Trade (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Before Europeans arrived in the Americas, American Indians had well-established systems and routes of trade; the European concept of trade soon altered the traditional ways
Pre-contact Indian tribes had philosophies about property that differed dramatically from those of most Europeans; their philosophies limited the notion of what was to be traded and by whom. Most Indian property was personal, such as clothing, weapons, and subsistence items. This personal property did not usually include land. Indian tribes and kin groups, rather than individuals, had rights to land. There was no concept of real estate as being privately owned. Among agricultural groups of Indians, garden areas were tended by groups; produce from these areas was shared. When Indians gathered or fished, they had the right to do so at will anywhere within their group’s or tribe’s territory. The same was the case for hunting. In addition, Indians interpreted land rights as rights to use the land productively. Land was not to be destroyed or even left unused, and if land were left unused for some time, it was ordinarily allotted to other groups within the tribe. Since land could not be traded or sold in the ethic of most tribes, there was an inevitable conflict with Europeans who wanted to purchase tribal properties.
(The entire section is 873 words.)
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