The word Culture stems from the Latin word ‘Cultura’ which means tilling of the land or cultivation. Culture may be defined as the set of beliefs, customs and norms as accepted by the society. It is a reflection of the society’s perception and stated standards. In simpler words, a culture encompasses the characteristics of groups and places. It mirrors the religion, education, language, what people wear, the food habits, mannerisms with respect to different groups and places. For instance, we say, that the India has a very vibrant and diverse culture, considering that it is a melting pot of varied religions, languages, cuisines or so to speak. Therefore, culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation. In the scenario that exists today, we are well familiarised with what the ‘Western’, ‘Eastern’, ‘Latin’, ‘Middle- Eastern’ cultures stand for.
North American Region: An Overview
North America, being the 3rd largest continent in the world is whole paraphernalia of rich history, geography, culture and polity. The continent is bounded by vast stretches of ocean, rocky mountain, valley and plains. These distinctive geographical features add to its unique history and culture. The continent stretches from Greenland in the north to Canada and the US in the middle and to Mexico, Central America and Caribbean in the South. The world is a microcosm of variations manifested not only in the biological composition of species (the flora and fauna), the geographical distribution, demography, climatic conditions but also in the acquired characteristics in the shared patterns of understanding, community life, social behavior, customs and traditions. These variations in turn entail the uniqueness and peculiarity of a particular place or region setting it apart from the rest of the world. The same is the case for the North American Continent as well. The geographical location and features, the inhabitants and their lifestyle, cultural practices and traditions contribute to the making of North American Continent unique in its way of life, history and culture.
Historical and Cultural Perspective:-
The history of North America dates back to the first group of settlers across Asia who settled as the Native Americans some fifteen thousand years ago. Later on, North America became the subject of discovery by the Europeans in the 15th century. The British, French and the Spanish were the dominating powers in contesting claims to the region. For instance, the US and Canada were colonized under the British and French until the American Revolution and the Dominion Canadian status. Similarly Mexico and other Latin American countries were under the complete control of the French. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century onwards, the North American region became flooded with multiple waves of immigrations from all over the globe. Now the question arises, “What was so unique about the continent that it attracted different groups of people from all over the world”.
The culture of North America owes its development to the migrant population who came to settle across the Bering Strait from other parts of the world. The settlement patterns and the community life of these groups of migrants became part of the diverse North American Culture. The North American region is awash with abundant resources thereby creating different classes due to difference in distribution of wealth. The pre-historic culture is reflected in the architecture, art and artifacts and the hunting and gathering technique of the North American tribes. For example, The tribes of North America the Anasazi lived in houses carved out of stone, baked clay forming the villages pueblos. 700 BC on the culture of building mounds (also known as the Adena and Hopewell culture) for burial and other religious rituals. Religion became an important factor in holding together the Native Americans. They believed in the sanctity of nature for avowing them with abundant natural resources. The rituals were underlined by the belief that the spirit resides in every natural resources and therefore they worshipped land and other animate sources of life (North American Societies).
The culture and society of North America is an intricate complex of interwoven cultures. In a highly heterogeneous society some of the broad features can be summed up as follows. The North American societies are generally individualistic in nature where emphasis is laid on the autonomy of the individual. Hard work, perseverance, dedication and commitment are some of
the goals which American is supposed to achieve. The American society strives to achieve the fulfillment of individuals success goals and encourages the individual to “being on his own”. America is a free society, there are no obstacles to success, there are no prejudices. Another defining characteristics of the North American societies are plurality, toleration and liberal democracy. Both the US and Canada are the living examples of cultural toleration, ethnic diversity and pluralism. Whereas, the United States is characterized as the land of immigrants, Canada on the other hand, is popular for its policy of multiculturalism. Both the regions are ethnically diverse and at the same time culturally united together. Religious devotion is also a prominent feature of the American society. Despite faith neutrality, the American society is very much Protestant. The American culture and the Christian ethos cannot be delinked from each other. Christianity itself got a new life “resurrection” in America, when people fled their places to freely practice and profess their religion. Church attendance is really high. Religion in America is a guide to both individual and collective action. Not only the individual but also the society should also be religious. Other than Christianity, people from other faiths are also allowed to freely practice their religions. Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism and Islam are some of the minority religions in the continent.