Native americans in the u.s. Page 1
While Christopher is credited with discovering America, it is estimated that at the time, more than 90 million people were settled in the Americas. As the Europeans invaded North and South America, the Native American population drastically declined due to war, famine, forced labor and disease brought over from Europe.
Native Americans were given the name Indians when Columbus thought he landed in the Indies. The Indians throughout the Americas classified themselves as nations according to language and customs. It is too difficult to estimate the number of Indians nations but in the early 1700s, there were more than 100 known nations separated by the Mississippi River.
Evidence throughout history suggests that the first Native Americans settled in Alaska after migrating from Asia and Siberia. From Alaska, the migration continued into Canada and made its way into what is now the United States.
The Native Americans who first inhabited Alaska and northern Canada were considered seasonal nomads as they made their way to the mainland. Their tools and weapons were made from stone. They survived by fishing and herd hunting such animals as caribou, seals and whales. They made tents and clothing from animal skins. In the winter, ice houses were made for shelter. This region became known as the arctic region and spread from Siberia to Greenland.
The Native American cultures began to spread throughout North America. Parts of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho became inhabited and made way for a different type of life for the Native Americans. Unlike the arctic region, this area was more plateau-like with forests and valleys. Fishing, particularly salmon fishing, was plentiful due to the numerous rivers and tributaries. Edible plants grew in the meadows. The people stocked and preserved these foods to ensure a winter’s supply. They also created a marketplace where other groups of Native
Americans could trade and buy food.
Shelter in this region was comprised of round houses buried in the ground to keep the warmth in during the cold winter months and mat houses in the summer months.
The area along the Pacific coast has the ocean on one side and mountains on the other side. The sea provided for a vast supply of fish such as salmon and halibut. The mountains were stocked with sheep, goats and elk for hunting as well as edible roots and tubers.
The people in this region sought shelter in wooden houses and the villages often celebrated with feasts and religious gatherings.
Native Americans in the region of the northwest Pacific coast established trade with Asia. They would acquire iron to make knives which were primarily used for wood carving.
As the Indians spread into the area now known as Utah, Nevada and California, the climate was warmer. They lived in thatched houses and hunted deer and sheep. Those on the coast of California fished from boats and would feast on sea lions, dolphins and other sea mammals. These Indians were the first to make baskets and they established a trading system using shells.
Native Americans ventured into the North American plains, an area that expanded from the Midwest to the Rocky Mountains and from central Canada to Mexico. This area was comprised mostly of grasslands. The people hunted bison, which were their main source of food until the herds were nearly wiped out in the 1880s. This group was nomadic as they followed the bison herds.
The Plains Indians were typical of the Indian stereotype. They customized long feathered headdresses, peace pipes, tepees and rituals adorned with costumes and dancing. This is where the more commonly known Indian nations such as the Sioux and the Cheyenne were settled.
Native Americans in the eastern part of America were avid hunters in the dense forests. They used spear points to hunt deer and also relied on wild grain and nuts for food. They became farmers and learned from the Mexicans that seeds can be ground into flour. They also planted maize.
Fishing was prevalent along the coastal areas and swordfish was a popular catch in the area now known as Maine. Near the Great Lakes, Native Americans mined copper and made blades and ornaments while those in the eastern woods carved stones and made sculptures.
These cultures transformed the land into platforms designed for religious purposes. The Iroquois and Shawnee were among the well-known groups in this area.
The south became home to many popular groups of Native Americans. In the southeast: the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, the Creek and the Seminole became known as the Five Civilized Tribes. They established an economy much like that of the European nations.
This area incorporated much of the surrounding customs. They hunted and farmed and were planted maize. They created mounds to celebrate their religion. Towns were built. They traded food and crafts.
Their area was invaded by Hernando De Soto and his Spanish army in 1539. As a result, thousands of Native Americans lost their lives due to diseases that the Spaniards carried into the Americas.
The desert was the biggest adaptation in the southwest. While they hunted deer, birds and small game, they also collected fruits, nuts and plants which they turned into flour. They grew maize and beans. This is where many of today’s Mexican dishes derive from.
These people lived in adobes. The area was widely inhabited by the Anasazi and Pueblos. Unlike the northern areas where winter was a burden, drought became a large dilemma in the southwest. Many farms were abandoned during the severe droughts while others learned and developed irrigation systems.
Despite the Spanish, Mexican and then the United States government intervening in this area, the Pueblos have remained strong to their culture and 22 Pueblo towns still exist today in the southwest.
With many different groups of Native Americans, religion varied widely throughout. Some
groups worshipped in shrines and temples. There were full-time religious leaders as well as part- time priests. Faith healers used medicine plants to heal the sick. Most of the groups believed in an Almighty. Groups used different symbols to recognize the Almighty. For example, the sun was often worshipped as a power.
Language also varied widely. Hundreds of these languages have become extinct over the years but many are still spoken by Native Americans in North and South America. Groups not only spoke their language but they also learned the languages of surrounding groups in order to communicate and trade. Sometimes languages were created between groups to simplify trade.
Native Americans were probably the craftiest of designers. Naturally, in the warmer climates very little clothing was worn. Ceremonial attire consisted of flowers, paint and headdresses. Hunters generally wore clothing made from animal skins and made a fashion statement with detachable sleeves and leggings. Raincoats were a product in the Pacific northwest and were woven from cedar fiber. Of course, the arctic groups wore parkas to stay warm and also used fish skin as a waterproof material.
Being that most Native Americans were direct descendants of Asia, their physical traits are somewhat similar. Native Americans tend to have light brown skin with brown eyes and dark straight hair.
Native Americans may have been the origin for some of the games children play today. The Native American children played with dolls and figurines. Adults played games with balls. They often played guessing games in which a person would hide something and the group would chant while another person tried to find it. Native Americans even played games with dice and one game in particular is very similar to modern day Parcheesi. Running races, wrestling and archery were also popular recreational activities among the Native Americans.
The United States government currently acknowledges 563 tribal governments in the country.
There is also a large number recognized by the states rather than the federal government. These Native American governments have their own laws, rights and taxes. The largest tribes in the U.S. are the Navajo, Cherokee, Sioux, Apache, Choctaw, Iroquois, Pueblo, Chippewa, Blackfeet and Lumbee. The majority of these tribes are found in Alaska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Montana.
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