Traditionally, the very beginning of the United States history is

considered from the time of European exploration and settlement, starting

in the 16th century, to the present. But people had been living in America

for over 30,000 years before the first European colonists arrived.

When Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492 he was

welcomed by a brown-skinned people whose physical appearance confirmed him

in his opinion that he had at last reached India, and whom, therefore, he

called Indios, Indians, a name which, however mistaken in its first

application continued to hold its own, and has long since won general

acceptance, except in strictly scientific writing, where the more exact

term American is commonly used. As exploration was extended north and south

it was found that the same race was spread over the whole continent, from

the Arctic shores to Cape Horn, everywhere alike in the main physical

characteristics, with the exception of the Eskimo in the extreme North

(whose features suggest the Mongolian).


Origin and Antiquity

Various origins have been assigned to the Indian race. The more or

less beleivable explanation is following. At the height of the Ice Age,

between 34,000 and 30,000 B.C., much of the world's water was contained in

vast continental ice sheets. As a result, the Bering Sea was hundreds of

meters below its current level, and a land bridge, known as Beringia,

emerged between Asia and North America. At its peak, Beringia is thought to

have been some 1,500 kilometers wide. A moist and treeless tundra, it was

covered with grasses and plant life, attracting the large animals that

early humans hunted for their survival. The first people to reach North

America almost certainly did so without knowing they had crossed into a new

continent. They would have been following game, as their ancestors had for

thousands of years, along the Siberian coast and then across the land


Race Type

The most marked physical characteristics of the Indian race type are

brown skin, dark brown eyes, prominent cheek bones, straight black hair,

and scantiness of beard. The color is not red, as is popularly supposed,

but varies from very light in some tribes, as the Cheyenne, to almost black

in others, as the Caddo and Tarimari. In a few tribes, as the Flatheads,

the skin has a distinct yellowish cast. The hair is brown in childhood, but

always black in the adult until it turns grey with age. Baldness is almost

unknown. The eye is not held so open as in the Caucasian and seems better

adapted to distance than to close work. The nose is usually straight and

well shaped, and in some tribes strongly aquiline. Their hands and feet are

comparatively small. Height and weight vary as among Europeans, the Pueblos

averaging but little more than five feet, while the Cheyenne and Arapaho

are exceptionally tall, and the Tehuelche of Patagonia almost massive in

build. As a rule, the desert Indians, as the Apache, are spare and muscular

in build, while those of the timbered regions are heavier, although not

proportionately stronger. The beard is always scanty, but increases with

the admixture of white blood. The mistaken idea that the Indian has

naturally no beard is due to the fact that in most tribes it is plucked out

as fast as it grows, the eyebrows being treated in the same way. There is

no tribe of "white Indians", but albinos with blond skin, weak pink eyes

and almost white hair are occasionally found, especially among the Pueblos.

Major Cultural Areas

From prehistoric times until recent historic times there were roughly

six major cultural areas, excluding that of the Arctic (see Eskimo), i.e.,

Northwest Coast, Plains, Plateau, Eastern Woodlands, Northern, and


The Northwest Coast Area

The Northwest Coast area extended along the Pacific coast from South

Alaska to North California. The main language families in this area were

the Nadene in the north and the Wakashan (a subdivision of the Algonquian-

Wakashan linguistic stock) and the Tsimshian (a subdivision of the Penutian

linguistic stock) in the central area. Typical tribes were the Kwakiutl,

the Haida, the Tsimshian, and the Nootka. Thickly wooded, with a temperate

climate and heavy rainfall, the area had long supported a large Native

American population. Salmon was the staple food, supplemented by sea

mammals (seals and sea lions) and land mammals (deer, elk, and bears) as

well as berries and other wild fruit. The Native Americans of this area

used wood to build their houses and had cedar-planked canoes and carved

dugouts. In their permanent winter villages some of the groups had totem

poles, which were elaborately carved and covered with symbolic animal

decoration. Their art work, for which they are famed, also included the

making of ceremonial items, such as rattles and masks; weaving; and

basketry. They had a highly stratified society with chiefs, nobles,

commoners, and slaves. Public display and disposal of wealth were basic

features of the society. They had woven robes, furs, and basket hats as

well as wooden armor and helmets for battle. This distinctive culture,

which included cannibalistic rituals, was not greatly affected by European

influences until after the late 18th cent., when the white fur traders and

hunters came to the area.

TRIBES: Abenaki, Algonkin, Beothuk, Delaware, Erie, Fox, Huron,

Illinois, Iroquois, Kickapoo, Mahican, Mascouten, Massachuset,

Mattabesic, Menominee, Metoac, Miami, Micmac, Mohegan, Montagnais,

Narragansett, Nauset, Neutrals, Niantic, Nipissing, Nipmuc, Ojibwe,

Ottawa, Pennacook, Pequot, Pocumtuck, Potawatomi, Sauk, Shawnee,

Susquehannock, Tionontati, Wampanoag, Wappinger, Wenro, Winnebago.

The Plains Area

The Plains area extended from just North of the Canadian border, South

to Texas and included the grasslands area between the Mississippi River and

the foothills of the Rocky Mts. The main language families in this area

were the Algonquian-Wakashan, the Aztec-Tanoan, and the Hokan-Siouan. In

pre-Columbian times there were two distinct types of Native Americans

there: sedentary and nomadic. The sedentary tribes, who had migrated from

neighbor ing regions and had initally settled along the great river

valleys, were farmers and lived in permanent villages of dome-shaped earth

lodges surrounded by earthen walls. They raised corn, squash, and beans.

The foot nomads, on the other hand, moved about with their goods on dog-

drawn travois and eked out a precarious existence by hunting the vast herds

of buffalo (bison) - usually by driving them into enclosures or rounding

them up by setting grass fires. They supplemented their diet by exchanging

meat and hides for the corn of the agricultural Native Americans.

The horse, first introduced by the Spanish of the Southwest, appeared

in the Plains about the beginning of the 18th cent. and revolutionized the

life of the Plains Indians. Many Native Americans left their villages and

joined the nomads. Mounted and armed with bow and arrow, they ranged the

grasslands hunting buffalo. The other Native Americans remained farmers

(e.g., the Arikara, the Hidatsa, and the Mandan). Native Americans from

surrounding areas came into the Plains (e.g., the Sioux from the Great

Lakes, the Comanche and the Kiowa from the west and northwest, and the

Navajo and the Apache from the southwest). A universal sign language

developed among the perpetually wandering and often warring Native

Americans. Living on horseback and in the portable tepee, they preserved

food by pounding and drying lean meat and made their clothes from buffalo

hides and deerskins. The system of coup was a characteristic feature of

their society. Other features were rites of fasting in quest of a vision,

warrior clans, bead and feather art work, and decorated hides. These Plains

Indians were among the last to engage in a serious struggle with the white

settlers in the United States.

TRIBES: Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine, Bidai, Blackfoot, Caddo,

Cheyenne, Comanche, Cree, Crow, Dakota (Sioux), Gros Ventre, Hidatsa,

Iowa, Kansa, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, Kitsai, Lakota (Sioux), Mandan,

Metis, Missouri, Nakota (Sioux), Omaha, Osage, Otoe, Pawnee, Ponca,

Sarsi, Sutai, Tonkawa, Wichita.

The Plateau Area

The Plateau area extended from above the Canadian border through the

plateau and mountain area of the Rocky Mts. to the Southwest and included

much of California. Typical tribes were the Spokan, the Paiute, the Nez

Perce, and the Shoshone. This was an area of great linguistic diversity.

Because of the inhospitable environment the cultural development was

generally low. The Native Americans in the Central Valley of California and

on the California coast, notably the Pomo, were sedentary peoples who

gathered edible plants, roots, and fruit and also hunted small game. Their

acorn bread, made by pounding acorns into meal and then leaching it with

hot water, was distinctive, and they cooked in baskets filled with water

and heated by hot stones. Living in brush shelters or more substantial lean-

tos, they had partly buried earth lodges for ceremonies and ritual sweat

baths. Basketry, coiled and twined, was highly developed. To the north,

between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mts., the social, political, and

religious systems were simple, and art was nonexistent. The Native

Americans there underwent (since 1730) a great cultural change when they

obtained from the Plains Indians the horse, the tepee, a form of the sun

dance, and deerskin clothes. They continued, however, to fish for salmon

with nets and spears and to gather camas bulbs. They also gathered ants and

other insects and hunted small game and, in later times, buffalo. Their

permanent winter villages on waterways had semisubterranean lodges with

conical roofs; a few Native Americans lived in bark-covered long houses.

TRIBES: Carrier, Cayuse, Coeur D'Alene, Colville, Dock-Spus,

Eneeshur, Flathead, Kalispel, Kawachkin, Kittitas, Klamath, Klickitat,

Kosith, Kutenai, Lakes, Lillooet, Methow, Modac, Nez Perce, Okanogan,

Palouse, Sanpoil, Shushwap, Sinkiuse, Spokane, Tenino, Thompson,

Tyigh, Umatilla, Wallawalla, Wasco, Wauyukma, Wenatchee, Wishram,

Wyampum, Yakima. Californian: Achomawi, Atsugewi, Cahuilla, Chimariko,

Chumash, Costanoan, Esselen, Hupa, Karuk, Kawaiisu, Maidu, Mission

Indians, Miwok, Mono, Patwin, Pomo, Serrano, Shasta, Tolowa,

Tubatulabal, Wailaki, Wintu, Wiyot, Yaha, Yokuts, Yuki, Yuman


The Eastern Woodlands Area

The Eastern Woodlands area covered the eastern part of the United

States, roughly from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, and

included the Great Lakes. The Natchez, the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the

Creek were typical inhabitants. The northeastern part of this area extended

from Canada to Kentucky and Virginia. The people of the area (speaking

languages of the Algonquian-Wakashan stock) were largely deer hunters and

farmers; the women tended small plots of corn, squash, and beans. The

birchbark canoe gained wide usage in this area. The general pattern of

existence of these Algonquian peoples and their neighbors, who spoke

languages belonging to the Iroquoian branch of the Hokan-Siouan stock

(enemies who had probably invaded from the south), was quite complex. Their

diet of deer meat was supplemented by other game (e.g., bear), fish (caught

with hook, spear, and net), and shellfish. Cooking was done in vessels of

wood and bark or simple black pottery. The dome-shaped wigwam and the

longhouse of the Iroquois characterized their housing. The deerskin

clothing, the painting of the face and (in the case of the men) body, and

the scalp lock of the men (left when hair was shaved on both sides of the

head), were typical. The myths of Manitou (often called Manibozho or

Manabaus), the hero who remade the world from mud after a deluge, are also

widely known.

The region from the Ohio River South to the Gulf of Mexico, with its

forests and fertile soil, was the heart of the southeastern part of the

Eastern Woodlands cultural area. There before c.500 the inhabitants were

seminomads who hunted, fished, and gathered roots and seeds. Between 500

and 900 they adopted agriculture, tobacco smoking, pottery making, and

burial mounds. By c.1300 the agricultural economy was well established, and

artifacts found in the mounds show that trade was widespread. Long before

the Europeans arrived, the peoples of the Natchez and Muskogean branches of

the Hokan-Siouan linguistic family were farmers who used hoes with stone,

bone, or shell blades. They hunted with bow and arrow and blowgun, caught

fish by poisoning streams, and gathered berries, fruit, and shellfish. They

had excellent pottery, sometimes decorated with abstract figures of animals

or humans. Since warfare was frequent and intense, the villages were

enclosed by wooden palisades reinforced with earth. Some of the large

villages, usually ceremonial centers, dominated the smaller settlements of

the surrounding countryside. There were temples for sun worship; rites were

elaborate and featured an altar with perpetual fire, extinguished and

rekindled each year in a new fire ceremony. The society was commonly

divided into classes, with a chief, his children, nobles, and commoners

making up the hierarchy. For a discussion of the earliest Woodland groups,

see the separate article Eastern Woodlands culture.

TRIBES: Acolapissa, Asis, Alibamu, Apalachee, Atakapa, Bayougoula,

Biloxi, Calusa, Catawba, Chakchiuma, Cherokee, Chesapeake Algonquin,

Chickasaw, Chitamacha, Choctaw, Coushatta, Creek, Cusabo, Gaucata,

Guale, Hitchiti, Houma, Jeags, Karankawa, Lumbee, Miccosukee, Mobile,

Napochi, Nappissa, Natchez, Ofo, Powhatan, Quapaw, Seminole,

Southeastern Siouan, Tekesta, Tidewater Algonquin, Timucua, Tunica,

Tuscarora, Yamasee, Yuchi. Bannock, Paiute (Northern), Paiute

(Southern), Sheepeater, Shoshone (Northern), Shoshone (Western), Ute,


The Northern Area

The Northern area covered most of Canada, also known as the Subarctic,

in the belt of semiarctic land from the Rocky Mts. to Hudson Bay. The main

languages in this area were those of the Algonquian-Wakashan and the Nadene

stocks. Typical of the people there were the Chipewyan. Limiting

environmental conditions prevented farming, but hunting, gathering, and

activities such as trapping and fishing were carried on. Nomadic hunters

moved with the season from forest to tundra, killing the caribou in

semiannual drives. Other food was provided by small game, berries, and

edible roots. Not only food but clothing and even some shelter (caribou-

skin tents) came from the caribou, and with caribou leather thongs the

Indians laced their snowshoes and made nets and bags. The snowshoe was one

of the most important items of material culture. The shaman featured in the

religion of many of these people.

TRIBES: Calapuya, Cathlamet, Chehalis, Chemakum, Chetco,

Chilluckkittequaw, Chinook, Clackamas, Clatskani, Clatsop, Cowich,

Cowlitz, Haida, Hoh, Klallam, Kwalhioqua, Lushootseed, Makah, Molala,

Multomah, Oynut, Ozette, Queets, Quileute, Quinault, Rogue River,

Siletz, Taidhapam, Tillamook, Tutuni, Yakonan.

The Southwest Area

The Southwest area generally extended over Arizona, New Mexico, and

parts of Colorado and Utah. The Uto-Aztecan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan

linguistic stock was the main language group of the area. Here a

seminomadic people called the Basket Makers, who hunted with a spear

thrower, or atlatl, acquired (c.1000 B.C.) the art of cultivating beans and

squash, probably from their southern neighbors. They also learned to make

unfired pottery. They wove baskets, sandals, and bags. By c.700 B.C. they

had initiated intensive agriculture, made true pottery, and hunted with bow

and arrow. They lived in pit dwellings, which were partly underground and

were lined with slabs of stone - the so-called slab houses. A new people

came into the area some two centuries later; these were the ancestors of

the Pueblo Indians. They lived in large, terraced community houses set on

ledges of cliffs or canyons for protection and developed a ceremonial

chamber (the kiva) out of what had been the living room of the pit

dwellings. This period of development ended c.1300, after a severe drought

and the beginnings of the invasions from the north by the Athabascan-

speaking Navajo and Apache. The known historic Pueblo cultures of such

sedentary farming peoples as the Hopi and the Zuni then came into being.

They cultivated corn, beans, squash, cotton, and tobacco, killed rabbits

with a wooden throwing stick, and traded cotton textiles and corn for

buffalo meat from nomadic tribes. The men wove cotton textiles and

cultivated the fields, while women made fine polychrome pottery. The

mythology and religious ceremonies were complex.

TRIBES: Apache (Eastern), Apache (Western), Chemehuevi, Coahuiltec,

Hopi, Jano, Manso, Maricopa, Mohave, Navaho, Pai, Papago, Pima, Pueblo

(breaking into: Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Picuris,

Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Ana,

Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia), Yaqui, Yavapai,

Yuman, Zuni. Am strongly thinking about


Social Organization

Among most of the tribes east of the Mississippi, among the Pueblos,

Navahos, and others of the South-West, and among the Tlingit and Haida of

the north-west coast, society was based upon the clan system, under which

the tribe was divided into a number of large family groups, the members of

which were considered as closely related and prohibited from intermarrying.

The children usually followed the clan of the mother. The clans themselves

were sometimes grouped into larger bodies of related kindred, to which the

name of phratries has been applied. The clans were usually, but not always,

named from animals, and each clan paid special reverence to its tutelary

animal. Thus the Cherokee had seven clans, Wolf, Deer, Bird, Paint, and

three others with names not readily translated. A Wolf man could not marry

a Wolf woman, but might marry a Deer woman, or one of any of the other

clans, and his children were of the Deer clan or other clan accordingly. In

some tribes the name of the individual indicated the clan, as "Round Foot"

in the wolf clan and "Crawler" in the Turtle clan. Certain functions of

war, peace, or ceremonial were usually hereditary in special clans, and

revenge for injuries with the tribe devolved upon the clan relatives of the

person injured. The tribal council was made up of the hereditary or elected

chiefs, and any alien taken into the tribe had to be specifically adopted

into a family and clan. The clan system was by no means universal but is

now known to have been limited to particular regions and seems to have been

originally an artificial contrivance to protect land and other tribal

descent. It was absent almost everywhere west of the Missouri, excepting in

the South-West, and appears to have been unknown throughout the geater

portion of British America, the interior of Alaska, and probably among the

Eskimos. Among the plains tribes, the unit was the band, whose members

camped together under their own chief, in an appointed place in the tribal

camp circle, and were subject to no marriage prohibition, but usually

married among themselves.

With a few notable exceptions, there was very little idea of tribal

solidarity or supreme authority, and where a chief appears in history as

tribal dictator, as in the case of Powhatan in Virginia, it was usually due

to his own strong personality. The real authority was with the council as

interpreters of ancient tribal customs. Even such well-known tribes as the

Creeks and Cherokee were really only aggregations of closely cognate

villages, each acting independently or in cooperation with the others as

suited its immediate convenience. Even in the smaller and more compact

tribes there was seldom any provision for coercing the individual to secure

common action, but those of the same clan or band usually acted together.

In this lack of solidarity is the secret of Indian military weakness. In no

Indian war in the history of the United States has a single large tribe

ever united in solid resistance, while on the other hand other tribes have

always been found to join against the hostiles. Among the Natchez, Tinucua,

and some other southern tribes, there is more indication of a central

authority, resting probably with a dominant clan.

The Iroquois of New York had progressed beyond any other native people

north of Mexico in the elaboration of a state and empire. Through a

carefully planned system of confederations, originating about 1570, the

five allied tribes had secured internal peace and unity, by which they had

been able to acquire dominant control over most of the tribes from Hudson

Bay to Carolina, and if not prematurely checked by the advent of the

whites, might in time have founded a northern empire to rival that of the


Land was usually held in common, except among the Pueblos, where it

was apportioned among the clans, and in some tribes in northern California,

where individual right is said to have existed. Timber and other natural

products were free, and hospitality was carried to such a degree that no

man kept what his neighbour wanted. While this prevented extremes of

poverty, on the other hand it paralyzed individual industry and economy,

and was an effectual barrier to progress. The accumulation of property was

further discouraged by the fact that in most tribes it was customary to

destroy all the belongings of the owner at his death. The word for "brave"

and "generous" was frequently the same, and along the north-west coast

there existed the curious custom known as potlatch, under which a man saved

for half a lifetime in order to acquire the rank of chief by finally giving

away his entire hoard at a grand public feast.

Enslavement of captives was more or less common throughout the

country, especially in the southern states, where the captives were

sometimes crippled to prevent their escape. Along the north-west coast and

as far south as California, not only the captives but their children and

later descendants were slaves and might be abused or slaughtered at the

will of the master, being frequently burned alive with their deceased

owner, or butchered to provide a ceremonial cannibal feast. In the Southern

slave states, before the Civil War, the Indians were frequent owners of

negro slaves.

Men and women, and sometimes even the older children, were organized

into societies for military, religious, working, and social purposes, many

of these being secret, especially those concerned with medicine and women's

work. In some tribes there was also a custom by which two young men became

"brothers" through a public exchange of names.

The erroneous opinion that the Indian man was an idler, and that the

Indian woman was a drudge and slave, is founded upon a misconception of the

native system of division of labour, under which it was the man's business

to defend the home and to provide food by hunting and fishing, assuming all

the risks and hardships of battle and the wilderness, while the woman

attended to the domestic duties including the bringing of wood and water,

and, with the nomad tribes, the setting up of the tipis. The children,

however, required little care after they were able to run about, and the

housekeeping was of the simplest, and, as the women usually worked in

groups, with songs and gossip, while the children played about, the work

had much of pleasure mixed with it. In all that chiefly concerned the home,

the woman was the mistress, and in many tribes the women's council gave the

final decision upon important matters of public policy. Among the more

agricultural tribes, as the Pueblos, men and women worked the fields

together. In the far north, on the other hand, the harsh environment seems

to have brought all the savagery of the man's nature, and the woman was in

fact a slave, subject to every whim of cruelty, excepting among the Kutchin

of the Upper Yukon, noted for their kind treatment of their women. Polygamy

existed in nearly all tribes excepting the Pueblos.


In and north of the United States there were some twenty well-defined

types of native dwellings, varying from the mere brush shelter to the five-

storied pueblo.

In the Northwest, Native American cultures lived in a shelter known as

the plank house. The plank house varied in shape and design according to

the tribe who was building it. It varied from a simple shed-like building

to a partly underground shelter like the Mogollon shelter. The plank house

was made primarily from wood pieces found along the wooded areas near the

sea or water body. Each house was built by placing the wood on poles

imbedded in the ground. Eventually the roof was placed on top in a upside-

down V shape. These houses were considered very durable to the environment,

especially dampness and rain. The villages of the Northwest revolved around

the environment which enveloped them. Large structures of enormous logs

notched and fitted together became the primary housing for most of the

peoples of this region. Each of these houses had a central living area and

distinct, private sections for sleeping areas for the many families which

lived there. Other wo oden structures were used for ceremonial purposes as

well as for birthing mothers and burial sites.

In the eastern United States and adjacent parts of Canada the prevailing

type was that commonly known under the Algonkian name of wigwam. The wigwam

was a round shelter used by many different Native American cultures in the

east and the southeast. It is considered one of the best shelters made. It

was as safe and warm as the best houses of early colonists. The wigwam has

a curved surface which can hold up against the worst weather in any region.

The Native Americans of the Plains lived in one of the most well known

shelters, the tepee ( also Tipi or Teepee). The tipi (the Sioux name for

house) or conical tent-dwelling of the upper lake and plains region was of

poles set lightly in the ground, bound together near the top, and covered

with bark or mats in the lake country, and with dressed buffalo skins on

the plains. These skins were often painted in bright colors to show the

personalities of the people dwelling there. It was easily portable, and two

women could set it up or take in down within an hour. On ceremonial

occasions the tipi camp was arranged in a great circle, with the ceremonial

"medicine lodge" in the centre.

The Native Americans of the Southwest such as the Anasazi and the Pueblo,

lived in pueblos constructed by stacking large adobe blocks, sun-dried and

made from clay and water, usually measuring 8 by 16 inches (20 by 40

centimetres) and 4 to 6 in. (10 to 15 cm) thick. These blocks form the

walls of the building, up to five stories tall, and were built around a

central courtyard. Usually each floor is set back from the floor below, so

that the whole building resembles a zigzag pyramid. The method also

provides terraces on those levels made from the roof tops of the level

below. These unique and amazing apartment-like structures were often built

along cliff faces; the most famous, the "cliff palace" of Mesa Verde,

Colorado, had over 200 rooms. Another site, the Pueblo Bonito ruins along

New Mexico's Chaco River, once contained more than 800 rooms. Each pueblo

had at least two, and often more kivas, or ceremonial rooms.

The semi-sedentary Pawnee Mandan, and other tribes along the Missouri

built solid circular structures of logs, covered with earth, capable

sometimes of housing a dozen families.

The Wichita and other tribes of the Texas border built large circular

houses of grass thatch laid over a framework of poles.

The living shelters of the Northeast Native Americans are called Long

Houses. The long house was favored more in the winter months than in the

summer ones. The long house was a one story apartment house, with many

people of the tribe sharing the warmth and space. In an average long house,

there would be three or four fireplaces, usually lined with small

fieldstones. With this many fireplaces, smoke would fill up the house, so

the house would be built with smoke holes in the roof. The typical long

house was estimated to be about 50 feet long.

The Navaho hogan, was a smaller counterpart of the Pawnee "earth lodge".

The communal pueblo structure of the Rio Grande region consisted of a

numbersometimes hundreds - of square-built rooms of various sizes, of

stone or adobe laid in clay mortar, with flat roof, court-yards, and

intricate passage ways, suggestive of oriental things.

The Piute wikiup of Nevada was only one degree above the brush shelter of

the Apache. California, with its long stretch from north to south, and its

extremes from warm plain to snowclad sierra, had a variety of types,

including the semi-subterranean.

Along the whole north-west coast, from the Columbia to the Eskimo border,

the prevailing type was the rectangular board structure, painted with

symbolic designs, and with the great totem pole carved with the heraldic

crests of the owner, towering above the doorway.

Not even pueblo architecture had evolved a chimney.

Food and its Procurement

In the timbered regions of the eastern and southern states and the

adjacent portions of Canada, along the Missouri and among the Pueblos,

Pima, and other tribes of the south-west, the chief dependence was upon

agriculture, the principal crops being corn, beans, and squashes, besides a

native tobacco. The New England tribes understood the principal of

manuring, while those of the arid south-west built canals and practiced

irrigation. Along the whole ocean-coast, in the lake region and on the

Columbia, fishing was an important source of subsistence. On the south

Atlantic seaboard elaborate weirs were in use, but elsewhere the hook and

line, the seine or the harpoon, were more common. Clams and oysters were

consumed in such quantities along the Atlantic coast that in some

favourable gathering-places empty shells were piled into mounds ten feet

high. From central California northward along the whole west coast, the

salmon was the principle, and on the Columbia, almost the entire, food

dependence. The northwest-coast tribes, as well as the Eskimo, were

fearless whalers. Everywhere the wild game, of course, was an important

factor in the food supply, particularly the deer in the timber region and

the buffalo on the plains. The nomad tribes of the plains, in fact, lived

by the buffalo, which, in one way or another, furnished them with food,

clothing, shelter, household equipment, and fuel.

In this connection there were many curious tribal and personal taboos

founded upon clan traditions, dreams, or other religious reasons. Thus the

Navajo and the Apache, so far from eating the meat of a bear, refuse even

to touch the skin of one, believing the bear to be of human kinship. For a

somewhat similar reason some tribes of the plains and the arid South-West

avoid a fish, while considering the dog a delicacy.

Besides the cultivated staples, nuts, roots, and wild fruits were in use

wherever procurable. The Indians of the Sierras lived largely upon acorns

and pions. Those of Oregon and the Columbia region gathered large stores

of camass and other roots, in addition to other species of berries. The

Apache and other south-western tribes gathered the cactus fruit and toasted

the root of the maguey. The tribes of the upper lake region made great use

of wild rice, while those of the Ohio Valley made sugar from the sap of the

maple, and those of the southern states extracted a nourishing oil from the

hickory nut. Pemmican and hominy are Indian names as well as Indian

inventions, and maple sugar is also an aboriginal discovery. Salt was used

by many tribes, especially on the plains and in the South-West, but in the

Gulf states lye was used instead. Cannibalism simply for the sake of food

could hardly be said to exist, but, as a war ceremony or sacrifice

following a savage triumph, the custom was very general, particularly on

the Texas coast and among the Iroquoian and Algonquian tribes of the east.

The Tonkawa of Texas were know to all their neighbours as the "Man-Eaters".

Apparently the only native intoxicant was tiswin, a sort of mild beer

fermented from corn by the Apache and neighbouring tribes.

Domesticated Animals

The dog was practically the only domesticated animal before the advent of

the whites and was found in nearly all tribes, being used as a beast of

burden by day and as a constant sentinel by night, while with some tribes

the flesh was also a favourite dish. He was seldom, if ever, trained to

hunting. There were no wild horses, cows, pigs, or chickens. Therefore, the

Indians knew nothing about these animals. In Massachusetts, they began to

domesticate the turkey. Eagles and other birds were occasionally kept for

their feathers, and the children sometimes had other pets than puppies. The

horse, believed to have been introduced by the Spaniards, speedily became

as important a factor in the life of the plains tribes as the buffalo

itself. In the same way the sheep and goats, introduced by the early

Franciscans, have become the chief source of wealth to the Navajo,

numbering now half a million animals from which they derive an annual

income of over a million dollars.

Industries and Arts

In the fabrication of domestic instruments, weapons, ornaments,

ceremonial objects, boats, seines, and traps, in house-building and in the

making of pottery and baskets, the Indian showed considerable ingenuity in

design and infinite patience of execution. In the division of labour, the

making of weapons, hunting and fishing requirements, boats, pipes, and most

ceremonial objects fell to the men, while the domestic arts of pottery and

basket-making, weaving and dressing of skins, the fashioning of clothing

and the preparation and preservation of food commonly devolved upon the


Among the sedentary or semi-sedentary tribes house-building belonged

usually to the men, although the women sometimes assisted. On the plains

the entire making and keeping of the tipi were appointed to the women. In

many tribes the man cut, sewed, and decorated his own buckskin suit, and in

some of the Pueblo villages the men were the basket-weavers.

While the house, in certain tribes, evinced considerable architecture

skill, its prime purpo se was always utilitarian, and there was usually but

little attempt at decorative effect, excepting the Haida, Tlingit, and

others of the north-west coast, where the great carved and painted totem

poles, sometimes sixty feet in height, set up in front of every dwelling,

were a striking feature of the village picture. The same tribes were

notable for their great sea-going canoes, hollowed out from a single cedar

trunk, elaborately carved and painted, and sometimes large enough to

accommodate forty men. The skin boat or kaiak of the Eskimo was a marvel of

lightness and buoyancy, being practically unsinkable. The birch-bark canoe

of the eastern tribes was especially well-adapted to its purposes of inland

navigation. In the southern states we find the smaller "dug-out" log canoe.

On the plains the boat was virtually unknown, except for the tub-shaped

skin boat of the Mandan and associated tribes of the upper Missouri.

The Eskimo were noted for their artistic carvings of bones and walrus

ivory; the Pueblo for their turquoise-inlaid work and their wood carving,

especially mythologic figurines, and the Atlantic and California coast

tribes for their work in shell. The wampum, or shell beads, made chiefly

from the shells of various clams found along the Atlantic coast have become

historic, having been extensively used not only for dress ornamentation,

but also on treaty belts, as tribal tribute, and as a standard of value

answering the purpose of money. The ordinary stone hammer or club, found in

nearly every tribe, represented much patient labour, while the whole skill

of the artist was frequently expended upon the stone-carved pipe. The black

stone pipes of the Cherokee were famous in the southern states, and the red

stone pipe of catlinite from a single quarry in Minnesota was reputed

sacred and was smoked at the ratification of all solemn tribal engagements

throughout the plains and the lake-region. Knives, lance-blades, and arrow-

heads were also usually of stone, preferably flint or obsidian. Along the

Gulf Coast, keen-edged knives fashioned from split canes were in use. Corn

mortars and bowls were usually of wood in the timber region and of stone in

the arid country. Hide-scrapers were of bone, and spoons of wood or horn.

Metal-work was limited chiefly to the fashioning of gorgets and other

ornaments hammered out from native copper, found in the southern

Alleghenies, about Lake Superior, and about Copper River in Alaska. The art

of smelting was apparently unknown. Under Franciscan and later Mexican

teaching the Navahos have developed a silver-working art which compares in

importance with their celebrated basket-weaving, the material used being

silver coins melted down in stone molds of their own carving. Mica was

mined in the Carolina mountains by the local tribes and fashioned into

gorgets and mirrors, which found their way by trade as far as the western

prairies, All of these arts belonged to the men.

Basket-weaving in wood splits, cane, rushes, yucca- or bark-fibre, and

various grasses was practiced by the same tribes which made pottery, and

excepting in a few tribes, was likewise a women's work. The basket was

stained in various designs with vegetable dyes. The Cherokee made a double-

walled basket. Those of the Choctaw, Pueblo tribes, Jicarillo, and Piute

were noted for beauty of design and execution, but the Pomo and other

tribes of California excelled in all closeness and delicacy of weaving and

richness of decoration, many of their grass baskets being water-tight and

almost hidden under an inter-weaving of bright-coloured plumage, and

further decorated around the top with pendants of shining mother-of-pearl.

The weaving of grass or rush mats for covering beds or wigwams may be

considered as a variant of the basket-weaving process, as likewise the

delicate porcupine quill appliqu work of the northern plains and upper-

Mississippi tribes.

Silver jewelry is probably the best known form of Native American art.

It is not an ancient art. Southwest Native Americans began working in

silver around 1850. Jewelry was the way many Native Americans showed their

wealth. Coins were used for silver in the early days. Navajo silverwork can

be made many ways. One way is to carve a stone with a knife and pour the

silver into the shape. This is called sandcasting. Another way is to cut

the shape out of silver and use a stamp to make a design. Stamps were made

from any bit of scrap iron, including spikes, old chisels and broken files.

Turquoise is used in jewelry. This didn't start happening until 1880's.

Turquoise is found in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.The color of

turquoise is from a pale chalky blue -almost white- to a very deep green.

The making of pottery belonged to the women and was practiced in nearly

all tribes, excepting those in the plains and interior basin, and the cold

north. The Eastern pottery is usually decorated with stamped patterns. That

of the Pueblo and other south-western tribes was smooth and painted over

with symbolic designs. A few specimens of glazed ware have been found in

the same region, but it is doubtful if the process is of native origin. The

Catawba and some other tribes produced a beautiful black ware by burning

the vessel under cover, so that the smoke permeated the pores of the clay.

The simple hand process by coiling was universally used.

The useful art of skin-dressing also belonged exclusively to the women,

excepting along the Arctic coasts, where furs, instead of denuded skins,

were worn by the Eskimo, while the entrails of the larger sea animals were

also utilized for waterproof garments. The skins in most general use were

those of the buffalo, elk, and deer, which were prepared by scraping,

stretching, and anointing with various softening or preservative mixtures,

of which the liver or brains of the animal were commonly a part. The timber

tribes generally smoked the skins, a process unknown on the plains. A

limited use was made of bird skins with the feathers intact.

The weaving art proper was also almost exclusively in the hands of the

women. In the east, aside from basket- and mat-making it was confined

almost entirely to the twisting of ropes or bowstrings, and the making of

belts, the skin fabric taking the place of the textile. In the South-West

the Pueblo tribes wove native cotton upon looms of their own device, and,

since the introduction of sheep by the Franciscan missionaries in the

sixteenth century, the Navaho, enlarging upon their Pueblo teaching have

developed a weaving art which has made the Navaho blanket famous throughout

the country, the stripping, spinning, weaving, and dyeing of the wool all

being their own. The Piute of Nevada and others of that region wore

blankets woven from strips of rabbit-fur. Some early writers mention

feather-woven cloaks among the gulf tribes, but it is possible that the

feathers were simply overlaid upon the skin garment.

It is notable that the Indian worker, man or woman, used no pattern,

carrying the design in the head. Certain designs, however, were

standardized and hereditary in particular tribes and societies.

According to Navajo beliefs, the Universe is a balanced place. Illness

and other disasters happen if the balance is upset. It is believed only

Humans can upset this balance, not animals or plants! To make the person

healthly again a ceremony is performed. The sandpaintings, called ikaah,

used in these ceremonies are made between sunrise and sunset of the same


Games and Amusements

Naturally careless of the future, the Indian gave himself up to pleasure

when not under immediate necessity or danger, and his leisure time at home

was filled with a constant round of feasting, dancing, story-telling,

athletic contests, and gambling games.

The principal athletic game everywhere east of the Missouri, as well as

with some tribes of the Pacific coast, was the ballplay adopted by the

French of Canada under the name lacrosse and in Louisiana as racquette. In

this game the ball was caught, not with the hand, but with a netted ball-

stick somewhat resembling a tennis racket.

A special dance and secret ceremonial preceded the contest. Next in

tribal favour in the eastern region was the game known to the early traders

under the corrupted Creek name of chunkee, in which one player rolled a

stone wheel along the ground, while his competitor slid after it a stick

curved at one end like an umbrella handle with the design of having the

spent wheel fall within the curve at the end of its course. This game,

which necessitated much hard running, was sometimes kept up for hours. A

somewhat similar game played with a netted wheel and a straight stick was

found upon the plains, the object being to dart the stick through the

certain netted holes in the wheel, known as the buffalo, bull, calf,

etc.(remember to catch the bulls eye).

Foot races were very popular with certain tribes, as the Pueblo, Apache.

Wichita and Crows, being frequently a part of great ceremonial functions.

On the plains horse-racing furnished exciting amusement. There were

numerous gambling games, somewhat of the dice order, played with marked

sticks, plum stones, carved bones, etc., these being in special favour with

the women. Target shooting with bow and arrow, and various forms of dart

shooting were also popular.

Among distinctly women's games were football and shinny, the former,

however, being merely the bouncing of the ball from the toes with the

purpose of keeping in the air as long as possible. Hand games, in which a

number of players arranged themselves in two opposing lines and alternately

endeavoured to guess the whereabouts of a small object shifted rapidly from

hand to hand, were a favourite tipi pastime with both sexes in the winter

evenings, to the accompaniment of songs fitted to the rapid movement of the


Story-telling and songs, usually to the accompaniment of the rattle or

small hand-drum, filled in the evening. The Indian was essentially musical,

his instruments being the drum, rattle, flute, or flageolet, eagle-bone

whistle and other more crude devices. Each had its special religious

significance and ceremonial purposes, particularly the rattle, of which

there were many varieties. Besides the athletic and gambling games, there

were games of diversion played only on rare occasions of tribal necessity

with sacred paraphernalia in keeping of sacred guardians. The Indian was

fond also of singing and had songs for every occasion love, war, hunting,

gaming, medicine, satire, children's songs, and lullabies.

The children played with tops, whips, dolls, and other toys, or imitated

their elders in shooting, riding, and "playing house".


As war is the normal condition of savagery, so to the Indian warlike

glory was the goal of his ambition, the theme of his oratory, and the

purpose of his most elaborate ceremonial. His weapons were the knife, bow,

club, lance, and tomahawk, or stone axe, which last was very soon

superseded by the light steel hatchet supplied by the trader. To these,

certain tribes added defensive armour, as the body-armour of rawhides or

wooden rods in use along the northwest coast and some other sections, and

the shield more particularly used by the equestrian tribes of the plains.

As a rule, the lance and shield were more common in the open country, and

the tomahawk in the woods. The bow was usually of some tough and flexible

wood with twisted sinew cord, but was sometimes of bone or horn backed with

sinew rapping. It is extremely doubtful if poisoned arrows were found north

of Mexico, notwithstanding many assertions to the contrary.

Where the clan system prevailed the general conduct of war matters was

often in the keeping of special clans, and in some tribes, such as the

Creeks, war and peace negotiations and ceremonials belonged to certain

towns designated as "red" or "white". With the Iroquois and probably with

other tribes, the final decision on war or peace rested with a council of

the married women. On the plains the warriors of the tribes were organized

into military societies of differing degrees of rank, from the boys in

training to the old men who had passed their active period. Military

service was entirely voluntary with the individual who, among the eastern

tribes, signified his acceptance in some public manner, as by striking the

red-painted war-post, or, on the plains, by smoking the pipe sent round by

the organizers of the expeditions. Contrary to European practice, the

command usually rested with several leaders of equal rank, who were not

necessarily recognized as chiefs on other occasions. The departure and the

return were made according to the fixed ceremonial forms, with solemn

chants of defiance, victory, or grief at defeat. In some tribes there were

small societies of chosen warriors pledged never to turn or flee from an

enemy except by express permission of their fellows, but in general the

Indian warrior chose not to take large risks, although brave enough in

desperate circumstance.

To the savage every member of a hostile tribe was equally an enemy, and

he gloried as much in the death of an infant as in that of the warrior

father. Victory meant indiscriminate massacre, with most revolting

mutilation of the dead, followed in the early period in nearly every

portion of the East and South by a cannibal feast. The custom of scalping

the dead, so general in later Indian wars, has been shown by Frederici to

have been confined originally to a limited area east of the Mississippi,

gradually superseding the earlier custom of beheading. In many western

tribes, the warrior's prowess was measured not by the number of his scalp

trophies, but by the number of his coups (French term), or strokes upon the

enemy, for which there was a regular scale according to kind, the highest

honour being accorded not to one one who secured the scalp, but to the

warrior who struck the first blow upon the enemy, even though with no more

than a willow rod. The scalp dance was performed, not by the warriors, but

by the women, who thus rejoiced over the success of their husbands and

brothers. There was no distinctive "war dance".

Captives among the eastern tribes were either condemned to death with

every horrible form of torture or ceremonially adopted into the tribe, the

decision usually resting with the women. If adopted, he at once became a

member of a family, usually as representative of a deceased member, and at

once acquired full tribal rights. In the Huron wars whole towns of the

defeated nation voluntarily submitted and were adopted into the Iroquois

tribes. On the plains torture was not common. Adults were seldom spared,

but children were frequently spared and either regularly adopted or brought

up in a mild sort of slavery. Along the north-west coast, and as far south

as California slavery prevailed in its harshest form and was the usual fate

of the captive.


One of the remarkable facts in American ethnology is the great diversity

of languages. Nearly two hundred major languages, besides minor dialects,

were spoken north of Mexico, classified in fifty-one distinct linguistic

stocks, as given below, of which nearly one-half were represented in

California. Those marked with an asterisk are extinct, while several others

are now reduced to less than a dozen individuals keeping the language:

Algonquian, Athapascan (Dn), Attacapan, *Beothukan, Caddoan, Chimakuan,

*Chimarikan, Chimmesyan, Chinookan, Chitimachan, *Chumashan, *Coahuiltecan

(Pakaw), Copehan (Wintun), Costanoan, Eskimauan, *Esselenian, Iroquoian,

Kalapooian, *Karankawan, Keresan, Kiowan, Kitunahan, Kaluschan (Tlingit),

Kulanapan (Pomo), *Kusan, Mariposan (Yokuts), Moquelumnan (Miwok),

Muskogean, Pujunan (Maidu), Quoratean (Karok), *Salinan, Salishan,

Shahaptian, Shoshonean, Siouan, Skittagetan (Haida), Takilman, *Timucuan,

*Tonikan, Tonkawan, Uchean, *Waiilatpuan (Cayuse), Wakashan (Nootka),

Washoan, Weitspekan (Yurok), Wishoskan, Yakonan, *Yanan (Nosi), Yukian,

Yuman, Zuian.

The number of languages and well-marked dialects may well have reached

one thousand, constituting some 150 separate linguistic stocks, each stock

as distinct from all the others as the Aryan languages are distinct from

the Turanian or the Bantu. Of these stocks, approximately seventy were in

the northern, and eighty in the southern continent. They were all in nearly

the same primitive stage of development, characterized by minute exactness

of description with almost entire absence of broad classification. Thus the

Cherokee, living in a country abounding in wild fruits, had no word for

grape, but had instead a distinct descriptive term for each of the three

varieties with which he was acquainted. In the same way, he could not

simply say "I am here", but must qualify the condition as standing,

sitting, etc.

The earliest attempt at a classification of the Indian languages of the

United States and British America was made by Albert Gallatin in 1836. The

beginning of systematic investigation dates from the establishment of the

Bureau of American Ethnology under Major J.W. Powell in 1879. For the

languages of Mexico and Central America, the basis is the "Geografa" of

Orozco y Berra, of 1864, supplemented by the later work of Brinton, in his

"American Race" (1891), and corrected and brought up to the latest results

in the linguistic map by Thomas and Swanton now in preparation by the

Bureau of Ethnology. For South America, we have the "Catlogo" of Hervas

(1784), which covers also the whole field of languages throughout the

world; Brinton's work just noted, containing the summary of all known up to

that time, and Chamberlain's comprehensive summary, published in 1907.

To facilitate intertribal communication, we frequently find the languages

of the more important tribes utilized by smaller tribes throughout the same

region, as Comanche in the southern plains and Navajo (Apache) in the South-

West. From the same necessity have developed certain notable trade jargons,

based upon some dominant language, with incorporations from many others,

including European, all smoothed down and assimilated to a common standard.

Chief among these were the "Mobilian" of the Gulf states based upon

Choctaw; the "Chinook jargon" of the Columbia and adjacent territories of

the Pacific coast, a remarkable conglomerate based upon the extinct Chinook

language; and the lingoa geral of Brazil and the Paran region, based upon

Tup-Guaran. To these must be added the noted "sign language" of the

plains, a gesture code, which answered every purpose of ordinary

intertribal intercourse from Canada to the Rio Grande.

Religion and Mythology

The Indian was an animist, to whom every animal, plant, and object in

nature contained a spirit to be propitiated or feared. Some of these, such

as the sun, the buffalo, and the peyote plant, the eagle and the

rattlesnake, were more powerful or more frequently helpful than others, but

there was no overruling "Great Spirit" as so frequently represented.

Certain numbers, particularly four and seven, were held sacred. Colours

were symbolic and had abiding place, and sometimes sex. Thus with the

Cherokee the red spirits of power and victory live in the Sun Land, or the

East, while the black spirits of death dwell in the Twilight Land of the

West. Certain tribes had palladiums around which centered their most

elaborate ritual. Each man had also his secret personal "medicine". The

priest was likewise the doctor, and medicine and religious ritual were

closely interwoven. Secret societies were in every tribe, claiming powers

of prophecy, hypnotism, and clairvoyance. Dreams were in great repute, and

implicitly trusted and obeyed, while witches, fairies, and supernatural

monsters were as common as in medieval Europe. Human sacrifices, either of

infants or adults, were found among the Timucua of Florida, the Natchez of

Mississippi, the Pawnee of the plains, and some tribes of California and

the north-west coast, the sacrifice in the last-mentioned region being

frequently followed by a cannibal feast. From time to time, as among more

civilized nations, prophets arose to purify the old religion or to preach a

new ritual. Each tribe had its genesis, tradition, and mythical hero, with

a whole body of mythologic belief and folklore, and one or more great

tribal ceremonials. Among the latter may be noted the Green-Corn Dance

thanksgiving festival of the eastern and southern tribes, the Sun-Dance of

the plains, the celebrated snake dance of the Hopi and the Salmon Dance of

the Columbia tribes.

The method of disposing of the dead varied according to the tribe and the

environment, inhumation being probably the most widespread. The Hurons and

the Iroquois allowed the bodies to decay upon scaffolds, after which the

bones were gathered up and deposited with much ceremony in the common

tribal sepulchre. The Nanticoke and Choctaw scraped the flesh from the

bones, which were then wrapped in a bundle, and kept in a box within the

dwelling. Tree, scaffold, and cave burial were common on the plains and in

the mountains, while cremation was the rule in the arid regions father to

the west and south-west. Northward from the Columbia the body was deposited

in a canoe raised upon posts, while cave burial reappeared among the Aleut

of Alaska, and earth burial among the Eskimo. The dread of mentioning the

name of the dead was as universal as destroying the property of the

deceased, even to the killing of his horse or dog, while the custom of

placing food near the grave for the spirit during the journey to the other

world was almost as common, Laceration of the body, cutting off of the

hair, general neglect of the person, and ceremonial wailing, morning and

evening, sometimes for weeks, were also parts of their funeral customs.

Beyond the directly inherited traditional Native American religions, a

wide body of modified sects abounds.The Native American Church claims a

membership of 250,000, which would constitute the largest of the Native

America religious organizations. Though the church traces the sacramental

use ofthe peyote cactus back ten thousand years, the Native American hurch

was only founded in 1918. Well into the reservation era, this organization

was achieved with the help of a Smithsonian Institute anthropologist. The

church incorporates generic Native American religious rites, Christianity,

and the use of the peyote plant. The modern peyote ritual is comprised of

four parts: praying, singing, eating peyote, and quietly contemplating.

The Native American Church, or Peyote Church illustrates a trend of

modifying and manipulating traditional Native American spirituality. The

Native American Church incorporates Christianity, as well as moving away

from tribal specific religion. Christianity has routinely penetrated Native

American spirituality in the last century. And in the last few decades, New

Age spirituality has continued the trend.


All of the American Native cultures had in common a deep spiritual

relationship with the land and the life forms it supported. According to

First Nations spiritual beliefs, human beings are participants in a world

of interrelated spiritual forms. First Nations maintain great respect for

all living things. With the arrival of European newcomers, this delicate

balance of life forms was disrupted. In the 18th and 19th centuries,

contact with Europeans began to change traditional ways of life forever.

Native americans and the newcomers

The formulation of public policy toward the Indians was of concern to

the major European colonizing powers.


The Spanish tried assiduously to Christianize the natives and to

remake their living patterns. Orders were issued to congregate scattered

Indian villages in orderly, well-placed centers, assuring the Indians at

the same time that by moving to such centers they would not lose their

outlying lands. This was the first attempt to create Indian reservations.

The promise failed to protect Indian land, according to the Franciscan monk

and historian of Mexico, Juan Torquemada, who reported about 1599 that

there was hardly "a palm of land" that the Spaniards had not taken. Many

Indians who did not join the congregations for fear of losing what they

owned fled to mountain places and lost their lands anyway.

The Russians never seriously undertook colonization in the New World.

When Peter I the Great sent Vitus Jonassen Bering into the northern sea

that bears his name, interest was in scientific discovery, not overseas

territory. Later, when the problem of protecting and perhaps expanding

Russian occupation was placed before Catherine II the Great, she declared

(1769): It is for traders to traffic where they please. I will furnish

neither men, nor ships, nor money, and I renounce forever all lands and

possessions in the East Indies and in America.

The Swedish and Dutch attempts at colonization were so brief that

neither left a strong imprint on New World practices. The Dutch government,

however, was probably the first (1645) of the European powers to enter into

a formal treaty with an Indian tribe, the Mohawk. Thus began a

relationship, inherited by the British, that contributed to the ascendancy

of the English over the French in North America.

France handicapped its colonial venture by transporting to the New

World a modified feudal system of land tenure that discouraged permanent

settlement. Throughout the period of French occupation, emphasis was on

trade rather than on land acquisition and development, and thus French

administrators, in dealing with the various tribes, tried primarily only to

establish trade relations with them. The French instituted the custom of

inviting the headmen of all tribes with which they carried on trade to come

once a year to Montreal, where the governor of Canada gave out presents and

talked of friendship. The governor of Louisiana met southern Indians at


The English, reluctantly, found themselves competing on the same basis

with annual gifts. Still later, United States peace commissioners were to

offer permanent annuities in exchange for tribal concessions of land or

other interests. In contrast to the French, the English were primarily

interested in land and permanent settlements; beginning quite early in

their occupation, they felt an obligation to bargain with the Indians and

to conclude formal agreements with compensation to presumed Indian

landowners. The Plymouth settlers, coming without royal sanction, thought

it incumbent upon them to make terms with the Massachuset Indians. Cecilius

Calvert (the 2nd Baron Baltimore) and William Penn, while possessing royal

grants in Maryland and Pennsylvania respectively, nevertheless took pains

to purchase occupancy rights from the Indians. It became the practice of

most of the colonies to prohibit indiscriminate and unauthorized

appropriation of Indian land. The usual requirement was that purchases

could be consummated only by agreement with the tribal headman, followed by

approval of the governor or other official of the colony. At an early date

also, specific areas were set aside for exclusive Indian use. Virginia in

1656 and commissioners for the United Colonies of New England in 1658

agreed to the creation of such reserved areas. Plymouth Colony in 1685

designated for individual Indians separate tracts that could not be

alienated without their consent.

In spite of these official efforts to protect Indian lands,

unauthorized entry and use caused constant friction through the colonial

period. Rivalry with the French, who lost no opportunity to point out to

the Indians how their lands were being encroached upon by the English; the

activity of land speculators, who succeeded in obtaining large grants

beyond the settled frontiers; and, finally, the startling success of the

Ottawa chief Pontiac in capturing English strongholds in the old Northwest

(the Great Lakes region) as a protest against this westward movement,

together prompted King George III's ministers to issue a proclamation

(1763) that formalized the concept of Indian land titles for the first time

in the history of European colonization in the New World. The document

prohibited issuance of patents to any lands claimed by a tribe unless the

Indian title had first been extinguished by purchase or treaty. The

proclamation reserved for the use of the tribes "all the Lands and

Territories lying to the Westward of the sources of the Rivers which fall

into the Sea from the West and Northwest. Land west of the Appalachians

might not be purchased or entered upon by private persons, but purchases

might be made in the name of the king or one of the colonies at a council

meeting of the Indians.

This policy continued up to the termination of British rule and was

adopted by the United States. The Appalachian barrier was soon passed -

thousands of settlers crossed the mountains during the American Revolution

- but both the Articles of Confederation and the federal Constitution

reserved either to the president or to Congress sole authority in Indian

affairs, including authority to extinguish Indian title by treaty. When

French dominion in Canada capitulated in 1760, the English announced that

"the Savages or Indian Allies of his most Christian Majesty, shall be

maintained in the lands they inhabit, if they choose to remain there."

Thereafter, the proclamation of 1763 applied in Canada and was embodied in

the practices of the dominion government. (The British North America Act of

1867, which created modern Canada, provided that the parliament of Canada

should have exclusive legislative authority with respect to "Indians, and

lands reserved for the Indians." Thus, both North American countries made

control over Indian matters a national concern.)

United States policy: the late 18th and 19th centuries

The first full declaration of U.S. policy was embodied in the

Northwest Ordinance (1787): The utmost good faith shall always be

observed toward the Indians, their lands and property shall never be

taken from them without their consent; and in their property, rights, and

liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and

lawful wars authorized by congress; but laws founded in justice and

humanity shall from time to time be made, for preventing wrongs being

done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.This

doctrine was embodied in the act of August 7, 1789, as one of the first

declarations of the U.S. Congress under the Constitution.The final

shaping of the legal and political rights of the Indian tribes is found

in the opinions of Chief Justice John Marshall, notably in decision in

the case of Worcester v. Georgia: The Indian nations had always been

considered as distinct, independent, political communities, retaining

their original natural rights, as the undisputed possessors of the land,

from time immemorial. . . . The settled doctrine of the law of nations

is, that a weaker power does not surrender its independence - its right

to self-government - by associating with a stronger, and taking its

protection. A weak state, in order to provide for its safety, may place

itself under the protection of one more powerful, without stripping

itself of the right of government, and ceasing to be a state.The first

major departure from the policy of respecting Indian rights came with the

Indian Removal Act of 1830. For the first time the United States resorted

to coercion, particularly in the cases of the Cherokee and Seminole

tribes, as a means of securing compliance. The Removal Act was not in

itself coercive, since it authorized the president only to negotiate with

tribes east of the Mississippi on a basis of payment for their lands; it

called for improvements in the east and a grant of land west of the

river, to which perpetual title would be attached. In carrying out the

law, however, resistance was met with military force. In the decade

following, almost the entire population of perhaps 100,000 Indians was

moved westward. The episode moved Alexis de Tocqueville to remark in

1831: The Europeans continued to surround [the Indians] on every side,

and to confine them within narrower limits . . . and the Indians have

been ruined by a competition which they had not the means of sustaining.

They were isolated in their own country, and their race only constituted

a little colony of troublesome strangers in the midst of a numerous and

dominant people.

The territory west of the Mississippi, it turned out, was not so

remote as had been supposed. The discovery of gold in California (1848)

started a new sequence of treaties, designed to extinguish Indian title

to lands lying in the path of the overland routes to the Pacific. The

sudden surge of thousands of wagon trains through the last of the Indian

country and the consequent slaughtering of prairie and mountain game that

provided subsistence for the Indians brought on the most serious Indian

wars the country had experienced. For three decades, beginning in the

1850s, raids and sporadic pitched fighting took place up and down the

western Plains, highlighted by such incidents as the Custer massacre by

Sioux and Cheyenne Indians (1876), the Nez Perce chief Joseph's running

battle in 1877 against superior U.S. army forces, and the Chiricahua

Geronimo's long duel with authorities in the Southwest, resulting in his

capture and imprisonment in 1886. Toward the close of that period, the

Ghost Dance religion, arising out of the dream revelations of a young

Paiute Indian, Wovoka, promised the Indians a return to the old life and

reunion with their departed kinsmen. The songs and ceremonies born of

this revelation swept across the northern Plains. The movement came to an

abrupt end December 29, 1890, at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota.

Believing that the Ghost Dance was disturbing an uneasy peace, government

agents moved to arrest ringleaders. Sitting Bull was killed (December 15)

while being taken into custody, and two weeks later units of the U.S. 7th

Cavalry at Wounded Knee massacred more than 200 men, women, and children

who had already agreed to return to their homes. A further major shift of

policy had occurred in 1871 after congressional discussions lasting

several years. U.S. presidents, with the advice and consent of the

Senate, had continued to make treaties with the Indian tribes and commit

the United States to the payment of sums of money. The House of

Representatives protested, since a number of congressmen had come to the

view that treaties with Indian tribes were an absurdity (a view earlier

held by Andrew Jackson). The Senate yielded, and the act of March 3,

1871, declared that "hereafter no Indian nation or tribe" would be

recognized "as an independent power with whom the United States may

contract by treaty." Indian affairs were brought under the legislative

control of the Congress to an extent that had not been attempted

previously. Tribal authority with respect to criminal offenses committed

by members within the tribe was reduced to the extent that murder and

other major crimes were placed under the jurisdiction of the federal

courts. The most radical undertaking of the new legislative policy was

the Dawes General Allotment Act of 1887. By that time the Indian tribes

had been moved out of the mainstreams of traffic and were settled on

lands that they had chosen out of the larger areas that they had formerly

occupied. Their choice in most cases had been confirmed by treaty,

agreement, act of Congress, or executive order of the president. The

tribes that lived by hunting over wide areas found reservation

confinement a threat to their existence. Generally, they had insisted on

annuity payments or rations, or both, and the U.S. peace commissioners

had been willing to offer such a price in return for important land

cessions. In time the view came to be held that reservation life fostered

indolence and perpetuated customs and attitudes that held Indians back

from assimilation. The strategy offered by proponents of this theory was

the Allotment Act authorizing the president to divide the reservations

into individual parcels and to give every Indian, whether he wanted it or

not, a particular piece of the tribally owned land. In order not to make

the transition too abrupt, the land would be held in trust for a period

of 25 years, after which ownership would devolve upon the individual.

With it would go all the rights and duties of citizenship. Reservation

land remaining after all living members of the tribes had been provided

with allotments was declared surplus, and the president was authorized to

open it for entry by non-Indian homesteaders, the Indians being paid the

homestead price. A total of 118 reservations was allotted in this manner,

but the result was not what had been anticipated. Through the alienation

of surplus lands (making no allowance for children yet unborn) and

through patenting of individual holdings, the Indians lost 86,000,000

acres (34,800,000 hectares), or 62 percent, of a total of 138,000,000

acres in Indian ownership prior to 1887. A generation of landless Indians

resulted, with no vocational training to relieve them of dependence upon

land. The strategy also failed in that ownership of land did not effect

an automatic acculturation in those Indians who received individual

parcels. Through scattering of individuals and families, moreover, social

cohesiveness tended to break down. The result was a weakening of native

institutions and cultural practices with nothing offered in substitution.

What was intended as transition proved to be a blind alley. The Indian

population had been dwindling through the decades after the mid-19th

century. The California Indians alone, it was estimated, dropped from

100,000 in 1853 to not more than 30,000 in 1864 and 19,000 in 1906.

Cholera in the central Plains in 1849 struck the Pawnee. As late as 1870-

71 an epidemic of smallpox brought disaster to the Blackfeet, Assiniboin,

and Cree. These events gave currency to the concept of the Indian as "the

vanishing American." The decision of 1871 to discontinue treaty making

and the passage of the Allotment Act of 1887 were both founded in the

belief that the Indians would not survive, and hence it did not much

matter whether their views were sought in advance of legislation or

whether lands were provided for coming generations. When it became

obvious after about 1920 that the Indians, whose numbers had remained

static for several years, were surely increasing, the United States was

without a policy for advancing the interests of a living people.

20th-century reforms of U.S. policy

A survey in 1926 brought into clear focus the failings of the previous

40 years. The investigators found most Indians "extremely poor," in bad

health, without education, and lacking adjustment to the dominant culture

around them. Under the impetus of these findings and other pressures for

reform, Congress adopted the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which

contemplated an orderly decrease of federal control and a concomitant

increase of Indian self-government and responsibility. The essentials of

the new law were as follows: (1) allotment of tribal lands was prohibited

in the future, but tribes might assign use rights to individuals; (2) so-

called surplus lands not pre-empted by homesteaders might be returned to

the tribes; (3) tribes might adopt written constitutions and charters of

incorporation embodying their continuing inherent powers to manage internal

affairs; and (4) funds were authorized for the establishment of a revolving

credit program, for land purchases, for educational assistance, and for

aiding the tribes in forming organizations. Moreover, the act could be

rejected on any reservation by referendum.

The response to the 1934 act was indicative of the Indians' ability to

rise above adversity. About 160 tribes, bands, and Alaska villages adopted

written constitutions, some of which combined traditional practices with

modern parliamentary methods. The revolving credit fund helped Indians

build up their herds and improve their economic position in other ways.

Borrowers from the fund were tribal corporations, credit associations, and

cooperatives that loaned to individual Indians and to group enterprises on

a multimillion-dollar scale. Educational and health services were also

improved through federal aid.

Originally, the United States exercised no guardianship over the

person of the Indian; after 1871, when internal tribal matters became the

subject of national legislation, the number and variety of regulatory

measures multiplied rapidly. In the same year that the Indian

Reorganization Act was passed, Congress significantly repealed 12 statutes

that had made it possible to hold Indians virtual prisoners on their

reservations. Indians were then able to come and go as freely as all other

persons. The Snyder Act of 1924, extending citizenship to all Indians born

in the United States, opened the door to full participation. But few

Indians took advantage of the law, and because of their lack of interest a

number of states excluded Indians from the franchise. Organization of

tribal governments following the Reorganization Act, however, seemed to

awaken an interest in civic affairs beyond tribal boundaries, and when

Indians asked for the franchise, they were generally able to secure it

eventually, though not until 1948 in Arizona and New Mexico, after lengthy

court action.

The federal courts consistently upheld the treaties made with Indian

tribes and also held that property may not be taken from Indians, whether

or not a treaty exists, "except in fair trade." The latter contention was

offered by the Hualapai Indians against the Santa Fe Railway. The company

was required by the courts in 1944 to relinquish about 500,000 acres it

thought had been granted to it by the U.S. The lands had been occupied

since prehistory by the Indians, without benefit of treaty recognition, and

the Supreme Court held that, if the occupancy could be proved, as it

subsequently was, the Indians were entitled to have their lands restored.

In 1950 the Ute Indians were awarded a judgment against the United States

of $31,750,000 for lands taken without adequate compensation. A special

Indian Claims Commission, created by act of Congress on August 13, 1946,

received many petitions for land claims against the United States and

awarded, for example, about $14,789,000 to the Cherokee nation, $10,242,000

to the Crow tribe, $3,650,000 to the Snake-Paiute of Oregon, $3,000,000 to

the Nez Perce, and $12,300,000 to the Seminole. The period from the early

1950s to the 1970s was one of increasing federal attempts to establish new

policies regarding the Indians, and it was also a period in which Indians

themselves became increasingly vocal in their quest for an equal measure of

human rights and the correction of past wrongs. The first major shift in

policy came in 1954, when the Department of the Interior began terminating

federal control over those Indians and reservations deemed able to look

after their own affairs. From 1954 to 1960, support to 61 tribes and other

Indian groups was ended by the withdrawal of federal services or trust

supervision. The results, however, were unhappy. Some extremely

impoverished Indian groups lost many acres of land to private exploitation

of their land and water resources. Indians in certain states became subject

exclusively to state laws that were less liberal or sympathetic than

federal laws. Finally the protests of Indians, anthropologists, and others

became so insistent that the program was decelerated in 1960. In 1961 a

trained anthropologist was sworn in as commissioner of Indian Affairs, the

first anthropologist ever to hold that position. Federal aid expanded

greatly, and in the ensuing decade Indians were brought into various

federal programs for equal economic opportunity. Indian unemployment

remained severe, however.

American Indians came more and more into public attention in the late

20th century as they sought (along with other minorities) to achieve a

better life. Following the example set by black civil-rights activists of

the 1960s, Indian groups drew attention to their cause through mass

demonstrations and protests. Perhaps the most publicized of these actions

were the 19-month seizure (1970-71) of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay

(California) by members of the militant American Indian Movement (AIM) and

the February 1973 occupation of a settlement at the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge

(South Dakota) reservation; the latter incident was the second conflict to

occur at Wounded Knee. Representing an attempt to gain a more traditional

political power base was the establishment in 1971 of the National Tribal

Chairman's Association, which eventually grew to include more than 100


Indian leaders also expanded their sphere of influence into the

courts; fishing, mineral, forest, casino gambling, and other rights

involving tribal lands became the subject of litigation by the Puyallup

(Washington state), the Northern Cheyenne (Montana), and the Penobscot and

the Passamaquoddy (Maine), among others. Although control of economic

resources was the focus of most such cases, some groups sought to regain

sovereignty over ancient tribal lands of primarily ceremonial and religious


facts about American Indians today

Source: Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior

Who is an Indian?

No single federal or tribal criterion establishes a person's identity as

an Indian. Tribal membership is determined by the enrollment criteria of

the tribe from which Indian blood may be derived, and this varies with each

tribe. Generally, if linkage to an identified tribal member is far removed,

one would not qualify for membership.

To be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an Indian must (1)

be a member of a tribe recognized by the federal government, (2) be of one-

half or more Indian blood of tribes indigenous to the United States; or (3)

must, for some purposes, be of one-fourth or more Indian ancestry. By

legislative and administrative decision, the Aleuts, Eskimos and Indians of

Alaska are eligible for BIA services. Most of the BIA's services and

programs, however, are limited to Indians living on or near Indian


The Bureau of the Census counts anyone an Indian who declares himself or

herself to be an Indian. In 1990 the Census figures showed there were

1,959,234 American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the United States

(1,878,285 American Indians, 57,152 Eskimos, and 23,797 Aleuts). This is a

37.9 percent increase over the 1980 recorded total of 1,420,000. The

increase is attributed to improved census taking and more self-

identification during the 1990 count.

Why are Indians sometimes referred to as Native Americans?

The term, Native American, came into usage in the 1960s to denote the

groups served by the Bureau of Indian Affairs: American Indians and Alaska

Natives (Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts of Alaska). Later the term also

included Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in some federal programs.

It, therefore, came into disfavor among some Indian groups. The preferred

term is American Indian. The Eskimos and Aleuts in Alaska are two

culturally distinct groups and are sensitive about being included under the

Indian designation. They prefer Alaska Native.

How does one trace Indian ancestry and become a member of a tribe?

The first step in tracing Indian ancestry is basic genealogical research

if one does not already have specific family information and documents that

identify tribal ties. Some information to obtain is: names of ancestors;

dates of birth; marriages and death; places where they lived; brothers and

sisters, if any; and, most importantly, tribal affiliations. Among family

documents to check are Bibles, wills, and other such papers. The next step

is to determine whether one's ancestors are on an official tribal roll or

census by contacting the tribe.

What is a federally recognized tribe?

There are more than 550 federally recognized tribes in the United States,

including 223 village groups in Alaska. Federally recognized means these

tribes and groups have a special, legal relationship with the U.S.

government. This relationship is referred to as a government-to-government


A number of Indian tribes and groups in the U.S. do not have a federally

recognized status, although some are state-recognized. This means they have

no relations with the BIA or the programs it operates. A special program of

the BIA, however, works with those groups seeking federal recognition

status. Of the 150 petitions for federal recognition received by the BIA

since 1978, 12 have received acknowledgment through the BIA process, two

groups had their status clarified by the Department of the Interior through

other means, and seven were restored or recognized by Congress.


In the U.S. there are only two kinds of reserved lands that are well-

known: military and Indian. An Indian reservation is land reserved for a

tribe when it relinquished its other land areas to the U.S. through

treaties. More recently, Congressional acts, Executive Orders, and

administrative acts have created reservations. Today some reservations have

non-Indian residents and land owners.

There are approximately 275 Indian land areas in the U.S. administered

as Indian reservations (reservations, pueblos, rancherias, communities,

etc.). The largest is the Navajo Reservation of some 16 million acres of

land in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Many of the smaller reservations are

less than 1,000 acres with the smallest less than 100 acres. On each

reservation, the local governing authority is the tribal government.

Approximately 56.2 million acres of land are held in trust by the

United States for various Indian tribes and individuals. Much of this is

reservation land; however, not all reservation land is trust land. On

behalf of the United States, the Secretary of the Interior serves as

trustee for such lands with many routine trustee responsibilities delegated

to BIA officials.

The states in which reservations are located have limited powers over

them, and only as provided by federal law. On some reservations, however, a

high percentage of the land is owned and occupied by non-Indians. Some 140

reservations have entirely tribally owned land.


Indians pay the same taxes as other citizens with the following

exceptions: federal income taxes are not levied on income from trust lands

held for them by the United States; state income taxes are not paid on

income earned on an Indian reservation; state sales taxes are not paid by

Indians on transactions made on an Indian reservation; and local property

taxes are not paid on reservation or trust land.


As U.S. citizens, Indians are generally subject to federal, state, and

local laws. On Indian reservations, however, only federal and tribal laws

apply to members of the tribe unless the Congress provides otherwise. In

federal law, the Assimilative Crimes Act makes any violation of state

criminal law a federal offense on reservations. Most tribes now maintain

tribal court systems and facilities to detain tribal members convicted of

certain offenses within the boundaries of the reservation.

Language and Population

American Indian Languages

Spoken at Home by American Indian Persons 5 Years and Over in Households:


|Languages |Number of |

| |households |

|All American Indian languages |281,990 |

|Algonquian languages |12,887 |

|Athapascan Eyak languages |157,694 |

|Caddoan languages |354 |

|Central and South American Indian languages |431 |

|Haida |110 |

|Hokan languages |2,430 |

|Iroquoian languages |12,046 |

|Keres |8,346 |

|Muskogean languages |13,772 |

|Penutian languages |8,190 |

|Siouan languages |19,693 |

|Tanoan languages |8,255 |

|Tlingit |1,088 |

|Tonkawa |3 |

|Uto-Aztecan languages |23,493 |

|Wakashan and Salish languages |1,105 |

|Yuchi |65 |

|Unspecified American Indian languages |12,038 |

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. The American Indian languages shown above are

the major languages.

Many American places have been named after Indian words. In fact,

about half of the states got their names from Indian words. Here are some:

|Alabama |may come from Choctaw meaning thicket-clearers |

| |or vegetation-gatherers. |

|Alaska |corruption of Aleut word meaning great land or |

| |that which the sea breaks against. |

|Arizona |from the Indian Arizonac, meaning little |

| |spring or young spring. |

|Arkansas |from the Quapaw Indians |

|Chicago, |Algonquian for "garlic field." |

|Ill | |

|Chesapeake |Algonquian name of a village |

|(bay) | |

|Connecticut|from an Indian word (Quinnehtukqut) meaning |

| |beside the long tidal river. |

|Dakota |from the Sioux tribe, meaning allies. |

|Illinois |Algonquin for tribe of superior men. |

|Indiana |meaning land of Indians. |

|Iowa |probably from an Indian word meaning this is the|

| |place or the Beautiful Land. |

|Kansas |from a Sioux word meaning people of the south |

| |wind. |

|Kentucky |from an Iroquoian word Ken-tah-ten meaning |

| |land of tomorrow. |

|Massachuset|from Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, |

|ts |meaning at or about the great hill. |

|Michigan |from Indian word Michigana meaning great or |

| |large lake. |

|Minnesota |from a Dakota Indian word meaning sky-tinted |

| |water. |

|Mississippi|from an Indian word meaning Father of Waters. |

|Malibu |believed to come from the Chumash Indians. |

|Manhattan |Algonquian, believed to mean "isolated thing in |

| |water." |

|Milwaukee |Algonquian, believed to mean "a good spot or |

| |place." |

|Missouri |named after the Missouri Indian tribe. Missouri|

| |means town of the large canoes. |

|Narraganset|named after the Indian tribe |

|t | |

|Nebraska |from an Oto Indian word meaning flat water. |

|Niagara |named after an Iroquoian town, "Ongiaahra." |

|Ohio |from an Iroquoian word meaning great river. |

|Oklahoma |from two Choctaw Indian words meaning red |

| |people. |

|Pensacola |Choctaw for "hair" and "people." |

|(Florida) | |

|Roanoke |Algonquian for "shell money" (Indian tribes often|

|(Virginia) |used shells that were made into beads called |

| |wampum, as money). |

|Saratoga |believed to be Mohawk for "springs (of water) |

|(New York) |from the hillside." |

|Sunapee |Pennacook for "rocky pond." |

|(lake in | |

|New | |

|Hampshire) | |

|Tahoe (the |is Washo for "big water." |

|lake in | |

|California/| |

|Nevada) | |

|Tennessee |of Cherokee origin; the exact meaning is unknown.|

|Texas |from an Indian word meaning friends. |

|Utah |is from the Ute tribe, meaning people of the |

| |mountains. |

|Wisconsin |French corruption of an Indian word whose meaning|

| |is disputed. |

|Wyoming |from the Delaware Indian word, meaning mountains|

| |and valleys alternating; the same as the Wyoming|

| |Valley in Pennsylvania. |

American Indian Loan Words

From their earliest contact with traders and explorers, American

Indians borrowed foreign words, often to describe things not previously

encountered. The language exchange went both ways. Today, thousands of

place names across North America have Indian origins - as do hundreds of

everyday English words.

Many of these "loan words" are nouns from the Algonquian languages

that were once widespread along the Atlantic coast. English colonists,

encountering unfamiliar plants and animalsamong them moose, opossum, and

skunkborrowed Indian terms to name them. Pronunciations generally changed,

and sometimes the newcomers shortened words they found difficult; for

instance, "pocohiquara" became "hickory."

Some U.S. English Words with Indian Origins:

anorak from the Greenlandic Inuit "annoraq"

bayou from the Choctaw "bayuk"

chipmunk from the Ojibwa "ajidamoon," red squirrel

hickory from the Virginia Algonquian "pocohiquara"

hominy from the Virginia Algonquian "uskatahomen"

igloo from the Canadian Inuit "iglu," house

kayak from the Alaskan Yupik "qayaq"

moccasin from the Virginia Algonquian

moose from the Eastern Abenaki "mos"

papoose from the Narragansett "papoos," child

pecan from the Illinois "pakani"

powwow from the Narragansett "powwaw," shaman

quahog from the Narragansett "poquauhock"

squash from the Narragansett "askutasquash"

succotash from the Narragansett "msickquatash," boiled corn

tepee from the Sioux "tipi," dwelling

toboggan from the Micmac "topaghan"

tomahawk from the Virginia Algonquian "tamahaac"

totem from the Ojibwa "nindoodem," my totem

wampum from the Massachusett "wampumpeag"

wigwam from the Eastern Abenaki "wik'wom" Natives.


While the Indian population was never dense, the idea that the Indian has

held his own, or even actually increased in number, is a serious error,

founded on the fact that most official estimates begin with the federal

period, when the native race was already wasted by nearly three centuries

of white contact and in many regions entirely extinct. An additional source

of error is that the law recognizes anyone of even remote Indian ancestry

as entitled to Indian rights, including in this category, especially in the

former "Five Civilized Nations" of Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), several

thousand individuals whose claims have always been stoutly repudiated by

the native tribal courts. Moreover, the original Indian was a full-blood,

while his present-day representative has often so little aboriginal blood

as to practically a white man or a negro. Many broken tribes of today

contain not a single full-blood, and some few not even one of half Indian

blood. The Cherokee Nation, officially reported to number 36,000 persons of

pure or mixed Cherokee blood contains probably not 4000 of even fairly pure

blood, the rest being all degrees of admixture even down to one-sixty-

fourth or less of Indian blood, besides some 7000 claimants officially

recognized, but repudiated by the former Indian Government. In

Massachusetts an official census of 1860 reported a "Yartmouth tribe" of

105 persons, all descended from a single Indian woman with a negro husband

residing there in 1797. It is obvious that the term Indian cannot properly

be applied to such diluted mixtures.

The entire aboriginal population of Florida, of the mission period,

numbering perhaps 30,000, is long since extinct without descendants, the

Seminole being a later emigrations from the Creeks. The aborigines of South

Carolina, counting in 1700 some fifteen tribes of which the Catawba, the

largest tribe, numbered some six thousand souls, are represented today by

about a hundred mixed blood Catawba, together with some scattered mongrels,

whose original ancestry is a matter of doubt.

The same holds good upon the plains, The celebrated Pawnee tribe of some

10,000 souls in 1838 is now reduced to 650; the Kansas of 1500 within the

same period have now 200 souls, and the aborigines of Texas, numbering in

1700 perhaps some 40,000 souls in many small tribes with distinct

languages, is extinct except for some 900 Caddo, Wichita, and Tonkawa. The

last-named, estimated at 1,000 in 1805, numbered 700 in 1849, 300 in 1861,

108 in 1882, and 48 in 1908, including several aliens. In California the

aboriginal population has decreased within the same period from perhaps a

quarter of a million to perhaps 15,000, and nearly the same proportion of

decrease holds good along the whole Pacific coast into Alaska. Not only

have tribes dwindled, but whole linguistic stocks have become extinct

within the historic period. The only apparent exceptions to the general

rule of decay are the Iroquois, Sioux, and Navaho, the first two of whom

have kept up their number by wholesale adoptions, while the Navaho have

been preserved by their isolation. The causes of decrease may be summarized

as: (1) introduced diseases and dissipation, particularly smallpox, sexual

disease, and whiskey; (2) wars, also hardship and general enfeeblement

consequent upon frequent removals and enforced change from accustomed

habitat. The present Indian population north of Mexico is approximately

400,000, or whom approximately 265,000 are within the United States proper.

other native Americans

The Eskimo (Inuit and Yupiit) and Aleuts are people of the treeless

shores and tundra-covered coastal hinterlands of northernmost North America

and Greenland and the eastern tip of the Chukchi Peninsula of Siberia.

Custom alone designates them Eskimo and Aleuts rather than American Indians

like all other native Americans, from whom they are distinguished

principally by their language.

The Eskimo are an Asian people who are distinguishable from the American

Indians by their more Asian features, by the relative smallness of their

hands and feet, and by a few less obvious traits.

Eskimo culture was totally adapted to an extremely cold, snow- and

icebound environment in which vegetable foods were almost nonexistent,

trees were scarce, and caribou, seal, walrus, and whale meat, whale

blubber, and fish were the major food sources. The Eskimo used harpoons to

kill seals, which they hunted either on the ice or from skin-covered, one-

person canoes known as kayaks. Whales were hunted using larger boats called

umiaks. In the summer most Eskimo families hunted caribou and other land

animals with the help of bows and arrows. Dogsleds were the basic means of

transport on land. Eskimo clothing was fashioned of caribou furs, which

provided protection against the extreme cold. Most Eskimo wintered in

either snow-block houses called igloos or semisubterranean houses of stone

or sod over wooden or whalebone frameworks. In summer many Eskimo lived in

animal-skin tents. Their b asic social and economic unit was the nuclear

family, and their religion was animistic.

Eskimo life changed greatly in the 20th century owing to increased

contacts with societies to the south. Snowmobiles have generally replaced

dogs for land transport, and rifl es have replaced harpoons for hunting

purposes. Outboard motors, store-bought clothing, and numerous other

manufactured items have entered the culture, and money, unknown in

traditional Eskimo economy, has become a necessity. Many Eskimo have

abandoned their nomadic hunting pursuits to move into northern towns and

cities or to work in mines and oil fields. Others, particularly in Canada,

have formed cooperatives to market their handicrafts, fish catches, and

ventures in tourism.

Aleut - a native of the Aleutian Islands and western portion of the

Alaska Peninsula of northwest North America. Aleuts speak three mutually

intelligible dialects and are closely related to the Eskimo in language,

race, and culture. The earliest people, the Paleo-Aleuts, arrived in the

Aleutian Islands from the Alaskan mainland about 2000 BC. The Aleuts hunted

seals, sea otters, whales, sea lions, sometimes walrus, and, in some areas,

caribou and bears. Fish, birds, and mollusks were also taken. One-man and

two-man skin boats known as bidarkas, or kayaks, and large, open, skin

boats (Eskimo umiaks) were used. Aleut women wove fine grass basketry;

stone, bone, and ivory were also worked. Ancient Aleut villages were

situated on the seashore near fresh water, with a good landing for boats

and in a position safe from surprise attack from other Aleuts or

neighbouring tribes. Villages were usually composed of related families. A

chief might govern several villages or an island, but there was no chief

over all Aleuts or even over several islands.


A long time ago North America was very different from the way it is

today. There were no highways, cars, or cities. There were no

schools, malls, or restaurants. But even long, long ago, there were still

communities. People made their own homes, food, and clothing from the

plants and animals they found around them.

Americans today owe a great deal to the First Americans. Over half of

the states and many of the cities, rivers and streets still have Native

Americans names. Nearly 550 Indian words are part of everyday English. Many

foods, such as potatoes, corn, peanuts, turkey, tomatoes, cocoa, beans were

borrowed by later settlers from the Native Americans. It was from the

Indians that other Americans learned how to use rubber.

In fact without the help of the Native Americans many other early

settlers might never have survived.

In conclusion I would like to cite the words of George W. Bush, todays

President of the U.S., which he said in National American Indian Heritage

Month proclamation, dated November 19, 2001:

As the early inhabitants of this great land, the native peoples of

North America played a unique role in the shaping of our Nation's

history and culture. During this month when we celebrate Thanksgiving,

we especially celebrate their heritage and the contributions of

American Indian and Alaska Native peoples to this Nation. [ ]

American Indian and Alaska Native cultures have made remarkable

contributions to our national identity. Their unique spiritual,

artistic, and literary contributions, together with their vibrant

customs and celebrations, enliven and enrich our land.

As we move into the 21st century, American Indians and Alaska

Natives will play a vital role in maintaining our Nation's strength

and prosperity. Almost half of America's Native American tribal

leaders have served in the United States Armed Forces, following in

the footsteps of their forebears who distinguished themselves during

the World Wars and the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian

Gulf. []

During National American Indian Heritage Month, I call on all

Americans to learn more about the history and heritage of the Native

peoples of this great land. Such actions reaffirm our appreciation and

respect for their traditions and way of life and can help to preserve

an important part of our culture for generations yet to come.

main sourses

1. Encyclopaedia Britannica, electronic edition, 1999

2. Gilbert Legay, Atlas of Indians of Northern America, Barrons Educ, 1995

3. Keith C. Wilbur, The New England Indians, The Globe Pequot Press, 1978

4. Bryn OCalladhan, An Illustrated Hystory of the USA, Longman, 1990

5. V.M. Pavlotsky, American studies, Karo, St.- Pt., 2000

6. http://www.first-americans.spb.ru/n4/win/current.htm Russian Pages of

American Indian Almanac

7. http://www.nativetech.org - Native American technologies and art

8. http://etext.virginia.edu/subjects/Native-American.html electronic

texts by and about American Indians

9. http://www.si.edu/resource/faq/start.htm very useful encyclopaedia

10. http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/k12/naha/maps/nausa.html tribe finder

11. http://www.infoplease.com statistics and useful data