THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA
The Maya are a people of Guatemala and Mexico. They
believe in different divinities such as Chac the rain god, Kukulkan
and Ek Chuah. Their life is based around the belief that a god
created the sky, the earth and the day. Long ago, they were very
interested in music, played wind and percussion instruments and
their melodies accompanied dances and rites. In Mayan cities there
are pyramids, observatories, and above all squares for every event:
ceremonies, commercial exchange, etc. Mayan sculpture can be divided
into two types. The first includes the stars and full round
sculpture, while the second includes architectural sculptures such
as architraves and paintings inside the buildings. The technique
used is bas-relief. Wooden sculptures are very rare. Mayan painting
is widespread and well-known, both through frescos and through
ceramics. In the frescos the figure most often painted is Chac the
rain god. In the post-classical period new architectural elements
appeared. In fact, thanks to the use of columns, the squat structure
of the buildings was reduced.
The Haida are a population of North America. They
still preserve somatic characteristics that recall Polinesia. They
were fishermen and tobacco farmers. Each group was separated
according to the social class: nobles, commoners and slaves. Their
houses have a square form and are made of wood. On the front
external wall there are totem poles decorated with grotesque
designs. Tattoos and body painting are both important and common.
They use labial plates. They were skilled and important in the
working of wood. Most of their production was linked to ceremonies
in which spoons, weapons, amulets, bowls and baskets were made.
Their decorations depict animals which are visibly deformed, and the
internal parts of animals, like vertebrae and ribs, can often be
seen in the designs. The secret societies, inside which masks and
sticks were made, are also known and documented.
The Aruak are a native population that lives in
Southern America. They represent the Amazonian culture and tribes.
They can be found in Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.
The Guaranė are an ethnic population of Southern
America. Apart from the Guarinė, among the most important tribes are
the Tapč, the Apapocuva and the Guayakė. The Guaranė are the
inhabitants of the forest. They have a very complex traditional
culture and are organized in great patriarchal families. They lived
in rectangular huts big enough only for one family. They believed in
reincarnation. The principal divinities were Nandevurucu, or the
Great Father, and Nandecy, Our Mother. The shaman performed his
duties as a doctor. The labial plate was very diffused. The Guaranė
were farmers. They cultivated corn, tobacco and sugar cane. The
handicraft production of ceramics, cloth and skins were very
important. The urns decorated by them with red geometric designs on
a white background or vice versa are well known.
Before becoming extinct, the Fuegian population
lived in the Tierra del Fuego and included the archaic groups of the
south and the west and the Ona of the east. The two ethnicities had
different somatic characteristics; the Ona were stronger, taller,
with an elongated face, while the archaic tribes were smaller in
stature, with a wide face and reddish-coloured skin. With regards to
dress, the Fuegians always wore very short clothes or were naked.
They covered themselves only with rough slippers and a fur cloak in
winter. The archaic tribes lived on fishing and molluscs. They lived
in houses made from simple branches. The Ona lived on hunting and on
gathering mushrooms and molluscs. The families were patrilineal and
women enjoyed a liberty of sorts. As far as religion was concerned,
they believed in a supreme being.
The Sioux are an ethnic group of North America. The
Sioux were hunters and corn farmers. Later their passion for horses
brought them to the western grasslands of the Mississippi where they
started to hunt bison. The families were of a matrilocal type and
were gathered in clans headed by the elders. Their houses consisted
of simple, poor huts made with branches. In the tribes, the shaman
had an important role. The Sioux found all they needed in the bison,
so much so that people spoke of a bison culture. With the skin of
this animal were made clothes, trousers for men, shoes and also
cribs for children. They threw the typical stone axe in battle with
which they struck their enemies. The Sioux wore a crown-like
headdress made of eagle feathers; the more feathers they had, the
more they were important.