English Across the Curriculum

Native Americans

Government and Warfare


Families and whole clans joined together to form tribes. Hundreds of tribes lived in America when Columbus arrived in 1492. Each tribe lived in its own area, shared the same language and had its own religion. The leader of the tribe was called a chief. Decisions were made at meetings of the tribal council. Members were important people of many different families.

Chief American Horse was a famous Sioux leader

Image: BPL, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Indians often fought against other tribes because it was sometimes the only way to settle disputes.

The bow and arrow was the most common weapon of the Indians. Some tribes put poison on the arrowheads. Many Indians fought with spears and tomahawks.

When an Indian defeated his enemy he often took his scalp as a prize to show to others. Killing an enemy tribesman often made a warrior famous and respected.

When white people came to North America, Indians bought guns and other new weapons from them.

Weapons of North American Indians