Culture is a term that is really difficult to coin in a definition because it means different things to different people. Merriam-webster.com defines culture as beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular group, society, place or time. This dictionary definition is still limited in its grasp of the totality of what culture truly is. This difficulty in defining what culture means goes way back to the early American days, and it was the cause of many conflicts. Many believe that the culture of the Native Americans was crushed by the settlers. However, the truth of the matter is that there was a blending of the cultures of the Native Americans, the Africans and the settlers to form an entirely new culture.
William Bradford, a pre-colonial author, gives us a glimpse of how the culture was in those times. His book, Of Plymouth Plantation, documents his voyage to the new world and the transition period. He describes of a time when a native confronted them and spoke to them broken English, which they could actually understand, a fact they totally marveled at. This is the time the cultures began to blend, as this communication made it possible. The new window in communication allowed the native people and the settlers to share ideas and new techniques. From the settlers, the Natives learned how to set their corn, where to take their fish and how to procure for commodities. The settlers learned a thing from the natives too; the way of their land. Without the much-needed help from the Natives, the settlers from Europe would have had slim chances of surviving through the harsh winter seasons. Bradfords account is the beginning of the blending of cultures where they worked together to survive.
With time, the cultures blended even deeply. Though conflicts still existed, their frequency was much more diminished. Some settlers were not into the idea of interacting with the natives, but there were those exceptional few who wanted peace in the new world and welcomed free interactions. Rodger Williams, the author of A Key into the Language of America dedicated a considerable amount of time learning the language of the natives. He was driven by the belief that if they shared a common language, then unity in the new world was a reality that could be grasped. According to Rodgers, the locals often wondered why the settlers usually referred to them as natives, Indians, etc. Understanding the reasons as to why they were so referred, they embraced the name and called themselves Indians, a name branded by the Englishman. As they communicated more and more, they came to the realization that their religions were not that different after all. The beginning of the merging of the religions began when the Pequot caption said: your words were never out of my heart to this present; I much pray to Jesus Christ. (Williams 106).
The African culture is often omitted during this period of culture combination. The African culture gained prominence during the Revolutionary period. With this prominence led to the emergence of the author Olaudah Equiano, who penned the books The Stimulating Chronicle of the Life of Olaudah Equiano and Gustavus, the African. With these publications, he depicts his journey being an African slave in the new world. Throughout his travels, he embraces all languages. A caption from one of his books reads, The languages of different nations did not totally differ, nor were they so copious of the European, particularly the English. (Equiano 360). He soon masters the new language, English, and begins communicating freely with the settlers and the natives. From his narrative, the author also came to embrace the religion of the new land. He was not the only one to embrace Christianity, the new religion. Phillis Wheatley, a poet, also joined the bandwagon. Wheatley in her works freely speaks about God and her beliefs towards equality. She believed that all were equal in the eyes of God. These snippets of few individuals getting submerged in a new religion depicts how in the long run the vast majority of Africans came to embrace the religion of the new world, Christianity.
America, as it is today, came to be as a result of a delicate balance of a merger of different cultures. It is a country of a beautiful mash of the cultures of the natives, the settlers, and the Africans. A country formed as a result of a destruction of many cultures to form one. The focal point of this beautiful union is centered majorly on religion and language. Language made it possible for the people to communicate and share the richness inherent in the diverse cultures. It was a window through which each culture got the chance to peek into the richness of the others. Language helped dispel the brewing suspicion the natives had about the intentions of the settlers wanting to interact with them. With a genuine interest to understand the language of the natives, and with the natives having some grasp of the language of the settlers, a rapport was created, and harmony was established. Religion on its part cemented the shared beliefs of the various cultures. It made the cultures realize that they were all equal in the eyes of the Supreme Being, that there was no inferior and superior culture. That is how America came to be, a nation of diverse cultures, a nation where diversity is embraced and accepted and appreciated, where cultures are constantly changing.
Merriam-webster.com,. "Definition Of CULTURE". N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
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