What were the similarities and the differences in the North American Indian societies? My text for this is Bentley and Ziegler's Traditions & Encounters

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In your text, the discussion of the natives of North America lists differences between various societies, but no similarities that hold true for all North American Indian societies.  Let us look at differences noted in the text, at some things that many cultures held in common, and at one major similarity between all Native American societies that is not mentioned in the text.

The text mentions one difference between various Native American societies that is of paramount importance.  It notes that some societies had large-scale farming while other societies did not.  This is very important because it affected the ways of life in those societies in important ways.  Agricultural societies could have larger populations.  They were able to have more complex societies and become more militarily powerful than societies that lacked agriculture.  This difference is a very important one.

One thing that many societies had in common was a hunter-gatherer economy.  These Indian societies lacked the resources that would allow them to farm.  Instead, they lived by hunting animals and by gathering plant resources that grew wild.  This brings us to another difference.  Hunter-gatherers in different regions had different food sources.  Your text mentions, for example, that regional peoples consumed fish while those in the interior based their diets on large land animals like deer and bison. 

The major similarity between all these societies is that they lacked metal technologies.  None of the North American societies knew how to make bronze or iron or other metals that could be made into tools and weapons.  Therefore, they all used stone technologies for things like arrowheads and knives.  This was to be a major disadvantage for the natives when the Europeans came to the Americas.

PrunTuns | Student

Here is an additional difference between the North American Indian tribes:

The tribes all spoke a vast number of different languages ("over 200," according to a U.S. History website, which is linked below), which were completely unrelated to each other. Of course, this would only create numerous troublesome language barriers between tribes. These barriers could also have served to reinforce the tribes' unique identities and their perceptions of "us" versus "them." 

This was not derived directly from Bentley and Ziegler's Traditions and Encounters, but I have included this tidbit just as a helpful fact.