The Iroquois heritage of Dr. Cal Boardman’s fourth great grandmother provided a sentimental scene for all those in attendance to the Native American “Trading Philosophies” event, which was held in Salt Lake Community College’s Oak Room on Thursday, March 5.
Boardman, a finance professor currently teaching at the University of Utah, enlightened the audience of over a hundred of his personal philosophy on how the Native Americans traded during their encounters with Europeans since the 1500’s. The differences in trading traditions from the Indians to the Europeans effects how trades are made today.
“Business was in high esteem to Native Americans back then, but currently is not as prominent as before,” Boardman said.
To illustrate, Boardman related an account from Christopher Columbus’ diary, portraying the actual trades that he made with Native American Indians.
He described that the Native Americans would bring hand-size pieces of gold in exchange for small bells that Columbus would exchange. The Native Americans couldn’t use the soft gold for anything, and considered it a trifle to give away to Columbus and his crew. Likewise the Europeans’ bells, that were small and insignificant in value, were a minimal sacrifice in exchange for their precious gold.
Boardman expanded on the very different value systems that the Native American Indians had, opposed to their European counterparts.
He mentioned that trade had always been a crucial part of the Indian way of life as a means to providing for the family’s basic necessities to survive. This fact can be supported by the knowing of the largest city in the United States in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, as Boardman explained.
“In 1776, the biggest city in America was the Native American in modern-day St. Louis,” Boardman answered. He continued to explain that due to the trading advantages along the Mississippi River, 20,000 Native American Indians resided there.
Boardman expanded his conversation to elaborate on what he termed the two trading models set forth by the Native Americans or Indian and the Europeans. He contrasted the two models as follows:
1. In the Indian model, gift giving was prevalent. One would give extra produce or clothing, expecting that in return, he or she would get a gift. “The Indian model of trading said that ‘I give you a part of myself’ as part of my trade,” Boardman said. In the European model however, trading was only for personal gain; strictly focusing on only what one would receive.
2. The Indian model viewed each party as equal traders whereas the Europeans viewed the Indians as a lower class.
3. The Indians traded as the only way to survive and provide for each family’s needs, while Europeans traded for “the art of making money,” Boardman cited.
4. Indians bartered with shells and hand-beads, while Europeans used currency in the form of coins.
5. Native Americans would disclose all information about their products being sold, in terms of quality and rarity. Europeans shared no information on traded products.
In conclusion, Boardman showed Native American art, displaying how Europeans viewed the trading systems of the day. Bill Hughes, who teaches Native American flute making at Salt Lake Community College, provided a serenade of music to convey the spirit of Native American tradition into the meeting.
He described that the intrinsic value of a flute is based on the heart put into making it, thus supplying the tone for the event.