THE UNITED STATES: FORESTS, PLAINS AND DESERTS
ALTHOUGH CLIMATE AND GEOGRAPHY ARE OF BASIC IMPORTANCE TO ART, THEIR INFLUENCE IS INDIRECT and not always readily apparent. The physical environment determines the way people live, and the kind of life they live affects their art.
On the North American continent, even within the limits of the United States, there are great variations in climate and in topography. There are the seacoasts, the heights of the Rockies, the expanses of the Great Plains, the deserts of the Southwest and the wooded hills of the East. There are lakes and great rivers, mountain barriers and fertile valleys, lands where the climate is always mild and regions where there are great extremes of heat and cold. No single primitive culture could have adapted itself to such varieties of environment.
Although we may think of the original inhabitants of this continent simply as "Indians," the many tribes had different ways of life. We have the hunter of the Great Plains, with his tepee, which he moved from place to place as he rode after the herds of buffalo; the farmer of the Southwest, cultivating his plot of corn and living in his adobe hut or many-roomed apartment house; the Iroquois of New York, following the deer and living in a bark-covered house. Between these extremes were other tribes with different languages and customs.
Wherever the living conditions favored agriculture, a rich material culture is often developed. Where people depended on hunting and led a nomadic existence following their game, the arts reflected that kind of life. Agriculture allowed leisure to pursue the crafts; a settled life in one place permitted more than the minimum of household equipment and personal effects.