Culture is term that is hard to define; it can mean several different things to different people. Conferring to the Webster dictionary, culture is the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time. Even this definition is extremely broad in nature and does not entirely pin point what culture actually is. In early America, the culture was hard to define and was the cause of many conflicts. While many believe that the culture of Native Americans was harshly destroyed by the settlers, the truth is that the settlers and the African cultures too were lost, forming a totally different and new culture.
William Bradford is an author from the pre-colonial time period who published a two-book series, Of Plymouth Plantation, which is an account of his voyage to the new world and the transition period. He is one of the first written accounts of the native people: But about the 16th of March, someone of Indian origin came boldly midst of them, and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well fathom, but gaped at it (Bradford 83). This is the moment which it became possible for the cultures to blend since without communication it is nearly impossible to make any significant progress. Communication allowed the Native people and the settlers to share different ideas and techniques. He gave them direction on how to set their corn, where to take their fish and to procure other commodities (Bradford 84). The Native people shared their way of the land with the settlers from Europe. Without this help, it is unlikely that the settlers would have made it through the rigid winter. William Bradfords accounts mark the starts of the blending of cultures as the two cultures begin to work together to survive.
With time, the cultures began to blend more. Though conflicts still existed, their frequencies were diminishing. Many settlers did not want to intermingle with the Natives, but there were those exceptional few who wanted peace in the new world. Rodger Williams, the author of A Key into the Language of America, spent a monumental amount of time dedicated to learning the language of the Native people. He believed that if they shared a language, then there would be unity in the new world, and he seemed to be proved right. The Native people held on to their own language although they acquired the name Indians. They have often asked me why we call them Indians, Natives, etc. And understanding the reason, they will call themselves Indians... (Williams 104). The Natives took on a name that was branded by the Englishman. Once they could communicate, they found that their religious beliefs were not entirely contrasting. Williams explains the comparisons: First, others (and I) have conceived some of their words to hold an affinity with the Hebrews (Williams 105). They came to a realization that they were not so different after all. The two religions began to merge when the Pequot caption said: your words were never out of my heart to this present; I much pray to Jesus Christ (William 106). This is the beginning of the cultures sharing one general religious belief.
During this combination of cultures, the African culture is often omitted. The culture becomes very prominent during the Revolutionary time period. With the growing number of African Immigrants came Olaudah Equiano, a well-known author. He wrote his personal narrative, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus, the African, depicting his journey being an African slave in the new world. He embraces all different languages through his travels: The languages of different nations did not totally differ, nor were they so copious of the European, particularly the English (Equiano 360). He soon grasps the new language, English, and soon began communicating freely with the Natives and the settlers. Towards the end of his tale, he agrees the religion of the new land into his life: So I was baptized in St. Margarets church (Equiano 369). Phillis Wheatley soon followed in his footsteps and accepted Christianity. Phillis Wheatley, a poet, freely speaks about God, That there is a God, that theres a savior too (Wheatley line 3). She openly voiced her opinion of God and her beliefs towards equality. It is evident that she believed that everyone was equal in the eyes of God: Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, may be refined, and join the angelic train. The African culture submerged itself in the Christian religion of the new world.
The blending of the Natives, the settlers, and the African people was a beautiful thing in itself. Their shared traditions mainly centered on language and religion. The progressive movement of the cultures brought to you what America is today; a place where different cultures are accepted and embraced; therefore, a country with an ever changing culture.
Bradford, William, and Samuel Eliot Morison. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. New York: Knopf, 1952. Print.
Equiano, Olaudah, and Werner Sollors. The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African. New York: Norton, 2001. Print.
Wheatley, Phillis, and John C Shields. The Collected Works Of Phillis Wheatley. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print.Merriam-webster.com,. "Dictionary And Thesaurus | Merriam-Webster". N.p., 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
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