• amanda0195

Native Americans in North America


  • The first people to come to North America crossed a land bridge from Siberia to Alaska (called Beringia) 15,000-60,000 years ago in search of large game: bison, mammoths, giant ground sloths.

  • They reached South America about 11,000 years ago.


  • Religion

  • Believed that sacred spirits could be found in living and inanimate things - animals, plants, trees, water and wind.

  • ​Believed shamans and medicine men could invoke supernatural powers.

  • Most believed that a single Creator stood atop the spiritual hierarchy

  • Education

  • None of the North American Indians had writing or literacy

  • Property

  • ​Village elders assigned plots of land to individual families to use for a season or so - but didn't "own" the land.

  • Tribes claimed specific areas for hunting.

  • Unclaimed land was free for anyone to use

  • Land was seen as a common resource, not a commodity

  • Villages moved when soil or game depleated

  • Generosity

  • ​Generosity and gift-giving was a valued social quality

  • Gender relations

  • ​Women could divorce husbands easily

  • Most tribes were matrilineal (children became members of the woman's family, not the father's), husband moved in with wife's family.

  • Indian women owned dwellings and tools

  • Men generally hunted and fished, women engaged in agriculture and took care of the homes

  • Languages

  • Native Americans spoke appox. 296 languages from more than 20 language groups

  • ​Athabaskan (Northwest and Southwest)

  • Algonquian (Northeast)

  • Siouan (Great Plains)


  • Anasazi ("Ancient Ones")

  • Believed to be ancestors of Pueblo Indians

  • Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona

  • 200-1300 C.E.

  • Known as "Basketmakers"

  • Built five-story pueblos, cliff dwellings, roads and canals to irrigate their crops

  • Declined because of a drought in the 13th century

  • Pueblo Indians

  • Known as "Pueblo Indians" because they lived in small villages called pueblos when Spanish encountered them in the 16th century.

  • Pacific Coast Indians

  • ​100s of distinct groups who lived in independent villages

  • Lived primarily by fishing, hunting sea mammals and gathering wild plants and nuts


  • Nomadic lifestyle

  • Followed bison herds across American plains

  • Lifestyle changed when horses were introduced by Spaniards

  • Lakota Sioux

  • ​Moved away from farming to hunting when horses introduced.

  • Apache

  • ​Gradually migrate southward from Canada to Texas


  • Natchez

  • Ruler known as the "Great Sun"

  • Organized into class-based society (nobles, chiefs, peasants) and confederacies

  • Warlike: practiced human sacrifice (like Aztecs)


  • East of Mississippi River

  • Lived in self-governing kinship clans headed by elders

  • Most did not live in permanent settlements but moved seasonally

  • Lived in wigwams or longhouses

  • Men hunted and fished, women involved in agriculture or gathered

  • Lived on corn, squash, beans supplemented by fishing, hunting deer, turkeys and other animals.

  • Tribes frequently warred with one another to obtain goods, take captives.

  • ​But also were diplomatic and made peace

  • Some women (Iroquois) were clan leaders, land passed from mothers to daughters (matrilineal)

  • Eastern woodland tribes:

  • Southeast: Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw (united into dozens of towns in loose alliance

  • Northeast: Iroquois, Mound Builders, Algonquian (including Shawnee)

  • Mound builders

  • Adena-Hopewell of the Ohio River valley

  • Built mounds 300 feet long

  • Cahokia

  • ​Near present-day St. Louis

  • Fortified community with 10,000 to 30,000 inhabitants in 1200.

  • Largest settled community in present-day U.S.

  • Iroquois

  • Descendants of Adena-Hopewell who moved to Mohawk Valley, New York

  • ​Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk

  • Joined together into a confederacy

  • Multiple families lived in longhouses up to 200 feet long.

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