Here in the 21st century, life moves at a rapid pace. Technological advancements are speeding up our world day by day; we’re all supposedly better connected to each other, better equipped for life’s trials and tribulations and more able to realise our dreams. Traditions are either discarded in favour of new practices, or continue to be honoured but in new and innovative forms.
Perhaps the biggest influence on modern society during this new millennium has been the internet. It has affected almost every aspect of life the world over, and for many is now an intrinsic part of daily existence. Work, leisure, and social activities that used to be conducted on a face-to-face basis in brick and mortar environments can now be accessed virtually from a home computer, tablet or smartphone. There has been an at-home exercise revolution thanks to tutorials on Fitness Blender; gaming enthusiasts can now compete against each other online via sites like PokerStars Casino; and platforms like Trello allow for collaborative remote working between colleagues.
So, how has this affected the observation and practice of tradition amongst Native American communities?
Although not everybody in the Native American community currently has regular access to the internet, it has provided many people with the opportunity to make a record of different traditions, practices and stories on the world wide web. This can then easily be accessed by fellow Native Americans within their community, as well as others who are simply interested in learning more about a specific culture.
On a basic level, established names such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Reader’s Digest and Wikipedia can provide entry-level information about Native American customs, rituals, beliefs, stories and other culturally significant knowledge to everyone online. However, more nuanced and Native American-generated websites offer a deeper look at tradition. These sites can include personal blogs, internet radio stations, news archives, and virtual libraries of resources. It’s a great way of hearing the news straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were, rather than second or third hand.
Of course, one of the simplest ways of disseminating information is through direct communication. There are many popular and successful online forums that exist in cyberspace where Native American people can discuss topics ranging from spirituality to voting to dancing to ancestry and genealogy. As the internet is a free place, anybody can access these resources and add to the conversation, though it is respectful to acknowledge them as Native American spaces that do not necessarily benefit from outsiders’ input.
Messaging apps offer the perfect person to person communication tool. They are quick and easy to use, as well as being portable as a smartphone or tablet can fit in a pocket or bag. This makes discussion possible across large distances and means that people can connect over subjects without letting the vast size of the American continent (or even the world) get in the way. This extra level of communication can be utilised in both preserving and observing traditional customs and ways of life in the busy modern era – as well as just staying up to date with friends and other loved ones, of course.
As many Native Americans live on reservations in the US, the community can sometimes feel isolated from the country as a whole. The internet can help to alert people outside of Native American communities to any issues or problems, successes or advancements that they are experiencing. An increase in awareness can indicate an increase in attention on a larger scale, activating a stronger flow of essential resources and compassion from other communities in the US.
This increase in awareness and visibility in turn can lead to fundraising opportunities that can not only improve the immediate quality of life for many Native American people, but can also lead to the continued preservation and conservation of important traditions. There is a real danger of time-honoured traditions being lost by established communities all over the world, but with the USA as a whole embracing technology’s ever-increasing advancement it is particularly prevalent here. The Native American people have such a rich and important history that it is vital to look after it and ensure that it survives the technological revolution, growing and adapting with it rather than being lost.
One recent advancement that is impossible to ignore is that of social media. Yes, this sometimes includes the messaging apps mentioned earlier, but generally it is used to refer to platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Social media has become important as a way of drawing attention to those issues particular to the Native American community, again raising awareness and support from the world at large. It is also a great way for friends, family members and other community members to stay in touch, update each other on significant life events, and celebrate their shared stories, traditions and beliefs. This is what makes a community stronger and keeps it alive in the face of adversity, whatever form it takes.