English Across the Curriculum

Native Americans

Family Life

Native Americans concentrated on the important things in life: getting food, making clothes and building houses.


Indians ate many different kinds of food. Those who lived on the plains of the Central United States ate the meat of buffalo. The Pueblos of the south-western part lived on corn, beans and squash. Natives in Alaska and Canada were fishers and hunted deer and other wild animals in the forests. Most of them ate berries and collected nuts.

Indians cooked their food in ovens that they made with hot stones. They preserved meat by smoking or drying it in the sun.

Squash is a kind of pumpkin

Image: Chiswick Chap, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cornbread was very popular among Native Americans

Image: Zankopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marriage and Children

Many Native Americans married at an early age – girls between 13 and 15, boys between 15 and 20. In some Indian tribes, parents chose husbands and wives for their children. Some Indian tribes allowed men to have more than one wife. After a man died his wife often lived with his brother's family.

Most Indian families were small because many children died at birth or at an early age. When boys got older they were tested for their strength and bravery. Many had to live alone in the wilderness for a long time.

In many areas, Indians lived in big families called clans. These clans were a group of relatives who had one common ancestor.

Native American family

Native American family in the 19th century

Image : National Gallery of Art, CC0,
via Wikimedia Commons


Many Indians made clothes from animal skins and furs. Buffalo skin and rabbit fur were especially popular. They also used bird feathers to decorate their heads.

Indians of the tropical regions only wore simple skirts. Some tribes wore no clothes at all.

Feather headdress of Indian Chief

Feather headdress

Image:"2121.15.01 Native American style feather headdress «Santee Sioux Warrior» (front view)" by '4 Colors' Gallery of Plains Indian Warrior Art
is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .

Houses and Homes

Indians built many different types of homes because they lived in different climates and didn't have the same building materials. Some groups built large houses with many rooms where many families could stay together, others had small dwellings in which only very few people lived.

The Inuit of Canada built snow houses during the winter and in summer they lived in tents made of animal hides.

In some parts of America, Indians built wigwams that were covered with leaves. Some tribes built houses into the earth that they covered with leaves and grass.

Indians of in the Great Plains built tepees made of buffalo skin. The Pueblo Indians of the south-western part of America used sun-dried bricks to make houses.

Teepee made of animal skin

Image: John C. H. Grabill, Public domain,
via Wikimedia Commons

Adobe houses

Brick houses of the Pueblo tribe in the southwestern US

Image: I, Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5,
via Wikimedia Commons

Arts and Crafts

Native Americans worked in many arts and crafts. They created beautiful pottery, made baskets to carry food and wove cloth into blankets and rugs.

Indians also painted their pottery with colourful patterns. Some made wall paintings of important ceremonies or everyday life.

Pottery made by Native Americans
Image: Native American pottery”, by Lorianne DiSabato,
licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0