CULTURE AREAS

Native American History
Brad Jones

CULTURE AREAS

Definition: A geographical area within the boundaries of which
similar cultures or lifestyles are found (James H. Howard, 1975).

The idea of putting Native peoples into categories of culture
areas was developed in museums in Germany because it helped
them with sorting and exhibiting ethnic materials.

It was introduced to the U.S. by Franz Boas. “Father of
Anthropology”

Known for his fieldwork with Baffin Island Eskimo and the Kwakitul

Helped develop the science of culture areas

CLARK WISSLER

A student of Boas who further developed culture areas.

His thought was culture traits along geographic boundaries
defined a culture area.

His definition of a culture area was “a geographic area where
various peoples share certain cultural features”.

Wrote a book called The American Indian in 1917

Came up the Law of Diffusion

What he believed was responsible for the 8 New World food areas.

ALFRED KROEBER

Another student of Boas.

Thought of how the environment affected culture

Came up with the concept of culture centers

Culture Center: the district of cultural productivity and richness

He got the culture center of an area collecting cultural traits from
each group of people within that area.

For example, if there are 5,000 Plains culture traits and the Sioux
Nation had 3,500 traits, Cheyenne 3,900 traits, Crow 4,060, and
the Arapaho with 4,751 traits, then the Arapaho would be the
culture center.

HAROLD DRIVER

Believed a culture area was a geographical area occupied by a
number of peoples whose cultures show a significant degree of
similarity with each other and at the same time a significant
degree of dissimilarity with the cultures of peoples of other such
areas.

CONS OF CULTURE AREAS

Highly unrealistic and inflexible.

Freezes a culture

Migrations and Diasporas, for example, Plains people and
Cherokees.

Typical “in between” groups that straddle the fence, such as the
Shawnee and the Santee Sioux.

PROS OF CULTURE AREAS

For the sake of study and grouping, this is the best system

Allows people to gather a general knowledge and differentiate the cultures that were
present in North America.