English Across the Curriculum

Native Americans

Cultural Regions

Cultural regions

Cultural regions of Native Americans

The Arctic and Subarctic

Arctic and Subarctic inhabitants probably came to Alaska and Canada from northern Siberia about 10,000 years ago. They are also called Inuit.

They got food by hunting deer and sea mammals like seals and whales. Houses were made of animal skin or wood that came from nearby forests.

Indians travelled mostly across the lakes and rivers of the Arctic. They used toboggans and snowshoes to travel when the lakes and rivers were frozen.

Family of Inuits

Inuit family in their traditional clothing

Image: Ansgar Walk, CC BY-SA 3.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

The Northeast

These Indians lived between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Coast and as far west as the Mississippi.

They were the first to make contact with European settlers. At first the two groups were very friendly. Indians taught white people how to plant corn. In 1621, the Indians and the first pilgrims even had their first Thanksgiving ceremony together. But later on, fighting broke out between settlers and Indians when the white people started to move west and take away their land.

First thanksgiving

Native Americans and settlers take part in Thanksgiving feast

Image: Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Public domain,
via Wikimedia Commons

The Southeast

This region extends from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. Indians lived in an area with mild winters and warm summers. Because there was enough rainfall, many tribes grew corn.

Women had much power in these tribes. Some of them even were allowed to take part in war councils.

Religion played an important role in the lives of the south-eastern Indians. They honoured their ancestors and when a person died many objects were put into his grave. Many Indian groups worshipped the sun.

The Plains

The Plains stretch from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to Mexico. Few Indians lived there before the arrival of the Europeans.

When the first Spaniards brought the horse to North America, the life of the Plains Indians changed. On horseback they could follow buffalo herds more quickly and buffalo meat became their main food. It was roasted over a fire and the skin was used to make clothes and tepees. Bones were used to make horns and other tools.

When white settlers came and also started hunting buffalo, the great animals of the Plains almost disappeared. Many Indians were driven away and the white settlers turned the land into cattle farms and ranches .

Indians of the Plains region

Plains Indians chasing buffalo over a cliff

Image: Alfred Jacob Miller, Public domain,
via Wikimedia Commons

The Mountain Region

This region covers the highest parts of North America. Settlers came to the Rocky Mountain region when gold and other minerals were discovered in the second half of the 19th century. Miners poured in and drove the Indians off their land.

The first white people who made contact with the mountain tribes were the explorers Lewis and Clark. Fur traders followed . Today many Indians live on reservations.

The Southwest

This dry part of North America stretches from southern California to central Mexico.

Many famous tribes lived here. The Pueblos were among the most highly developed. They lived in villages and were mostly farmers. They planted corn and beans and raised turkeys. The Pueblo Indians built large houses called cliff dwellings. They had many stories and were made of stone. People usually entered the houses through the roof. They climbed up a ladder that could be removed when an enemy attacked. The Pueblo were a peaceful tribe who only fought when they were attacked.

The Apache and Navajo Indians were fierce fighters. They often raided the Pueblo and searched for their food and other goods.

The first Europeans to come here were the Spanish. They tried to convert Indians to Christianity but mostly failed.

cliff dwelling

Cliff dwelling in Arizona

Image: Phillip Capper (PhillipC), CC BY 2.0,
via Wikimedia Commons