east to what is now *Oklahoma and more than 4 000 died. The government promised tribes that if they agreed to stay in one part of the country they could keep that land forever. But the promises lasted only until Americans discovered that the land they had given them was good for farming or had gold.

  Whites have explained this behavior in different ways. When the Indians fought and killed white people they said that this proved that Native Americans were wild and had to be controlled. People also believed that the Native Americans were wasting good land by not developing it. In the 19th century Americans believed in *manifest destiny, meaning that they thought God wanted them to occupy the whole continent. They also believed that it was better for the Native Americans to learn to live like white people and tried to teach them Christianity. Many Native American children, including the athlete Jim *Thorpe, were taken away from their tribe and sent to schools where they were not allowed to speak their own language.

  Native American languages

  Before Europeans arrived in North America there were over 300 Native American languages. Some have now died out, and of the 250 or so remaining many are spoken only by a few older people. Other languages, like Cherokee, are more widely spoken. Most Native Americans speak English, some as their first language and others as their second.

  Native American languages have added many words to English, though the meaning of a word has often been changed. Teepees are a kind of tent, *wampum belts were made of beads and since the belts had great value Europeans used wampum to mean 'money'. Moccasins, a kind of shoe, are today worn by people all over the world. Many Native American words describe the things they name. For example, the Sukiyaki tribe's name means 'people of the yellow earth', and the Cherokees' name for themselves, Ani-Yun'wiya, means 'the leading people'. Indian names for Whites included 'people greedily grasping for land'.

  Many American place names have their roots in Native American languages. *Ohio, for instance, is a Native American name, and the names of many of its towns and cities, such as Chillicothe and Sandusky, and the lakes Scioto and Planting, are of Native American origin.

  Native Americans today

  According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a part of the US government, there are now about 550 tribes. These include well-known groups like the *Navajo and *Sioux, and less famous tribes like the Cayuse. The number of Native Americans living in the US is about 1.2 million.

  Almost a million live on reservations, areas of land that the government has allowed them to keep as their own. Native Americans are US citizens, and have the rights and responsibilities of any US citizen. However, reservations have their own governments and police forces and Native Americans pay different taxes. They also have the right to hunt and fish where and when they like, while other Americans have to get a license.

  On or off the reservations Native Americans find it difficult to live the traditional life. Activities of other Americans affect the way they live. Building dams across a river, for example, can affect the numbers of fish living there, so that even though Native Americans have the right to fish they may not be able to catch anything. Away from the reservations, many Native Americans find that their culture is very different from that of white people and have difficulty adapting.

  Poverty is a serious problem. About 37% of people who live on reservations are unemployed, compared with 6% of the general population. Many tribes try to bring in money from outside. Some sell rights to search for oil on their reservation; others use the fact that the reservation makes its own rules to open casinos where people from outside can come and gamble. Gambling is illegal in most parts of the US and many Americans want it to remain so, but it makes a lot of money for the tribes. This brings Native Americans, once again, into conflict with white Americans.

  Native Americans in the popular imagination

  An American tradition dating back to early times is *Thanksgiving. When the English arrived in Jamestown many died during the long cold winter, but in the following spring Native Americans showed them what local foods they could eat. In the autumn, well-prepared for the winter, settlers and Native Americans had a special dinner together, the first Thanksgiving, to thank God and the Native Americans for all the food they had.

  Another story describes how the Native American princess *Pocahontas saved the life of John *Smith, the leader in Jamestown, when her father, *Powhatan, wanted to kill him. She later married another Englishman, John Rolfe, and went to England with him. The story of Pocahontas is widely known and many Americans are proud to have her as an ancestor.

  But Native Americans were more often seen by white settlers as the enemy. *Westerns, i.e. films and books about the *Wild West, use the threat from Indians as their central theme. In this context Native Americans are still called 'Indians'. Children often play 'cowboys and Indians' and pretend to kill each other. When *Buffalo Bill, began touring the US with his Wild West show, the chief Sitting Bull was one of many Native Americans in it, and many people went to see this former great enemy.

  Many Americans have an image of a 'typical Indian', a chief who lived in a teepee with his squaw (= wife), smoked a peace pipe after signing a treaty with the white man (whom he called pale face), sent smoke signals to communicate with people far away, and spoke broken English full of colorful expressions such as 'big heap wampum' (a lot of money) and 'speaks with forked tongue' (is lying). Most of these ideas have some basis in Native American culture, but it is wrong to put them all together and believe that that was how Native Americans lived.

  Americans make such mistakes because they have little interest in Native Americans. Having succeeded in pushing them out of the way onto reservations, most Americans ignore them. This may be because the Native Americans who are left are living proof of a hard truth: America wants to be, and often is, a land where everyone has a chance and where the government behaves fairly and honestly to all, but this America is built on land stolen from the people who lived there first.

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