NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

What is Ethnotechnology?

From a reply to a question on the NativeTech Message Board on Jan. 8, 1999
Contributed by Tara Prindle

Ethnotechnology is a term you might not be familiar with. Ethnotechnology is a term that I use to describe 'the study of the technology specific/unique to cultural groups of people'. The word ethnos, i believe, has greek origins, meaning nation or people.

I much prefer to use the term 'Ethnotechnology' when speaking about the technologies of Native American Indian/First Nation peoples. Other terms that I see in use such as 'Primitive Technology' can be harmful, having prejudiced connotations perpetuating false stereotypes of Indians and other indigenous peoples.

This is one 'Dictionary Definition' of the word Primitive:
1 prim-I-tive \'prim-et-iv\ adj. 1 a : not derived : ORIGINAL, PRIMARY b : assumed as a basis 2 a : of or relating to the earliest age or period : PRIMEVAL b : closely approximating an early ancestral type : little evolved c : belonging to or characteristic of an early stage of development : CRUDE, RUDIMENTARY [technology] d : of, relating to, or constituting the assumed parent speech of related languages 3 a : ELEMENTAL, NATURAL [the noble savage endowed with virtue - Oscar Handlin] b : of, relating to or produced by a relatively simple people or culture [art] c : NIAVE d (1) : SELF-TAUGHT, UNTUTORED [craftsmen] (2) : produced by a self-taught artist. (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary)

Native American technologies are highly 'evolved', the product of thousands of years of expertise, oral traditions, change and continuity. There is nothing crude or rudimentary about them, there is nothing self-taught or untutored about them. The technologies which I try to provide an introduction to on the NativeTech pages, whether it is quillwork, basketry, pottery, stonework - whichever - these are all very difficult technologies to master and require intelligence, practice, skill, patience and teaching to be proficient at them.

Return to About NativeTech

NativeTech Home Page
Text and Graphics
© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.