Do you know any funny stories to tell about your relatives or even yourself? If you do, you know one way that culture and traditions are passed through generations. Learning stories about our past tells us where we came from and it gives us roots. Cherokee John Standingdeer describes how his family was named and why knowing it mattered to him. He explains how Native Americans were self sufficient and lived off the land prior to the arrival of Europeans. Two events robbed the Indians of their culture: the introduction of diseases such as smallpox, measles, and influenza that wiped out an estimated 80 percent of the native population and a growing dependency on the white man’s steel tools and weapons. With so many people dying, the cultural memory of Georgia’s Native Americans was lost. As Indians adopted the white man’s way their culture eroded further. Danny Arch explains how the Cherokees’ changing relationship with the deer reflected this cultural transition.
Teacher tip: Oral history is an important source of information and not just within families. This video segment shows how a culture was almost destroyed. Discuss the ways cultural memory is retained in today’s world.