Appalachia

The Adena, Hopewell, and Fort ancient and native American Indians lived in the region known as the Appalachian region in southeastern Ohio as far back as prehistoric times and long before old world settlers came in (Public Web Market 1995). There exists evidence that many other tribes occupied villages along the Ohio river as early as 1000 BC and this evidence has remained part of today's landscape of Appalachian Ohio. In the 1670s, the Iroquios, a white tribe, grew and imposed their presence and number in the region in the hope of taking advantage of the fur trade with the French. They conducted raids on the native American tribes in the 1700s, which drove these tribes - mainly the Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo and Wyandot - to southern Ohio. By 1750, only approximately 15,000 of these tribes had remained and only a bare remnant by 1800 (Public Web Market).

The Appalachian race was and is not culturally homogenous because of the diversity of the region they occupied (Hagedorn) and only a common historical experience holds it together. The Appalachian region was also most exposed to pioneer conquests of the early colonist immigrants, mostly Scotch-Irish, English, German and French, who took the hardship and risk of negotiating a difficult terrain, steep mountainsides and thick forests out of a desire to own the land and opening a new frontier for themselves (Hagedorn). These intruders eventually encountered trouble with the then predominant native tribe, the Cherokees, although they peacefully co-existed at the start and the foreigners learned a lot from the natives about survival in the mountain. Gold was soon discovered in the Cherokees' land in 1829 and the government passed the Indian Removal Act that confiscated their land and also parried their resistance. This was a documented event called the Trail of Tears, wherein the Cherokees were driven out on foot by military forces from their Appalachian land, now known as Oklahoma (Hagedorn). A fourth of the Cherokees died on the way.

In a short time, white pioneers filled the territory and found it beautiful but difficult and dangerous to inhabit. Some found mountain life fit only for men and dogs and not for women. The first generation of pioneers could thrive only on subsistence farming and wild game hunting (Hagedorn).

The Appalachian people have lived in isolation for the most part of their history mainly because of the difficulty of travel and this isolation shielded them from the changes of the times. Their old ways have persisted and for which they have been viewed as backward (Hagedorn). But there was massive out-migration in the Appalachian regions between 1945 and 1970 by millions of tribe folk who sought economic opportunities in other areas. Growth in industrial production slightly lifted the growth level of Appalachia and education improved alongside, but it still remained as one of the poorest regions in the mainland (Hagedorn).

Appalachia has a rich cultural heritage to boast of. Most of their early settlers were belonged to the Anglo-Saxon bloodline, which incorporated their customs and traditions, which have been much preserved today, according to modern folklorists. In time, African-American and native American influences blended with the Anglo-Saxon component of the shared culture (Hagedorn). Cultural traits got imbibed according to diverse circumstances and whatever resources were available under those circumstances.

Mountain people, like the Appalachians, have a lot of time they pass in idleness, entertainment and also for industry. One of their activities was producing handicrafts out of leisure or for practical use. These activities or industries include woodcarving, yarn spinning, quilting and flower arrangements (Hagedorn). Another industry was mountain agriculture, such as the moon shining or the production of "white whiskey" from lots of Indian corn. One adverse consequence of this activity was the illegal production of distilled liquor, which has proved to be difficult to prevent or tax (Hagedorn).

Appalachians are inherently religious. Many of them belong to the Protestant fundamentalist faith, mainly Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian (Hagedorn). They believe and trust in a God for what is inevitable and arduous in life. Women, for example, live in physical travail all their lives, with only a reward in the next life as encouragement and inspiration for their toils and sufferings on earth (Hagedorn).

Appalachians sustain a traditional society that possesses the characteristic elements of a modern society, which value the family above the individual, faith above reason or science, independence above dependence, tradition above progress and maintain a more rural than urban focus (Hagedorn). They place much importance on the family and relatives. They relish large families as their means to adequate labor. They are quite clannish and suspicious of strangers. The typical Appalachian family is also patriarchal, that is, it is headed by a male member (Hagedorn).

Appalachians are music lovers and music is an integral part of their diverse culture. Their music is homemade according to the vernacular tradition (Hagedorn) and is a mix of religious, dance, popular and folk melodies. They begin the day by singing church hymns, playing or singing folksongs in the afternoon and square dancing or playing music with a string band at an evening festival. Appalachians love to socialize and dance during which music is the medium that provides them a break from their hard work and reconnects them with neighbors (Hagedorn). Music also connects one generation with succeeding generations. Appalachians also sing religious hymns without instrumental accompaniments, which they considered inappropriate in church (Hagedorn).

Appalachians own small farms with most of them living in the rural areas where poverty is widespread (Hagedorn). This is especially the case in the Central Appalachian region where an excess of labor far outweighs industrial opportunities. Their largest industry is coal mining and Appalachian coal was the center of the American industrial revolution. Many of advantage-taking coal miners who applied unsafe mining methods in cutting down on production costs developed the lethal "black-lunch" disease (Hagedorn) as a result of pollution.

It was coal that became the fuel for the Appalachian society's social and economic transformation. But the tribes could not have anticipated the implications of development efforts on their natural mineral wealth. They sold their land and mineral rights only for pennies per acre to these outlanders (Public Web Market 1995). They themselves became the laborers rather than the entrepreneurs of their own wealth. The coal industry was very sensitive to outside economic fluctuations and subject to boom and bust cycles under the control of those outside the region (Public Web Market). When the oil supply displaced coal as the prime source of energy, coal company towns that depended on it froze their more diversified industries and left their communities and people. This was made worse by the lack of diversification and the slowness in keeping pace with new technologies. The consequence was the out-migration of millions between 1940 and 1970 (Public Web Market) and the parallel collapse of the steel industry.

Outside observers of Appalachians find them living in a simple neighborhood, where the land, customs and the natives are "irreconcilably" different from the typical American (Coats 1997). Appalachians observe superstitions and practices that are odd to the outsider and which center on the tribes' inherent art and metalwork. By a sharp contrast, the Appalachia of the 1860s and 1870s conspicuously lacked the industry and mechanization that characterize the present Appalachia, especially during the industrial revolution. What is easily noticeable to the outside observer is the flourishing craft tradition among the natives as evidenced by the furnishings, tools, instruments, toys and other handmade items they create (Coat). The very striking feature is the sharp contrast between Appalachians' individual and personal craftsmanship and the impersonal and centralized production character of American goods. Appalachians produce these arts and crafts in response to necessity and survival. Pottery, for example, provides kitchenware, quilting is for bedding, woodworks furnish homes, toys amuse children and weaving fits families and adorns walls of the house (Coat).

For all their simplicity and originality, Appalachians are not profit-oriented, strategic or organized. They are independent and work only when they want to. They do not follow standards or regulations. As already mentioned, these mountain people's crafts respond only to a practical necessity and they produce what time, materials, leisure and taste allow (Coat).Personal taste, rather than institutional or objective guidelines, governs what they produce. It was this individualistic and self-sufficient style of work that went under negotiation with outside industrialists during the industrial revolution. Appalachians were not imbued with a profit motive as the American outlanders who could not push or control the mountain people to work according to a schedule. Moreover, the natives' products did not observe any rules or standards other than those they themselves imposed (Coats).

Outsiders view Appalachians as mountaineers who are socially and culturally backward and steep in culturally biased perceptions (Coats 1997). Local-color journalists and observers generally see Appalachians in their "other-ness" to the typical or mainstream lowland American. What is clear and undisputed is that Appalachia's rural tribes are poor and this fact has been discovered and rediscovered…