Destruction of Native American Cultures


Various Authors

Edited By: R. A.Guisepi

The International History Project

 The first people to inhabit the Americas are referred to as Indians. Their settlements ranged across the Western Hemisphere and were built on many of the sites where modern cities now rise. They hunted deer, buffalo, and other game and cultivated land where today crops are still grown. Their hunters, warriors, and traders used paths now followed by roads and railroads. Indian words dot the map of the United States . Twenty-seven states and large numbers of cities, towns, rivers, and lakes bear names from the languages of the first Americans.  

   Native American farmers were the first in the world to domesticate potatoes, tomatoes, and many other food plants that help feed the peoples of the world today. The Native Americans were also the first to raise turkeys. They found uses for such Native American plants as rubber, tobacco, the sugar maple, and the cinchona tree (for quinine).

   The Native Americans had lived in America for thousands of years when the first European explorers set foot on their land. When Christopher Columbus landed in the New World , he called the native people indios (Spanish for Indians) because he thought he had reached India .  

   Because of European colonization of North and South America since 1500, Native Americans have been greatly reduced in numbers and largely displaced. In Central and South America a large percentage of the modern population is of mixed Indian and European ancestry, and in the Caribbean and parts of South America a portion of the population is of mixed American Indian and African descent.  

   Native Americans belong to the American Indian geographic race. Characteristics include medium skin pigmentation, straight black hair, sparse body hair, and a very low frequency of male pattern balding. In addition to a marked absence of blood type B and the Rh-negative blood type among Native Americans, several other characteristics of their blood types set them apart from the Mongoloid peoples, with whom they were sometimes classed in the past. 


Like the white settlers, the first Indians were immigrants. Anthropologists say they came from northeastern Asia . They resembled the early Mongoloid people of that region. Nobody knows when or how they came. They probably arrived when ice sheets covered much of northern North America .  This may have been 20,000 to 30,000 years ago. 

   They may have come because they were wandering hunters, like most people of that era. They crossed the Bering Strait to Alaska , seeking new hunting grounds. Bridges of land existed then, making passage easy. There seem to have been ice-free land and game in Alaska and open land east of the Rocky Mountains , leading into the heart of North America . Perhaps the Indians moved along this area as they needed new hunting grounds. Gradually the ice melted, and the Indians spread to most parts of both Americas . They did not fill this vast area. It has been estimated that only about 1,025,000 were living north of Mexico when the first white men came to America .  

Differences in Ways of Living

The Indians lived in different ways in various parts of the country. When a roaming band of Indians found a place with good hunting and plenty of seeds and berries, they settled down. Gradually they learned to utilize the area's trees and plants, its animals, fish, and birds, and its stones and earth.  

   The vast American continents have many kinds of land and climate. In each area nature provided special plants, animals, and raw materials. Thus Indians of various areas had different food, clothing, and shelter. They worked out different ways of life.  

   Since the Indians depended upon nature, they studied its ways. They knew the habits of the animals. They found out which plants were nourishing and which poisonous. They knew signs that foretold the turning of the seasons and the changes in the weather.  

   They had no science to explain nature, and they believed the sun, rain, and other forces were controlled by spirits. In religion they worshiped animals, plants, the sun, rain, and wind. In ceremonies and prayers they tried to gain the favor of these gods.  


  Scholars give the name culture to the way of life of a people, including its arts and crafts. In studying Indian cultures north of Mexico , they found seven great culture areas in the region. The Indians of each area shared similar natural surroundings and had much the same kind of culture. Peoples who lived along the border between two culture areas often reflected the two ways of living.  

   The pictures throughout the article illustrate ways of life in some of the areas. They show that in each area the Indians had special ways of acquiring clothing, food, houses, and utensils.  

   One thing they had in common was the use of stone tools. All made a variety of hammers, scrapers, knives, arrowheads, and spear points from stone. They were handicapped by the lack of sharp metal tools.  

Indians of the Eastern Forests

The Indians who made their homes in the eastern part of North America had a region with plentiful rainfall. Forests spread over mountains and valleys. There were many lakes and streams. The Woodland tribes largely depended upon the trees, the animals that lived in the woods, and the fish and shellfish from the streams and the sea. They used tree bark and branches to make their houses, many of their weapons and utensils, and the canoes in which they skimmed over the waters. They made clothing from the skins of game.  

   They did not have to wander seeking wild food. Since they knew how to grow crops, they could live in villages. The women planted corn, pumpkin, squash, beans, tobacco, and gourds. The plants flourished in the warm, rainy summers.  

Wanderers of the Plains

The Plains Indians lived on a vast rolling plain. There was enough rain for a thick carpet of grass but not enough to grow many trees. Trees grew only beside the rivers. Huge herds of grazing animals fed on the grass. The most important of these was the buffalo, or bison. Indeed, the buffalo has been called "the Plains Indians' galloping department store." This animal gave the Indians almost everything they needed. The flesh supplied food. From the skin they made tents, called tepees, boats, utensils, baggage, and some of their clothing. These Indians moved about the plains following the herds. They also hunted other plains animals, notably elk, deer, and antelope.  

   After Spanish settlers in the southwest brought horses to America , the Plains Indians became famous as expert hunters. With their swift ponies they could overtake a herd of buffalo and kill all the animals they needed. Hunting was usually a tribal activity, and it involved driving large numbers of buffalo off a cliff or into some type of encirclement.  

Pueblo Indians of the Southwest

The Indians of the Southwest had land that was high, dry, and cut by mountains and canyons. They had little rain, but it came mostly in summer when it could help plants grow. Snow fell on the mountains in winter and supplied water for streams, springs, and water holes. The Pueblo Indians learned to irrigate their fields and to find moist spots for dry farming. Good crops gave them a dependable food supply. They built large dwellings, like apartment houses, from stone and adobe (sun-dried clay). A whole village, or community, lived in one of these huge houses. When the Spanish explorers saw them in the 16th century, they called the community houses pueblos from the Spanish word for village.  

Nomadic Raiders and Herders

The region also had nomadic Indians who did not build villages. The Navajos were hunters and raiders of the settled villages until the Spaniards brought sheep and goats. They gradually began tending flocks of these animals for a livelihood.  

   They moved over the dry, rocky land seeking grass for their flocks. They made homes, called hogans, of stone, logs, and earth.  

Seed Gatherers of the Desert

The Seed Gatherer Indians had an even drier homeland. They lived in the arid parts of California and in the dry basins and plateaus between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada . Game animals were scarce, and the men could not supply enough food by hunting. So the family roamed the desert, and the women gathered berries, nuts, seeds, and roots. They ground the seeds into flour for gruel.  

   Their shelters were mere windbreaks or flimsy huts covered with rushes or bunches of grass. Their greatest skill was basketry. They wove the baskets so closely that they would hold the finest seeds--even water. The women cooked the gruel in them.  

Fishermen of the Northwest

The Northwest Fishermen had a land of heavy rainfall along the northern Pacific coast. The ocean and the rivers were rich with fish. Forests grew tall and dense. The giant red cedar provided straight-grained wood which even crude tools could split. So these skillful Indians built large houses by tying big slabs of cedar to wooden frames. They made dugout canoes for river travel, as well as seagoing whaleboats.  

   Hunters added game to the fish supply. The women gathered bulbs, berries, and seeds. They wore little clothing--fringe skirts and raincoats made from the inner bark of the cedar. The men were skillful wood-carvers. Examples of their craftsmanship have survived, from small dolls to large, painted totem poles.

Northern Hunters

North of these areas lived the Mackenzie-Yukon Valley Caribou Hunters and the Inuit. The Caribou Hunters depended upon the caribou and other northern game much as the Plains Indians depended upon the buffalo. They made their tents and clothing of caribou or other deer hides. In winter they tracked their game on snowshoes. As they roamed, their dogs carried the baggage or pulled it on sledges.  

   The Inuit today still live along the chill northern fringes of the continent. There are Inuit across the whole Arctic region, ranging from Alaska to Labrador , as well as in Greenland and Siberia . Many depend upon seal, whale, walrus, caribou, polar bear, Arctic birds, and other Arctic animals. They make warm clothing of the animal skins--turning the fur inside to hold the body's warmth.  


The Indians did not give all their time to the work needed to stay alive. They had many games and sports. Tribal members came together for festivals that lasted a week or more. The gatherings usually had religious ceremonies as their main purpose, but there was time for games and visiting, storytelling, and social singing and dancing.  

   Children played much as children play today. Girls played with dolls dressed in the costumes of their tribes. Boys shot small arrows from toy bows and crept through the woods pretending to be hunters or warriors. There were whip tops to spin, stilts, slings, and other toys. They had dogs and small wild things as pets. Around the fire in the evening, old and young played guessing games such as hunt-the-button. They made cat's cradles with fiber string.  

   Children learned skills from games then as they do now. Archery, target practice, and footraces taught skills needed by the hunters. Pueblo children learned about kachinas from their kachina dolls. The kachinas were mythical ancestors of the Pueblo people. They were thought to live in a lake beneath the earth. The tribes held kachina dances to celebrate visits from the spirits. The dancers gave kachina dolls to children, to inspire them to be like the kachina ancestors.  

Intertribal Meets and Women's Games

Young people competed in athletic sports. The "ball play" popular throughout the east has become the modern sport lacrosse. Athletes were highly trained for intertribal contests in this game. The ceremonial dancing and feasting before the games may be compared to modern football pep rallies. Inter-village footraces were held by the Pueblos , and horse racing was popular among the buffalo-hunting Plains tribes.  

   Ring-and-pole and hoop-and-pole games were popular in many areas. The players shot poles or spears through stone rings or into a netting on a rolling hoop. Snow snake was popular among northern tribes. The players hurled a long stick, sometimes painted to resemble a snake, to see who could send it farthest over the ice or frozen ground.  

   Shinny was a woman's game. Plains women used a small buckskin-covered ball of buffalo hair. Women of the Southwest played a kind of football. They kicked a small ball around a long course. In early times, the game was thought to have magical powers, such as protecting the fields against sandstorms.  

Games of Chance

Indians of all tribes liked games of chance. The commonest was called the hand game. A player held in his hands two bone or wooden cylinders, one plain and the other marked. His opponents attempted to guess which hand held the unmarked piece. One camp might compete against another. Backers lined up beside the players, shouting and singing to distract them. A man might lose his horses, buffalo robes, or everything he owned in the excitement.  

   Numerous games used markers resembling dice. Common among northern tribes was the bowl game. Players tossed marked peach or plum seeds in a bowl.  

Dancing and Ceremonials

Most of the Indian dances and ceremonies were held for religious or superstitious reasons. By honoring their spirits, or gods, the Indians hoped to gain help and favor. Medicine men, or religious leaders, danced to seek aid for the sick. Hunters danced the deer dance or the buffalo dance to attract abundant game. Farming tribes staged ceremonials to bring rain or to make the corn grow or ripen. Certain dances dramatized stories from the history or mythology of the tribe. Other ceremonies were held when children arrived at manhood or womanhood or to initiate them into the religious secret societies of the tribe.  

   Although the purpose of a dance was serious, the Indians usually made it the occasion for fun and sociability. In many tribes, there were clowns or other fun makers among the musicians or dancers. In the evening or at the end of a festival, social dances were sometimes held. The squaw dance of the Navajos was a social dance in which both men and women took part. Originally it came at the end of elaborate ceremonials to welcome the braves at the end of a war.  

Songs and Musical Instruments

Singing accompanied every public ceremony as well as the important events in an individual's life. Both the tune and the rhythm seem strange to the white man's ears. Religious songs passed down from generation to generation, as they were an important part of the ceremonies. Women sang songs not only to ease the burden of their own activities, such as spinning and grinding, but also to encourage the warrior as he went forth. Every mother, of course, sang lullabies. Birds or animals, in folk stories, were supposed to sing their own quaint songs, which were imitated by the storyteller. On the northwest coast there were spirited song contests between tribes. Certain songs were the exclusive property of clans and societies. Individuals in the clan, however, could sell their songs or even give them away.  

   A variety of instruments accompanied dance and song. These included drums, rattles, whistles, flutes, bull-roarers, and notched sticks rasped on bones. The Indians made them of materials at hand. Plains drums had painted horsehide heads. Northwestern tribes used wooden boxes, and their rattles were made like masks from wood or native copper. The Pueblos and other farming tribes made gourd rattles. The Iroquois used a turtle shell and a pot or water drum.  

Tales of the Old People

Every tribe had its legends--some more fanciful than true--of the history of the tribe. When the day's work was done, the old people would tell these tales. There were also many stories of animals and mythical beings which could assume human form and yet retain some of their own particular traits. Children were thrilled by these stories. The Indian stories and myths were passed by word of mouth from one generation to another. This is known as the oral tradition.  

Woodland Indians of the Eastern Wilderness

The Indians of the eastern forests were the first ones the American colonists met. In the beginning, the settlers from Europe looked upon the Indians as ignorant savages. Then they found that there was much the Indians could teach them. They learned to grow corn and to bury a fish in each hill for fertilizer. They adopted the Indian's swift, graceful bark canoe for water travel. They found out how to hunt and make war--Indian style.  

   Indian ways were valued because they were suited to the wilderness of forests, rivers, and lakes. The Indians had to convert the things around them into food, clothing, shelter, weapons, tools, and utensils. There were no stores in the wilderness to sell a family what it could not get or make for itself.  

   From the beginning, the American people have used Indian methods and equipment when living in the forests of the east. The fur traders patterned their lives on the Indian way of life. They traveled in canoes and on snowshoes, wore moccasins and other clothing of deerskin, and ate Indian foods. Later, the pioneer settlers often wore buckskin too, and housewives followed many Indian recipes in their cookery.  

Kinds of Houses in the East

All the Eastern Woodland Indians lived in much the same way. But from place to place there were differences in climate and in available plants and animals, and the tribes differed in housing and clothing styles, in food habits, and in means of transportation.  

   Pictures in this section show houses from different parts of the Eastern Woodland . Perhaps the most widely used was the bark-covered wigwam. Sometimes it was shaped like a cone, and sometimes it was more of a dome. The Indians made a frame for this hut of small, flexible trees, or saplings. They stuck them firmly in the ground in a circle, then bent them overhead in an arch and tied them together with tough bark fibers or with rawhide. Next, other slender branches were wrapped in circles around the bent poles and tied to them. Slabs of bark were tied to this frame to form the roof and walls. Space was left vacant for a door and a smoke hole. Platforms inside served as beds, chairs, and shelves.  

   The Iroquois and certain other New York tribes built the larger longhouse. Its shape was similar to that of the arched metal Quonset hut built during World War II. Five to a dozen families might live together in the longhouse.  

   In the warm southeast, certain tribes raised bigger crops and had a more involved culture than the northeast tribes. They had winter houses of clay plastered on a framework of poles and woven twigs, with a domed or cone-shaped roof. The Seminoles in Florida used palmetto-thatched shelters without sidewalls. These people still live in this type of house.  

   All the houses were crowded, by modern standards, but the Indians did not mind. Every family spent most of its time outdoors. In good weather the women cooked at an open fire and did much of their work sitting outside.

Life in a Woodland Village

Eastern Indians lived in villages clustered beside a lake or stream. They drove sharpened poles into the ground to make a high fence, or palisade, around the village to protect it from attack. The women had garden patches beyond the fence. When the ground lost its richness through years of planting, the game in the neighborhood became scarce, or the firewood was used up, the villagers left their old homes and moved to a new location.  

   The village was a busy place. Men and women shared the work, but the men's share was more fun than the women's. They hunted the forest animals to get meat and hides for food and clothing materials; they trapped or seined fish. But there was time between hunts to join war parties and to take part in religious and medicine-society ceremonials and to sit in the tribal councils.  

   The men helped with building wigwams and with clearing the ground for gardens by burning off the trees and bushes. Trees were felled by girdling. A fire set at a tree's base charred the wood so a man could chip it with his stone ax until the tree fell. A ring of wet clay kept the flames from spreading up the trunk. Skilled men of the tribe made the bows and arrows, war clubs, and stone knives.  

Babies Carried on Cradleboards

The women's many chores kept them busy all day. They wrapped the babies in moss and furs and bound them to wooden cradleboards. They carried the boards on their backs when they gathered food in the woods. In the village they stood the boards by the house. In the garden they hung the baby's cradle on a convenient branch.  

Preparing Food and Making Clothing

The women planted corn, beans, pumpkin, squash, tobacco, and gourds in the gardens. They harvested the crops and prepared the food. It was not difficult to roast green corn in a pit with hot rocks or to broil meat or fish on a grill of green twigs over a fire. But most jobs were harder. To grind the dry corn into meal they pounded it in a mortar made of a hollowed log, with a small log for a pestle. They made hominy by soaking the grains in a solution of wood ashes that loosened the tough hull of the kernel. They parched, or toasted, corn for warriors on the march. They dried corn, squash, berries, meat, and fish for the cold months. They stewed corn and beans into succotash and made soups of corn with meat or fish in pottery jars.  

   Some areas offered special things to eat. In the forests of the northeast, the Indians tapped the sugar maples and boiled the sap to make sugar. The Ojibwa and other tribes of the northern Great Lakes area had plenty of wild rice for their grain supply. They did not need to raise garden crops. The seashore and many rivers offered shellfish. Heaps of discarded shells mark the sites of many ancient camps.  

   Many days of work were required to make the buckskin garments the Indians wore. Tanning deer hides called for many processes--scraping off flesh and hair, washing the hide, drying and stretching it, treating it with a deer-brain mixture, and sometimes smoking it to waterproof it.  

   Tailoring the garments meant cutting the skins with shell or flint knives and sewing them with animal sinews. Awls and needles were made of bone and horn. Indian women added beautiful colored porcupine-quill embroidery They created designs of the flowers, leaves, and vines they saw in the woods. They decorated ceremonial costumes richly.  

   At work the women wore a wraparound skirt, the men a breechcloth. The men usually shaved their heads, leaving only a scalp lock. Their headdresses were of dyed deerhair or a few feathers. (The forest would have been a poor place for the warbonnet of the Plains Indian. Tree branches would have torn off its feathers.) Winter's fur robes left one shoulder bare.  

Baskets, Pottery, and Boats

Women of many eastern tribes knew how to weave mats, baskets, and belts from shredded bark, wood splints, and other fibers. Most tribes of the region made pottery jars for cooking and storing foods. Boxes and dishes were fashioned from bark and wood.  

   The Eastern Woodland Indians traveled fastest by water. The northern tribes made bark canoes in which they skimmed swiftly and silently over the lakes and rivers. Southeastern tribes made dugout canoes. They hollowed out a log by burning the inside and scraping away the charred wood. The Indians used their canoes in hunting and fishing. From their canoes they could readily shoot the fleet deer and moose when the animals were wading or swimming.  

   On land the Indians traveled on foot and carried burdens on their muscular backs. They had no draft animals to haul loads, and their roads were only narrow paths. The dog was their only domestic animal. In winter the northern hunters could move after their prey swiftly on snowshoes.  

Hunters of the Broad Plains

Today the word Indian is usually symbolized by the Plains Indian brave--a majestic figure with strong, sharp features, a dignified manner, and a colorful costume of beaded and fringed buckskin. He was a splendid horseman, hunter, and mounted warrior who took pride in defending his hunting grounds against the invasion of white settlers. In war, the eagle feathers of his long-tailed warbonnet streamed in the breeze as he galloped over the plains.  

A Land of Abundant Game

Game was plentiful on the plains. Buffalo and antelope grazed over the grassy land. In the hills and mountains nearby lived deer and elk, grizzly bears, mountain sheep, and mountain goats. The buffalo were the most valuable game animals. But the big herds moved about constantly seeking pasture, and the Indians had a hard time catching them when they had to hunt on foot. After horses were brought to North America from Europe , the Plains tribes became successful mounted hunters and spent their lives following the herds. Spanish settlers first brought horses to the Southwest. Between 1650 and 1750 they spread to the plains.  

   Before the coming of the horse this splendid hunting ground contained but few Indian tribes. Most people there lived in the river valleys where they could raise corn. Their homes were villages of earth huts.  

   At buffalo-hunting time, a tribe moved after the feeding herds on foot. They had invented a dwelling they could carry--the tepee. They made an A-shaped drag, called a travois, on which their dogs hauled the tepee cover of buffalo hides and other gear. The tents were small because the dogs could not pull heavy loads.  

Buffalo Hunting Without Horses

Before they gained the benefit of horses, the hunters had, over the centuries, worked out cunning methods by which they could kill enough buffalo to supply the tribe with meat and hides. If the herd was scattered, a few hunters might move softly among the animals and shoot several without scaring the others. In snowy weather, Indians would encircle a herd and kill many of the animals before they could flounder away in the drifts or get lost in a blizzard.  

   Another effective method was to drive the herd over a cliff. One man, draped in a buffalo robe, would move ahead of the herd toward the cliff. Then other Indians would jump behind the animals, shouting and waving robes. The buffalo would begin to trot, then gallop in terror, the animals in the rear pushing those in front. The decoy leader would dodge to safety at the last minute, and the crazed herd would pour over the precipice. Many were killed in the fall. The injured were disposed of with spears or clubs.  

   After the hunt, the work of the women began. They skinned the carcasses and cut up the meat. The meat might be hung on green branches over the fire to cook. Or it could be boiled by dropping hot rocks into the cooking pot. The pot too came from the buffalo. A buffalo stomach or a piece of hide was fitted into a hole in the ground and used for cooking.  

   Most of the meat was cut into thin strips and jerked. Jerking meant hanging the strips on a rack in the dry wind that swept the plains. This dried meat would keep for a long while. Sometimes it was pounded fine and mixed with melted fat and dried berries, then stored in containers of skin or membrane. Called pemmican, this was an excellent concentrated food for warriors or hunters.  

Plains Indian Homes and a "Ferryboat"

After following a herd until they had a good supply of meat and hides, the hunters would return to their permanent village. Among the early Plains tribes that lived in earth lodges were the Mandan , Hidatsa, Pawnee, Arikara, Omaha , and Osage. Other tribes on the eastern fringe of the plains blended the plains and woodland ways of life. Among those who lived in bark-or mat-covered wigwams were the Kansa, Missouri , Iowa , Quapaw, and some of the Osage. Others, such as the Caddo, Wichita , and Waco , used grass houses. These tribes grew corn and other crops and made pottery cooking vessels.  

   Village tribes along the Missouri River used a bowl-shaped bullboat. They made it by stretching a buffalo hide over a wooden frame. It was too clumsy for water travel, but it could be used to ferry people and gear across a river.  

How Horse-Owning Tribes Moved

Many Plains tribes gave up permanent villages after they got horses. Among the tribes which changed were the Sioux (or Dakota), the Blackfeet, the Crow, the Cheyenne , the Arapaho, the Comanche, and the Kiowa. Each tribe knew where the buffalo should be from month to month and moved as necessary for convenience in hunting.  

   To get horses, the Indians were willing to trade their most valuable goods. They also raided the camps of other tribes and white traders and roped any wild ponies they found. On a big hunt, the many bands in a tribe gathered in a huge camp. Their tepees were much larger after the Indians had horses to haul the heavy covers on the travois.  

   Buffalo runs were wild, exciting affairs. First scouts located a herd. Then the long line of mounted hunters rode forward. Sometimes fantastically dressed medicine men trotted ahead, chanting and shaking rattles. At a signal the hunters charged among the buffalo at a gallop. Guiding his trained buffalo horse by knee pressure, the hunter pulled alongside his quarry and drove an arrow into its body. He gripped a pair of arrows in the left hand, which held the bow, and held another in his mouth. A quiver with spare arrows hung from his shoulder. A brave, skillful, and lucky hunter might kill four or five animals during a run.  The number increased after the Indians got guns from the settlers.

Celebrations and Honors for Bravery

Almost as exciting as the hunt itself was the feast that followed. It was an event the whole tribe took part in. Happy and filled with good red meat, the Indians would sing and dance and recite war chants. Boasting at such times was not considered bad manners. When getting ready for a hunt or a war party, or upon returning, a brave would get up and tell how strong and courageous he was.  

   No Indians honored bravery, daring, endurance, and other warlike qualities more than did the Plains hunters. They held huge religious ceremonials to arouse enthusiasm and to win the help of the gods. Each tribe had its secret societies in which young men passed from rank to rank to win high honors. the men withdrew from the camp for fasting and for purification to evoke a guardian spirit which would give them magic powers. They painted their visions of the spirits on shields and tepees.  

   The tribe rewarded warriors for bravery. For a courageous deed an Indian was given the right to wear one or more feathers in a headdress. Most prized were the feathers of the eagle. It was in this way that the famous warbonnet came into being.  

   Each brave kept track of his heroic deeds by counting coup. (Coup is a French word meaning "stroke," "blow.") Among the deeds that counted as coups were killing or scalping an enemy, touching a living enemy's body or an enemy tepee, and stealing a horse from an enemy.  

Contrasting Work of Men and Women

Each tribe had a division of labor. The exciting, glamorous life of the men makes that of the women seem dull and hard. There was, however, a good reason for making the women do the work of moving camp. The men had to be armed and ready to fight at a moment's notice. Enemy raiders might appear at any time, trying to capture the precious horses. Some of the tribesmen guarded the camp. Others were scouts who rode ahead and signaled the appearance of game or the enemy. Signals included riding in a certain pattern, waving a buffalo robe, sending up puffs of smoke by day, and using fire by night.  

   The women became so expert that they could set up the tepees or take them down in a few minutes. They packed all equipment and lashed it onto the travois. The mother usually rode a horse, with the baby on its cradleboard hanging beside her.  

   In camp the women spent hour after hour scraping flesh and hair from the buffalo hides and tanning them. From the hides they made all sorts of things--robes, bedding, rawhide utensils, and carrying cases, called parfleches. The horns were carved into spoons and ladles, the hooves cooked to make glue.  

   When it was time to make a new tepee cover, a woman invited friends to help her sew the big white hides together. They used buffalo sinews for thread. Later the man painted designs on the tent.  

   The chief skill of the men lay in making weapons. They whittled bows from Osage orange or other tough wood and shaped them in a double curve. They made arrows with a sharp stone head. They lashed feathers to the arrow butt to make it fly straight. Each hunter had his design in the feathers to show which animals he had killed in a big hunt.  

Clothing and Crafts

The women used the softer, finer skins of deer and antelope for most garments. They embroidered the ceremonial costumes with dyed porcupine quills and painted the carrying cases and the tepee linings. In the designs, they drew triangles, diamonds, and other geometrical figures. They beaded the costumes after beads were brought in by traders.  

   Women's dresses and men's shirts were made of a pair of skins fastened together at the top, except for a neck opening. Often the women covered the yoke and belt of their ceremonial dresses with beads. The men wore breechcloths and thigh-length leggings in addition to shirts when they were dressed up. The legging seams ran down the sides. (The Woodland leggings had a front seam.)  

Men's Ornaments and War Paint

Plains warriors loved ornaments. They decked themselves with trophies of war and the hunt. Locks of hair from the scalp of an enemy and soft white ermine tails dangled from the seams of the ceremonial shirt. Grizzly-bear claws and buffalo teeth were strung on otter skin for necklaces. Quivers, tobacco pouches, and medicine bags were made from pelts of panthers, otter, and beaver. Eagle quills were used in their headdresses and decorated their shields, dance bustles, ceremonial pipes, and lances. On his robes of young buffalo skin, the warrior often painted sketches showing the battles he had fought during his life.  

   The braves painted their bodies for dances and for battle. The designs might be special "medicine," or magic, to protect their lives, or they might be drawn to make the men look more ferocious. For paint the Indians used red and white clays, black charcoal, and yellow pigment from bullberries or moss. They first smeared their bodies with buffalo or deer fat, then rubbed on the color.  

   The practice of using animal grease or fish oil on the skin to clean and soften it was common among Indians. The resulting odor was frequently unpleasant to white people. An Indian method of bathing in use throughout the country was the sweat bath. The Indians built an airtight hut for this purpose. Hot stones were placed in the hut and sprinkled with water to make them steam. The Indians stayed inside until they were perspiring freely. Then they rushed out and plunged into a cold stream. This treatment was used for purification before ceremonials and as a cure for disease.  

   Love of ornament was a spur to trade among the Indians and, later, between the Indian and the white man. Shells and coral from the seacoasts, native copper from the Great Lakes region, turquoise from the Southwest, pipestone from Minnesota , and bear claws from the Rocky Mountains were passed from tribe to tribe, long before Columbus discovered America . The Plains tribes had buffalo hides and fur pelts to trade. Their region was the scene of bitter rivalry among French, English, and American traders. The Indians there used glass beads, needles, steel knives, copper kettles, and other manufactured wares long before white settlement.  

Farmers and Herders of the Southwest

Modern New Mexico and Arizona offer visitors an opportunity to see and study Indians following ancient customs, activities, and ceremonials and engaging in traditional handicrafts. Although the Southwest Indians have adopted many of the white man's ways and his manufactured goods, they retain more than a few of their old ways which are well-suited to this dry, rugged, highland region.  

Farming with Irrigation Before Columbus

Southwest Indians worked out two means of winning a livelihood in this region--farming and herding. Farming is much the older occupation. Perhaps four thousand years ago the forefathers of the Pueblo Indians began planting corn. Centuries before Spanish explorers found them in 1539, the Indians had become settled villagers and, in spite of scanty rainfall, could grow crops by using irrigation. They built many-storied houses from stone and adobe clay, and they were skilled at basketry, pottery making, and weaving.  

   Other Southwest farmers were the Pima and Papago tribes of southern Arizona . Archaeologists say their ancestors (called the Hohokam) built the finest irrigation systems in prehistoric North America . The forefathers of the Pimas and Papagos lived in simple huts with a framework of logs and poles covered with arrowwood or grass and plastered with clay. They made fine baskets.  

   The herding way of life did not develop until after the Spaniards introduced sheep and goats. Before this the Navajo and Apache peoples, who came from the north, had lived by hunting. When game was scarce, they raided the farming settlements for food.  

   The Navajos gradually adopted herding. They ceased fighting and turned entirely to herding after 1867, as a result of defeat by United States troops. The Apaches were even slower to give up hunting and raiding. Today they farm and raise livestock.  

Life and Skills of the Navajo Herders

The Navajos have been called nomads because they followed their herds from place to place seeking pasture. This does not mean that they were aimless wanderers. They followed the same route year after year because they knew where to find the best grass at each season. Each family had winter and summer homes, called hogans, along the route. The hogans were made of logs, earth, and rocks. At one home, the Navajo family often had a garden and a fruit orchard.  

   The Navajos were clever at learning the skills of their neighbors and adding improvements and individual touches. They learned weaving from the Pueblo Indians, and today the Navajo blankets and rugs are better known than the Pueblo products. The women do all the work involved--from shearing the sheep to the final weaving.  

Spanish Designs in Silver and Clothing

Navajo men learned silverwork from the Mexicans. They adapted designs from many sources, especially the patterns stamped on Spanish bridles and saddles. The "squash blossom" necklace was taken from the pomegranate pattern of Mexico . They set their jewelry with native turquoise stones.  

   In their hunting days, the Navajos had worn clothing made of animal skins and plant fibers. After the white people came, the Indians copied their clothes in cloth bought from traders. Both men and women wear a velveteen blouse held in at the waist with a belt of silver disks, called conchas. The women's skirts are long and full. Both men and women twist their long black locks into a knot at the back, called a chonga. Men tie a kerchief about their heads. For warmth they wrap a striped blanket around their shoulders.

Villages and Houses of the Pueblo Indians

The Pueblo Indians are often thought of as one people, mostly because of the similar kinds of dwellings and communities they lived in. Actually there were many tribes among them. They spoke a variety of languages, belonging to four distinct language families. Customs also differed somewhat from place to place. Farthest west were the Hopi villages on high, flat-topped, rocky plateaus (called mesas) in northern Arizona . Next came those of the Zunis, across the border in New Mexico . These two village groups are called the desert pueblos. The river pueblos are those strung along the Rio Grande and its tributaries in eastern New Mexico . Between lie several other pueblos, including those in Acoma and Laguna.  

   Pueblo homes had several stories and many rooms, like a city apartment house. Each family had only one room. Early ancestors of the Pueblo tribes set their buildings in caves high in canyon walls or on the ledges of cliffs and so they have been called Cliff Dwellers. Later the Pueblos built these houses in the valleys and on the mesas.  

Building Methods and Materials

To keep out enemies, they made the ground story without doors or windows. The next story was set back the width of a room, and the roof of the lower story provided a "front yard" for the people of the second story. Higher stories were set back the same way, giving a terraced effect. The residents used ladders to reach their apartments.  

   Desert peoples found sandstone they could split easily. They used slabs of it to build thick walls. River valley people made walls of earthen material, stiffened with stones and saplings. The earth contained a mixture of clay and sand that did not crack easily when dry. The Spaniards called it adobe, a kind of building clay. They taught the Indians to make bricks by shaping adobe in wooden molds and drying it in the sun. Many modern pueblos are built of such bricks.  

   Roofs were harder to make. The builder went into the mountains for log rafters. He laid them, ends jutting, across the walls. Next came crisscross layers of willow branches, sticks, grass, and brush. A heavy coating of adobe was plastered on top.  

   Each pueblo had dark interior rooms for storing corn, pottery, clay, wood, and sacred objects of the families and clans. Special rooms (kivas) were set aside for religious purposes. Here the men taught the boys religious legends and dances and initiated them into secret societies. Here too they purified themselves and prepared for dances and religious ceremonies. These were held in a plaza outside the pueblo. To watch the dances, people gathered on the roof "front yards." In some pueblos, a guard kept watch from the highest roof. The town crier also stood there to make announcements. On ordinary days the "front yards" were used by women making pottery and baskets and preparing food.  

   Since the people relied upon crops, especially corn, for their food, they located each village where it could get a supply of water for the fields. The Hopi had springs at the foot of their mesas. The Rio Grande pueblos utilized that river and smaller streams. Pueblo farmers knew how to locate underground moisture by watching the growth of wild plants. They placed their fields where moist spots occurred and where streams overflowed after storms. This meant that a man might have to travel 10 miles across the desert from home to field.  

   The man was the farmer among the Pueblo tribes. He had planted corn, beans, squash, cotton, and sunflowers before the white men came. The Spaniards brought him wheat, chili peppers from Mexico , onions, watermelons, peaches, and apricots.  

Pueblo Farming Customs

At planting time relatives and neighbors came to watch and help each planter. They set up prayer sticks decorated with turkey or eagle feathers to bring rain. The planter used a tough, sharp digging stick, hardened by fire. It sometimes had a branch on one side to serve as a footrest. He drove the stick 18 or 20 inches into the ground. Then he dropped in 20 kernels of corn to be sure a few sprouted. The seeds sent their roots deep to seek out the moisture. The stalks grew in a bunch that would resist the hot desert winds. The farmer scraped off the tops of the weeds with a sword-shaped wooden hoe.  

   Summer rain was needed for growth of the corn. Many of the religious ceremonials, therefore, were prayers to the gods for rain. After a storm the water gushed down dry stream beds, tearing away the soil. The farmers made dams of brush to check and spread the water over the land. In some places they made ditches from stream to field.  

   At harvest everyone had a gay time at the husking parties. Then the corn was laid to dry on the flat roof. The women cut strips of squash and hung them to dry. They pounded the dry beans with sticks to open the pods. Then they shook them in a flat basket and let the wind carry away the pods. In the same way they winnowed the wheat chaff after the grain was threshed by driving horses over it. They kept a two- or three-year supply of food stored so they would not go hungry if a drought came.  

   Pueblo corn was grown in many kinds and colors--yellow, red, blue, white, purplish, and mixed. The girls and women spent three or four hours a day grinding it on the stone metates. To make the thin wafer bread, called piki, they spread a thin batter on an oiled stone set on stone props. A fire under the stone cooked the thin sheets quickly. Pueblo cooks also made dumplings, stews, and hominy dishes. A gruel of toasted meal, called pinole, was the chief beverage.  

   The men often held village hunts. If they were lucky, they brought in deer, antelope, or rabbit for stew.  

Pueblo Pottery, Basketry, and Weaving

During their centuries of living together in villages the Pueblo Indians improved their skills. One of the main advantages of living in a settled agricultural society is being able to develop skills that would be difficult to perfect in a nomadic existence. Also, settled community life usually creates the need for a greater variety of goods. Nomads prefer to travel light, but this is not a consideration when a tribe is fixed in one location.  

   Among the Pueblo tribes there was, as in all Indian life, a division of labor. The goods the Indians made included items for the household, clothing, and decorative objects. They also had to make the tools with which to create other objects. Modern Pueblo Indians have continued to be active with their arts and crafts, though they now have the advantage of better tools.  

   The women made beautiful, strong pottery--some of it handsomer than they make and sell today. Each village, and sometimes each family, had its own styles, colors, and designs. The women had been skilled at basketry since early times. They wove twigs, grass, and fibers from yucca and other tough desert plants into baskets, trays, mats, cradleboards, and sandals.  

   They learned how to build looms and weave cloth. The men were the weavers. They first made blankets by twining strips of rabbitskin or turkey feathers together with strings of yucca. They began raising cotton and making cloth by the 8th century AD. They used small looms to make belts and other narrow pieces and a blanket loom for wide strips.  

   The men also did the work of tanning and making moccasins and other leather goods. They made the bows and arrows, stone knives, and tools. They drilled and polished turquoise and other stones to make beads. After the Mexicans taught them silverwork, they created silver jewelry set with these stones.  

   Costumes for Pueblo ceremonials offer the best idea of the clothing worn before the Spaniards came. The woman's dress was a long strip of dark cloth, wrapped across the body from left to right and fastened on the right shoulder. Her left shoulder and arm were bare. A colorful, fringed belt held the garment at the waist. Her high boots were made from soft, white buckskin. Her wedding robe, or shawl, of pure white cotton was woven by the men of her husband's family as a gift.  

   The man wore a breechcloth of white cotton cloth and a short woven kilt with a colorful border. In most pueblos, the high moccasins reached halfway up the calf of the leg. They had a hard sole turned up over the edge of the upper. The Pueblo Indians who lived near the plains wore ankle-height moccasins like those of Plains hunters.  

Seed Gatherers of California and the Great Basin

The Indians living in the dry portions of southern California and in the Great Basin between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada belonged to many tribes and spoke various languages. They shared the problem of finding food in a land that would have baffled most white men in search of food. Since seeds and roots were among their chief foods, they have been called Seed Gatherers, and also Diggers.  

   The food hunt filled their days. Each group moved on foot over its range of land--seeking spring greens, summer seeds, and autumn acorns or pine nuts. In the winter they camped in a sheltered valley and lived on dried foods. Throughout the year they added game whenever they could get it.  

Finding Food in the Desert

They did not have summer rain or a dependable water supply, so they could not grow corn or other field crops. They had to keep moving about, seeking food--thus they could not live in villages.  

   During their yearly march they found an amazing number of things to eat. Tribes of southern California used 60 different plants. Preparation of the food was hard work. Thus, they had to crack acorns, remove the kernels and pound them into meal, then treat the meal with hot water to remove the poisonous tannin. They beat the tiny seeds from flowering plants and ground them into flour on a metate. The women made gruel from these meals and flours. They cooked it by dropping hot rocks into a tightly woven basket that held water and meal. The thick gruel could be eaten in the hand.  

   They pried up bulbous roots of the camas lily and baked them overnight on hot rocks covered with earth. Berries, seeds, and nuts were dried for use the following winter.  

   The Seed Gatherers ate quite a few things which other people would think unpleasant. These included crickets, grasshoppers, insect larvae, ants ground into flour, and certain lizards and snakes. When bigger game was scarce, hunters were glad to dig out a nest of pack rats or to trap ground squirrels, rats, or mice.  

   The tribes in northern California and in the foot-hills found deer, antelope, or elk. Elsewhere rabbits supplied most of the meat. The men made fiber nets to trap them. They stretched a net across a feeding patch and drove the rabbits into it. The animals became entangled in the net and could be killed easily. A curved throwing stick was more effective than a bow and arrow in hunting rabbits, quail, and ducks.

Tribes near the lakes, the salmon rivers, or the sea caught fish with nets or used spears with stone points or bone barbs. Sometimes they threw a poisonous plant into the water to stupefy the fish.  

How the Bands Traveled and Camped

Bands of relatives traveled together. Each band had its own territory and would fight to keep out intruders. In the autumn several bands might meet in the pinon forest and camp together until they had picked and eaten the nut supply. The whole tribe gathered for the fall hunt. The medicine man worked his magic to make the antelope come. If the hunt was successful, there was food for a celebration. The older men made speeches. In the evening came ceremonials and dances and the songs telling tribal legends.   

   The weather was hot and dry most of the year, and there was no need for substantial shelter. Sometimes campers in the Great Basin would throw together a windbreak of sagebrush. At times a family would set up a rough frame of boughs and cover it with twigs and brush. Scattered marshy places in the basins and valleys grew cattails and bulrushes, called tule. Mats, or fringes, made from their stems were used to cover some houses. Bundles of long, coarse grass were used like shingles on others. Usually the builders dug a pit about two feet deep under the house. This saved wall building and kept drafts off the floor. Storage baskets woven of twigs were set on platforms to keep animals out of the seeds.  

   For the winter camp, the Indians of southern California heaped earth over the huts to make them warm. The tribes of northern California could get redwood and split it with wedges of elk or deer antlers. They tied these slabs to frames and built better houses than did tribes to the east and south.  

   In the hot, dry climate there was little need for clothing. Children wore none at all. Men usually went unclad, though they might wear breechcloths if they had deerskin or rabbit fur to make them. The women made fringed double aprons from the fibers of sagebrush bark, milkweed, or Indian hemp.  

   Both men and women tattooed designs on their skin. Stripes on the chin were fashionable among the women. These marks were tattooed on a girl's chin as part of the ceremony celebrating coming of age. Necklaces and earrings were made of bones, deer hooves, berries, and seashells.  

   Thick sandals for travel were made of yucca fiber. People who could get hides wore moccasins. Tribes that had buckskin learned to make clothing similar to that of the Plains Indians. In winter a man was lucky if he had a furry pelt to wrap around his shoulders or several skins tied together with thongs. In some tribes, the old men found time to twine blankets from strips of rabbitskin.  

   The Seed Gatherers found baskets ideal as containers during their constant moving. They were light and not easily broken like pottery. The Seed Gatherer women wove them so closely that they would hold tiny seeds and even water. There was a basket for every use--from the big gathering basket slung by a net over the forehead, to bottle-shaped water jars, covered with pine pitch to keep them from leaking.  

   Cradleboards were made of wickerwork. In some tribes women wore caps of basketry. The baskets were beautiful, with graceful shapes and designs in color.  

Fishermen of the Northwest

The towering forests of the rainswept north Pacific coast contrast sharply with the dry, brown hills and rocky wastes of the Seed Gatherers' region. The contrast in the Indian life of the two regions was just as striking. the Seed Gatherers had to work hard every day to get enough to eat. The Northwest Fishermen could get a wealth of food from the sea, the rivers, and the forests. They had good materials for making houses, boats, and tools. As they added possessions, they began to honor wealth and family prestige. Prominent families erected totem-pole monuments to call attention to their achievements. They kept war captives and other persons as slaves. The greatest honor came when a man gave away wealth at a feast called a potlatch. This was a festive ceremonial distribution of property that often lasted for days.  

   Since wandering Seed Gatherers seldom met other people, they had no definite political organization. Among the Northwest tribes, powerful hereditary chiefs or headmen controlled and distributed hunting and fishing rights. The Haida society had three grades--aristocrats, commoners, and slaves.  

The Sea's Gifts to the Northwest Tribes

The various tribes along the coast from northern California to southern Alaska had no pressing food problems. They could get plenty of fish, shellfish, and even whales, seals, and porpoises from the sea and streams. They became expert fishermen. The men built weirs and traps to catch huge hauls of salmon and candlefish as they swam upstream to spawn.  

   The women smoked a year's supply of salmon and pressed the oil from the candlefish. The Indians used large amounts of this oil, dipping dried foods into it at meals. They dug clams along the beach and smoked them. The lovely shells of some varieties of shellfish made ornaments. Strings of shells served as money in some tribes, just as wampum was used among Eastern Woodland Indians.  

Riches of Whaling

Whaling was difficult and dangerous. The leader of the hunt performed elaborate ceremonials to get help from the spirits. Each man in the big seagoing dugout canoe was trained for his special task. Success brought wealth, honor, and feasting. The whale's flesh and skin were eaten. The blubber made oil. The intestines were used as oil containers. The sinew became strong rope.  

   The men journeyed to the mountains to hunt deer, elk, mountain goat, and bear for hides and meat. The women collected and dried berries and seaweed. They dug camas bulbs and roots to vary the fish diet. By winter the people had an ample store of food. They could spend much of their time at festivals, ceremonials, secret-society initiations, wood carving, and other activities.  

Gifts of the Great Forests

The Northwest tribes made greater use of their trees than did the Eastern Woodland tribes. Their evergreen timber was easier to work than the eastern hardwoods. They knew how to split slabs from the straight-grained red cedar and how to use them to build houses. They girdled the trees with fire and let them season a few years before felling.  

   The boatbuilders hollowed logs with fire to make the canoes they paddled in the streams as well as the big seagoing whaling canoes. Other woodworkers steamed and bent planks to make boxes, tying the edges together with spruce roots. These boxes were built to hold the huge winter stores of dried food and were even used for hot-rock cooking.  

Clothing from Cedar Bark

The inner bark of the cedar served as raw material for garments and beautifully woven baskets. The women pounded the bark into shreds and made fringed aprons and short capes for themselves and raincoats for the men. They wove a cedar-fiber man's hat with a brim to shed the heavy rains.  

Killer Whale Design

The children and men went without clothing in the summer. These Indians got along without moccasins, perhaps because they did most of their traveling by canoe. Winter garb included a robe of sea-otter skins or a blanket. The women used cedar-bark fiber, mountain-goat wool, dogs' hair, and feathers in the blankets. Their crude loom had only one crosspiece. The weavers worked out intricate patterns in various colors entirely with their fingers. The handsomest blankets were made by the Chilkat Tlingits.  

   Like tribes of other regions, these Indians adopted manufactured blankets after white traders reached their region. But the trade blankets seemed dull so they trimmed them with rows of pearl buttons.  

Skulls Deformed to Look "Pretty"

The Northwest people tattooed their skins and deformed their heads to look "pretty." The top of a baby's cradleboard was so attached that it pressed a pad of cedar bark against the baby's forehead, causing the head to rise in a peak. This deformed skull was the sign of a freeman. Slaves were not permitted to flatten their children's heads.  

   Wood carving, often painted, was the outstanding art of the Northwest. The artists carved grotesque faces of animals, birds, and people on boxes, house fronts, house posts, boats, and grave posts. They made wooden helmets and masks for the ceremonial dances and dramatic performances.  

Totem Poles of Alaska , British Columbia

Most spectacular of the artworks was the totem pole. These tall, carved posts were erected by important men among certain tribes of British Columbia and Alaska . The carved and painted faces on a pole represented the owner's totem animals or birds. These animals were his mythical ancestors who gave him power in war, hunting, or whaling. The designs were carved to represent human and animal faces rather than to look exactly like them. So each figure bore a symbol of some sort to identify it. Erect ears distinguished an animal from a man. The killer whale had a protruding dorsal fin, and the eagle, a curved beak.   

   Northwest craftsmen also had some native copper to work with. They made some of their arrow points from it, as well as copper knives for weapons in war. They engraved designs on a plaque, called a "copper," that served in the place of a valuable bank note. One famous copper was valued at 7,500 blankets.  

Tribes and Languages Among the Indians

Early explorers and settlers tended to think of the Indians as a single people, but the Indians themselves did not. An Indian considered himself a Delaware , a Sioux, or a Navajo. The name of many tribes meant "the people" in the tribe's language. Other tribes were considered foreigners--even enemies.

Variations in Indian Languages

The separation into small groups was emphasized by differences in language. The Indians of North America spoke approximately 600 dialects in many different languages--several times as many as are spoken in Europe . The differences were great enough to hamper understanding only a short distance from home. These differences handicapped white explorers who were trying to get information. When Lewis and Clark met the Flathead Indians in 1805, their questions had to be interpreted through six languages before the Flatheads understood them.  

   Both Indians and white traders tried to overcome communication difficulties by creating trade jargons combining words from Indian and European languages. Among them were the Chinook Jargon of the northwest and the Mobilian of the southeast.  

   Indians of the Great Plains worked out a sign language for communicating with each other. They could convey much information with hand gestures. Some of the gestures were so graphic they could be understood by persons who did not know the signs.  

   An Indian gave his loyalty first to his village or hunting group. Such a group might have less than 50 adults. Neighboring village groups might act together in war and exchange other help if they spoke the same language and if their hunting ground provided enough for all. This large group could be a tribe.  

   The map shows the larger and more important tribes in the localities where English-speaking explorers and settlers first found them. A multitude of smaller tribes with less than 2,000 people lived among the larger. Only about 10 percent of all the tribes are named on the map, but they included about two thirds of the Indian population.  

Rich Vocabularies and Exact Meanings

North American Indian languages are rich in words and intricate in structure. Their vocabularies differ with the need for words to convey important distinctions in meaning. For instance, the Eskimos in the Arctic have words to distinguish many kinds of snow. One means "snow on the ground," another "falling snow," and so on. Similarly the Plains horsemen used many words to describe horses.  

   Indians have been adept at coining names for articles introduced by white traders. A translation of the Blackfoot name for pork is "squealing meat," and the name for candy is "long white man berries." The settlers, in turn, adopted many Indian words which have remained in the English language.  

   Indian languages may employ sounds not in English while lacking sounds common in that language. Many Indian tongues combine into one word ideas needing a whole sentence in English. Indian grammatical structures often differ from those of English.  

Language Relationships and Families

Scholars have studied the Indian languages, seeking relationships between them. In 1891 Maj. J.W. Powell of the Bureau of American Ethnology classified the languages spoken by the tribes north of Mexico into some 56 distinct stocks, or language families. He grouped those tribes with markedly similar vocabularies into language families. He made a map showing their geographical location. In naming each language family he generally selected the native name of a major group speaking that language and added to the name the ending -an. Thus the Caddoan language is derived from the Caddo tribe, the Iroquoian from the Iroquois. 

   The fact that two languages or dialects were placed in the same language family did not mean that persons speaking one of these dialects could understand the other dialect, any more than Germans and Italians understand each other's language. For example, many tribes of the Central Plains spoke dialects of the Siouan language, but members of one tribe could seldom understand the speech of their neighbors.  

   Later studies have revealed far-reaching resemblances among families which Major Powell considered distinct. Some linguists have suggested the reduction of North American Indian languages to six primary stocks. These are:  

   1. Eskimo and Aleut, of the Far North.  

   2. Algonquian and related languages, spoken by many tribes of the Eastern Woodlands, the Blackfeet and Cheyenne of the Plains, and the Salish and neighboring tribes of the Far West .  

   3. Athabascan and related languages, used by all the tribes of the Mackenzie-Yukon Basin , by the Navajos, and by some west coast peoples.  

   4. Uto-Aztecan and related languages, of the Shoshonean tribes in the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains area, the Kiowas of the Plains, the majority of the Pueblos, and the Aztecs of Mexico.  

   5. Chinookan and related languages, spoken by a number of scattered Far Western tribes, especially in what is now Oregon and Washington .  

   6. Siouan and related languages, including the tongues of such widely separated peoples as the Iroquois of the northeast, the Creeks and their neighbors in the southeast, the Sioux and Caddos of the Plains, the Keresan Pueblos, and the Pomos of northern California.  

Seeking Regions Where Languages Originated

The languages of the same primary stock are probably related historically and they may even have descended from a common language. But scholars have not yet been able to trace in detail the lines of descent or to locate the region in which any ancestral language originated.  

   Indians north of the Rio Grande had no written language. They managed, however, to keep alive traditions of important events and many beautiful folktales by handing them down by word of mouth. Some of the tales in this oral literature were passed from tribe to tribe, translated into many tongues.  

   Picture writing helped aid memory and communicate ideas. On the plains, a sort of calendar known as the winter count was kept in the form of a series of pictures painted on buffalo hides.  

   Widely scattered over the continent are picture writings painted or pecked on rock cliffs, on walls of caves, and on huge boulders. These petroglyphs doubtless carried a message when they were made.  

Differences in Appearance Among Indians

Certain racial characteristics are shared by nearly all pureblood Indians, since it is likely that all of the tribes developed from an original ethnic stock in the Far East many centuries ago. They generally have straight, black hair. Their skin color ranges from yellowish brown to reddish brown. Their cheekbones are usually more prominent than those of white or black people. These characteristics are more closely related to those of the Mongoloids of Asia than to any other of the world's races.  

   In other features there is great variety among Indians. There are great differences in shape of head (relative proportions of length, width, and height), in prominence of jaw, in size and shape of nose, and in total standing height.  

   The head of the Plains Indian resembles the Indian head on the reverse side of the buffalo nickel. Their clear-cut features are generally marked by a sloping forehead, bold nose, thin lips, and firm, heavy jaw.  

   The Eskimo of the Arctic generally has a yellowish skin tone and a flat, fleshy face, with a short, spreading nose. He is short and sturdy. The Pueblo Indians are generally shorter than the Plains people and possess more delicate features.  

   Anthropologists study these differences in efforts to trace common ancestries. Since combinations of head shape, stature, and features tend to occur in certain regions, it may be that America was populated by a series of peoples who differed in appearance and came in widely spaced migrations. It is known that the Eskimos were relatively late arrivals. Some scholars say that environmental influences, as in diet and climate, may lie at the root of regional differences.  

Indian Religion, Government, and Social Practices

Like other people who live close to nature, the Indians were concerned largely with day-to-day problems on which their survival as a people depended. They were interested mostly in whether there would be enough food, whether the tribe would avoid illness, and whether they would win in war. They gave little thought to notions of reward or punishment after death that are common in other religions.  

   Indians believed in a supernatural force which pervaded all nature. To the Algonquin, this force was manitou. The Iroquois called it orenda, and the Dakota, wakanda. Indians also thought that animals, plants, rocks, the sun, the winds, and other natural objects had spirits (or souls) just like men. The Indians thought these spirits helped those they liked and injured those who offended them.  

   When an Indian faced a critical problem or decision, he sought help from the spirit forces. To make himself worthy, he cleansed himself, fasted, prayed, and sometimes underwent severe tortures. He sought a vision, hoping a friendly spirit would appear and promise him aid. In many tribes, this guardian spirit became the Indian's sacred totem animal. A Plains Indian might paint its picture on his tepee. The Northwest wood-carvers put the sacred animals on totem poles.  

Ceremonials to Bring Spirit Help

Villages and tribes used dances and other ceremonials to seek spirit help. In general, the men conducted these activities. Usually they had a house where secret societies met, sacred objects were kept, and ceremonials were taught to the young.  

   Important ceremonials lasted for many days and were preceded by periods of fasting and prayer. As a rule, the aid sought was rain for the crops, game for the hunters, or success in war. The most spectacular Plains ceremonial was the Sun Dance. This included self-inflicted tortures by some of the warriors.   

   Corn dances were held by all farming tribes and are still a feature of Pueblo Indian life. One of the most elaborate corn festivals was the “busk” held by the Creeks. After feasting on the new corn, dancing, drinking the "black drink," and carrying on ceremonies for several days, the tribe began a new year by destroying old equipment and getting new. They extinguished fires and lit new ones from a ceremonial flame. Old enmities were forgotten and evildoers forgiven.

Healing and Medicine Men

Believing that diseases were caused by evil spirits, the Indians used charms and magic to remove the evil influence. The magical procedures were usually performed by those supposed to have the power to control spirit forces. Indians might call them such names as "mystery man," "singer," or "the wonderful." White people called them medicine men. The magicworkers also served somewhat as priests in leading ceremonials and in preserving sacred objects.  

   Charms and ceremonies varied from tribe to tribe. The Navajos made sand paintings. Iroquois False Face Society members wore masks carved from a living tree. In spring and fall they went from house to house shaking turtle-shell rattles and chanting to drive away the demons of disease.  

   Some treatments included the use of herbs and roots as medicines. Men and women other than magicworkers could prepare medicines and nurse the sick.  

Tribal Organization and Women's Role

Since most Indians lived in small communities, they based their government and social organization upon loyalty to the family and to the tribe. In most tribes families were linked in a third group, called a clan or a gens. In a clan, inheritance and relationship traced through the female line; in a gens, through the male line. Families in a clan frequently lived together in community houses. Here children looked upon their cousins as brothers and sisters and regarded their aunts and uncles as parents. Men and women were required to marry outside their own clan.  

   Women's influence was greatest in such tribes as the Iroquois, whose descent was through the mother. Marriage customs differed from tribe to tribe. As a rule they were the result of mutual agreement by the husband- and wife-to-be. Often the bridegroom gave some sort of present to the bride's family to compensate for the loss of her help.  

   Divorce was usually easy if a couple could not agree, but the children did not suffer from the breakup of the home. They continued to live in the clan group and could look to uncles and aunts for attention.  

   Indians were universally kind to children. Discipline was strict, yet never enforced by whipping or any other physical punishment. Children were expected to help with the family duties. The first time a boy brought home an animal shot with his own bow, his proud father might celebrate with a feast. Ceremonials marked the date when youngsters reached 13 or 14 years of age and were considered men and women.  

How Indians Buried the Dead

Methods of disposing of the dead varied among the tribes. Burial in the ground was most commonly practiced. Mounds were constructed for burial among certain prehistoric Indian peoples. In the southwest, bodies were sometimes placed in caves where they dried, or mummified, in the dry air. On the northern plains a common practice was to place the dead in trees or on scaffolds. On the northwest coast they might be laid in canoes set high on posts.  

   Cremation was practiced by various tribes from the Pacific coast to Florida . Usually the ashes were buried in pottery vessels. Almost invariably, domestic utensils, food, and the ornaments, implements, and other personal belongings of the departed were placed with the remains.  

Leadership and Government

Government was generally extremely simple and democratic among the Indian tribes. The chief was not an autocratic ruler. He was usually chosen because of his ability and wisdom, though in a few tribes the office was hereditary. He advised the people and attempted to settle their disputes. A war chief was selected to lead a raid or campaign.  

   Tribal and village councils discussed and acted upon important matters. A council might consist simply of the adult men of a village or of chiefs of clans. Among the Iroquois, matrons took part in grand councils.  

The Iroquois Confederacy

The Iroquois Confederacy was the highest form of political organization among the North American Indians. About 1570, the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida , and Cayuga tribes (all the Iroquoian language family) created this confederacy to promote peace among themselves. White people called this league the Five Nations, and later the Six Nations, after the Tuscaroras were admitted in 1722. The Iroquois called it the Brethren of the Long House. This constitution was put into writing in about 1850.  

   The founders set up the framework of a code of laws which, though unwritten, had the force of a formal constitution. The Great Council Fire of the league, held at Onondaga, was its governing body. Representatives of the tribes met annually to formulate policies and to take action. Claims have been made in the late 20th century that the Iroquois constitution influenced the Constitution of the United States . The suggestion is highly unlikely, given the strong European influences on the Founding Fathers.  

Indians of Other Times and Places

The Indians of the five leading culture groups are of chief interest to the people of the United States and Canada . They helped make the history of the two nations. They are part of American literature and folklore. Their achievements in making clothing, shelter, tools, utensils, and weapons seem more meaningful because they used materials from familiar stones, trees, and animals.  

   The Indians north of the Rio Grande probably made up less than one tenth of the Indian population of the Americas when the continents were discovered. Middle America ( Mexico and Central America ) had at least four times as many people as the northern part of the continent. South America 's Indian population was greater than that of both Middle and North America .  

   Indians of Middle and South America had advanced further in many ways than those of the north. Plant growers of these regions had domesticated most of the plants the Americas have given the world. After obtaining a dependable food supply from agriculture, peoples along the highland belt from Mexico to Chile took great steps toward civilization. The leaders were the Incas and other Andean peoples of Peru , the Mayas of Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula , and the Toltecs, Aztecs, Zapotecs, and Mixtecs of Mexico.  

   The Indian population has remained large in Latin America . In the early 1980s an estimated 45 million Indians and some three times as many mestizos lived there.  Compare this huge number with the estimated 1,700,000 Indians and Eskimos who were reported to be living in the United States and Canada at that time.

Peopling the Americas

Tribes of hunters are believed to have migrated from Asia and eventually peopled the entire hemisphere. No single person made any large part of the long journey from Alaska down the continents. One group after another continued the march over many centuries, traveling in small bands.  

   Archaeologists have dug into their camping places. They have found the ashes of their fires, bones and shellfish shells, and primitive tools and weapons. The findings indicate that the first American Indians lived by hunting, with some fishing and gathering of seeds and other wild foods. They had lances or spears tipped with stone points. Perhaps they hurled them with a throwing stick, called an atlatl. The bow and arrow were probably invented or brought to America later. These early Indians knew how to make rough stone tools. They had fire-lighting methods and may have had one domestic animal, the dog. They had no knowledge of farming, pottery, or metals.  

Work of the Archaeologists

Information about early people is compiled by archaeologists, who use scientific methods to determine the dates of their finds. From geology they learn when the soil layer was laid down. They compare the annual growth rings in timber with a "tree-ring calendar" and test the amount of carbon-14 remaining in wood, charred bones, and other organic materials   

   The radiocarbon dating method was used on charcoal from an ancient campsite at Tule Springs , Nev. With it were bones of extinct animals and man-made tools. The test showed the charcoal to be more than 23,800 years old.  

   A find indicating human presence even earlier was made near Puebla , Mexico , in 1959. It was a piece of mammoth bone carved with pictures of such prehistoric animals as the giant bison, the tapir, and the mastodon. Geologic studies and other tests show the hunter-artist may have lived about 30,000 years ago during an interglacial period.  

   The first proof that humans were in America in the Pleistocene epoch, when Ice Age glaciers were melting, was found near Folsom, N.M., in 1926. Fluted projectile points were discovered with the bones of an extinct bison. Carbon-14 tests and geologic studies indicate that Folsom points were made some 9,000 to 10,000 years ago.

   A widespread search for added evidence of humans in Pleistocene times followed the Folsom discovery. Points and other man-made objects were found in sites across the continent.  

Human Skeletons from Pleistocene Strata

Skeletons and lesser pieces of human bone were also found in ancient earth layers. Dating of skeletons by geologic means is difficult since people may be buried in strata laid down eons before their birth.  

   A skeleton found near Pelican Rapids, Minn. , in 1931, in deposits attributed to Pleistocene times, has been called Minnesota man. The bones are those of a 15-year-old girl, who is believed to have drowned in a glacial lake sometime between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. The skull is relatively long and narrow and shows Mongoloid characteristics. The protruding jaws contained large primitive teeth. Midland woman was uncovered in an oil well blowout near Midland , Tex. She too lived approximately 11,000 years ago.  

   Another significant find was made near the village of Tepexpan , in the Valley of Mexico , in 1947. In ancient lake flats that contained fossil elephant remains the skeleton of a man was located. A date of 11,000 to 12,000 years ago has been ascribed to it. The skull is moderately round headed.

   In South America fossilized skulls were found in strata with bones of Pleistocene animals in Ecuador and in the highlands of Brazil . They are long-headed. Other characteristics of these Lagoa Santatype skulls include a slightly projecting face, a low forehead, and prominent cheekbones.  

Ways of Life in East and West

Scientific studies of the artifacts found have led archaeologists to believe that the ancient folk (called Paleo-Indians) east of the Rocky Mountains had a different way of life from the people of the west. Those of the east depended chiefly upon hunting and apparently made few attempts at a sustained agriculture. Spear points, therefore, were the most abundant implement at their sites, though scraping and cutting tools also were found. West of the Rockies the Paleo-Indians were chiefly collectors of seeds, wild grains, and nuts, roots, and other plant materials. Many grinding stones were discovered at their camping places, though points, choppers, and scrapers were also uncovered. The indicated differences in human behavior, based upon the types of artifacts discovered, have guided archaeologists in formulating cultures in each area.  

   The people of the Elephant Hunter, or Llano, culture roamed the plains, hunting the mammoth--an extinct elephantlike animal adapted to the grasslands. With its bones have been found a fluted point larger than the Folsom point. It is called the Clovis fluted point after the site near Clovis , N.M. , where it was first found. Farther east similar points were used to hunt the mastodon, a type of elephant adapted to forested regions. The period of this culture is from 9,000 to 12,000 years ago.  

   The Sandia culture takes its name from a crude point with a single notch, or shoulder, first found in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico . These points were discovered in an earth layer beneath, and sealed off from, a layer containing Folsom remains. They were in association with bones of extinct animals. The Sandia culture is older than the Folsom and Llano and may go back 20,000 years.  

   On the Great Plains the people of the Bison Hunter culture used Folsom points and various types of leaf-shaped points in pursuing big bison of a now extinct species. The period of the culture extends from about 6,500 to 10,500 years ago.  

Desert Cultures of Paleo-Western Tradition

The Danger Cave culture is based on remains found in a large cavern near Wendover , Utah . In various strata lay some 2,500 chipped stone objects, 1,600 grinding stones, and examples of netting and basketry. The Indians lived by food collecting and hunting on a large lake long extinct. Although animal remains are of existing species, radiocarbon tests indicate that the culture goes back 11,000 years.  

   The Gypsum Cave culture is based on finds at a site near Las Vegas , Nev. Points and other manmade objects were discovered in strata with remains of extinct ground sloths, camels, and horses. Carbon-14 measurements of sloth dung date the culture from about 8,600 to 10,500 years ago.  

   This cave and other explored caverns contained at upper layers the remains of late peoples--including Indians of historic times. Archaeologists have made progress in tracing connections between these Paleo-Indian cultures and those of more recent times.  

From Cochise to Historic Cultures

The Cochise culture of Arizona and New Mexico has been explored and studied through several stages of development ranging from about 6000 to 2000 BC. The people depended chiefly upon food gathering. Over the centuries they improved their grinding stones and made mortars and pestles.  

   At the later sites hard-beaten earthen floors and storage pits indicated that some sort of house had been developed. Pottery was found. Archaeologists believed that the Cochise people were the predecessors of the Indians who later developed the advanced Hohokam and Mogollan cultures.  

   The Archaic culture of eastern North America dates from 3,000 to 7,000 years ago. These people were hunters and food collectors. They had some copper tools made by cold-hammering pure copper obtained from the Upper Great Lakes region. They used axes, gouges, and adzes of ground and polished stone. During the Early Woodland culture period that followed, burial mounds and pottery appeared as well as some agriculture. The Middle Woodland cultures, which include the Hopewell culture, extended from about 400 BC to AD 700 or 800.  

The Wanderers Settle in Villages

The Paleo-Indians were able to give up their roaming existence and advance to a settled way of life only after they learned to get food by planting and harvesting corn, beans, and squash. They may have received corn from farming Indians of Middle America as early as 2000 BC

   The most abundant evidence of the changing way of life is found in the dry Southwest. Digging into ancient village sites there, archaeologists have traced the people's slow progress as they learned to raise crops, to weave baskets and cloth, to make pottery, and to build houses.  

   The scientists followed the Anasazi culture from the Basket Maker settlements of AD 100, through Great Pueblo times when the huge cliff dwellings were built, to the pueblos of today. The section on Southwest farmers in this article describes their way of life. These Indians lived on the plateau where Colorado , New Mexico , Arizona , and Utah meet.  

   The desert people of the Hohokam culture lived in the drainage basin of the Salt and Gila rivers of southern Arizona . Their culture has been traced from 300 BC to historic times. They were descended from the Cochise people, and the Pimas and Papagos are their modern descendants. They lived in pit houses, made buff pottery decorated in red designs, and wore woven sandals and, later, cloth garments. They played a ball game on huge courts like those of the Mayas and were famous for their irrigation canal systems.  

   The Mogollan-Mimbres culture dates from 100 BC. These people were an eastern branch of the Cochise. Their villages were in mountainous country of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico . They lived in pit houses and buried their dead under the floors of the rooms, with grave offerings. They smoked pipes of stone or pottery and used stone tools and weapons.  

Early Eastern Indians

The roving hunters east of the Mississippi began settling in villages and raising corn, beans, and squash from 1000 to 400 BC. In their new sedentary life many tribes made pottery and buried their dead in mounds. Other mounds were used as temple platforms. Some great earthworks took the form of animals and birds.  

   The Hopewell culture of southern Ohio was among the most advanced. Its expert artists and craftsmen made carved stone pipes, a variety of pottery, flint and obsidian spear points, and sharp knives, axes, adzes, and other tools of obsidian and native copper. The women wove cloth skirts for themselves and breechcloths for the men.  

   Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley reached their highest achievement after AD 700. White settlers arriving about 1700 found their huge flat-topped pyramid mounds supporting temples where elaborate religious rituals were performed. The Indians had a government or social organization that could enlist the toil of many workers, for the mounds were built by heaping up basketful after basketful of earth. Some of these large mounds still exist.  

Cultures of South America

The picture map of Indian cultures reveals that in South America , as in North America , the Indians worked out three general ways of life. One depended principally upon hunting; one upon farming, hunting, and fishing combined; and another upon intensive farming.  

   The hunters of the southern plains used bolas, clubs, and bows and arrows in pursuing the guanaco and ostrich, while the women gathered starchy roots and grass seeds. They depended upon the guanaco as the Plains Indians depended upon the buffalo, using its skin to cover their huts and to make containers and capes, moccasins, and other clothing. Their hunting improved after the Spanish brought in horses.  

   Indians of the southwest coast have been called Canoe Indians. Their big seagoing canoes were made of beech bark. They fished and hunted seals and sea otters and gathered shellfish and wild plants.  

   In the forested, northern tropical lowlands the men hunted, fished, and made war, while the women tended fields cleared by slashing and burning the thick growth. Bread from the cassava (manioc) they raised was the principal food, though the work of squeezing poison from the root and making flour was tedious.  Blowguns with poisoned darts, longbows and arrows, and clubs were the chief weapons used in killing the deer, tapirs, peccaries, monkeys, birds, and rodents of the area. Houses were made of log frames covered with thatch, and boats were built for river travel. Indians of this region learned to weave and to make useful and ceremonial pottery.  

The Inca Civilization

The advanced civilizations developed where intensive agriculture provided an ample food supply. The fertile soils of the central Andes proved hospitable to man's newly domesticated plants and to his progress toward civilization.  

   Villages grew in coastal valleys where water was available for irrigation. Population centers spread to the high Andean plain. The farmers raised corn, beans, squash, potatoes, quinoa, sweet potatoes, cassava, peanuts, cotton, peppers, tobacco, coca, and other plants. They domesticated llamas and alpacas to carry loads and to supply wool. The Andean people made amazing progress in weaving, pottery making, metalworking, and stone construction.  

   The strongest group--the Incas of the highlands--ruled the vast area from northern Ecuador to Chile before they were conquered by the Spanish. They organized an empire government which

was so closely knit that the life of even the smallest farmer was regulated

Mayan and Aztec Achievements

The Mayas of Middle America created two great centers. In their first cities in Guatemala and Honduras stood stone temples and huge monuments, or steles, carved with images of gods and sacred animals and bearing the date in their numbering system. The astronomer-priests devised a calendar and wrote religious and scientific books in hieroglyphic writing. This era, called by archaeologists the Classic period, lasted from about AD 320 to 900.  

   The great cities of the Postclassic period (about 975 to the Spanish conquest) were built on the Yucatan Peninsula . Their handsome architecture shows the influence of the Toltecs from Mexico who overran and ruled them. Weakened by civil war, the Mayas were conquered by the Spanish in the years 1527-46. 

   Prehistoric Mexico saw several Indian nations rise to eminence. Among them were the Toltecs, Zapotecs, and finally the ruthless Aztecs.  The article Aztecs tells of their conquests, their arts and crafts, their fabulous city, Tenochtitlan , and their cruel religion, with its human sacrifice.  

   Scholars marvel at the achievements of the Indian civilizations. They wonder that they could build their mammoth structures without strong draft animals or sharp metal tools. The Indians had no wheel to help them in carrying, lifting, or making pottery. Only the Mayas had writing to pass on their knowledge.  

Centuries of Struggle Between Indians and Whites

None of the Indian cultures in the Americas developed a system of private landownership. Unlike the European settlers, who came from countries where land was individually owned, the Indians practiced communal landownership. Within the boundaries of each tribe's territory, the land was used by all members of the tribe. No individual owned any of the land, and no one person, not even the tribal leader, could dispose of it. When European settlers obtained permanent title to Indian lands by purchase, they bought something which by Indian custom could not be sold from leaders who had no right to sell it. It was this difference of attitudes over ownership of land that was a major cause of conflict between the Indians and the Europeans. Differences in race, language, religion, and life-style only sharpened and sometimes obscured this basic conflict.  

   Another source of conflict was that the Europeans did not consider themselves to be under the sovereignty of the Indian tribes on whose land they had settled. Instead, they claimed the land in the names of their mother countries. The European settlers began to mark off boundaries and to assert their land claims by the force of superior weapons and, eventually, of far greater numbers.  

   The Indians met the first Europeans with curiosity and friendship. But friendship was rarely returned. During their explorations of South America , Central America , and Mexico in search of gold, silver, and precious stones, early Spanish conquistadores plundered the Indian villages and enslaved and murdered the inhabitants. Spanish colonists later forced Indians to labor in mines and on large estates to produce commodities for export to Spain . Early French colonists mainly traded for furs with the Indians in the St. Lawrence Valley and around the Great Lakes . Rivalry for a monopoly of the fur trade led to warfare among the tribes. Intermarriage between the Indians and the French was frequent.  

   The Indians along the Eastern seaboard of North America helped the early English colonists establish settlements, raise crops, and adjust to living in a wilderness. Powhatan (Wahunsonacock), leader of an Algonquian-speaking confederacy in Virginia, and Massasoit (Wasamegin), leader of the Wampanoag Indians in New England , established generally peaceful trade relations with the English.  

   Indians generally had bitter experiences with the Europeans. Traders often made them drunk to take advantage of them, and European diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis wiped out whole tribes. Many Indian skills and much of Indian tribal identity was lost through the gradual adoption of European ways and increasing dependence on European goods.  

Indian Wars in the English Colonies

One of the earliest violent clashes between Indians and whites took place in 1636 in Connecticut when colonists attacked the principal village of the Pequots. About 600 Indians were killed, and the Pequot tribe was virtually destroyed. In 1675 various Indian tribes in New England formed an alliance to resist white settlement. It was led by Massasoit's son Metacomet, who was called King Philip by the colonists. But in about a year Metacomet's forces were defeated . 

   By the end of the 1600s, the Indians' struggles for their land became caught up in a series of wars between England and France for dominance in North America . Some Indians aided the English, while others helped the French. In 1763, the final year of the French and Indian War, Pontiac, an Ottawa chief and ally of the French, led attacks on British outposts in the Great Lakes area. When the French made peace with the English in that year, Pontiac concluded a peace treaty with them also.  

   During the American Revolution many Indian tribes, under such leaders as the Mohawk known as Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), fought for the British, who posed as defenders of Indian land against the colonists. Although Indian aid was of questionable value to the British, it did provoke retaliatory campaigns by the Continental Army like that of Gen. John Sullivan on the Iroquois of New York.  

Indian Wars of the United States : The East

After the American Revolution the new United States government hoped to maintain peace with the Indians on the frontier. But as settlers continued to migrate westward they made settlements on Indian lands and demanded and received protection by the Army. Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, organized several tribes to oppose further ceding of Indian lands. But they were defeated in 1811 by Gen. William Henry Harrison at the battle of Tippecanoe .  

   During the War of 1812 many of the Indians again sided with the British. Afterward, with the victorious United States secure in its borders, federal policy turned to one of removal of the Indians west of the Mississippi River --to the so-called Great American Desert , where, supposedly, no white man would ever want to live. To implement this policy, the Indian Removal Act was signed into law on May 28, 1830 . It gave President Andrew Jackson, a dedicated foe of the Indians, the power to exchange land west of the Mississippi for the southeastern territory of the Five Civilized Tribes--the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles.  

   The removal policy led to a clash between Jackson and the United States Supreme Court, which had ruled in favor of the right of the Cherokees to retain their lands in Georgia . Jackson refused to enforce the Court's decision, and in 1838 and 1839 the Cherokees, like the other tribes before them, were forced westward to Indian Territory (later Oklahoma ). Their bitter trek during the dead of winter has become known as the Trail of Tears.  

   In 1832, Sauk and Fox Indians under Black Hawk in Wisconsin had been defeated after refusing to abandon their lands east of the Mississippi . In the 1830s and 1840s, Seminoles under Osceola unsuccessfully resisted removal from their homes in Florida . By the end of the 1840s, except for small segments of tribes who had fled to the wilderness, the "Indian problem" had ended in the East.  

Indian Wars of the United States : The West

Along with the Eastern tribes, the tribes of the North and the Southwest were pushed from their homelands to the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains . By the 1840s the United States Army and the various Indian tribes in that region were in a continual state of war. As white settlers encroached on Indian land, war would break out. Either the Indians would be defeated and transported elsewhere, or a treaty would be made in which the Indians lost part of their lands in exchange for peace. Sometimes the United States government would promise food, financial aid, and schools to the Indians, but these promises were often unfulfilled.  

   Thousands of white settlers poured into the Oregon Territory after it was acquired from Great Britain in 1846. Numerous clashes erupted with tribes in the Northwest. In the 1850s, wars broke out around Puget Sound after several small tribes were deceived into signing treaties in which they gave up most of their land. But they were quickly defeated and confined to reservations.  

   In other areas of the Northwest, war continued into the late 1870s. In 1877, the Nez Perce Indians, led by Chief Joseph (Hinmaton-yalatkit), were defeated after refusing to agree to treaties ceding nearly all their land in the Pacific Northwest to the United States . Privations from loss of land, lack of food, and disease led to an unsuccessful uprising of the Bannock Indians of Idaho in 1878.  

   The Southwest came under United States control as a result of the Mexican War. In 1847, Pueblo Indians rose up against settlers at Taos (later in New Mexico ) and were defeated. But relations between settlers and the Pueblos , Pimas, and Papagos were usually peaceful. The Navajos and Apaches retaliated when settlers seized their lands and destroyed their animals and gardens. The Navajos were overpowered in the 1860s and forced onto a reservation. But the Apaches fought on. Even after they too were restricted to reservations, small bands continued to mount raids. When the Apache leader Geronimo (Goyathlay) finally surrendered in 1886, Indian resistance in the Southwest ended.  

   Around 1850 the tribes of the Great Plains had begun attacking wagon trains carrying settlers westward. They were angered by ill-treatment from the settlers and by the driving away of buffalo herds on which they were dependent for food, clothing, and shelter. Efforts by the Army and the government to preserve peace led to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The Plains tribes promised to confine themselves to designated hunting grounds, and the government agreed to keep settlers out. But when the government violated the treaty in 1865 by starting to construct forts and a wagon road to mining camps in Montana Territory , the Oglala Sioux under Red Cloud (Mahpiua Luta) attacked and destroyed several forts. By the terms of a new peace treaty in 1868, the government stopped the road construction, dismantled the forts, and again guaranteed the Indian reserve.

   In 1871 Congress decided that Indian tribes were no longer to be recognized as sovereign powers with whom treaties must be made. Although existing treaties were still to be considered valid, violations continued to occur. The treaty of 1868 had made the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory part of a large Sioux reservation. The discovery of gold there in 1874 started a stampede of gold seekers. In 1875 the Sioux refused to sell the land to the government, which then ordered them out of the area and onto reservations. When the Sioux refused, the Army, including troops under Lieut. Col. George A. Custer, was sent to enforce the order. The main body of Indians, under the Sioux leaders Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) and Crazy Horse (Tashunke Witko), wiped out Custer's men on June 25, 1876

   But this was the last major military victory by the Indians. Gradually they were rounded up and confined to reservations. In a final, futile rebellion, Sitting Bull and other Sioux joined a new supernatural cult that predicted the white man would be wiped out and the Indian way of life preserved if enough Indians would perform the ceremonies known as the Ghost Dance. But the Ghost Dance movement was crushed in 1890 with the arrest and murder of Sitting Bull and the massacre by the Army of several hundred Indians at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota . This event ended the conquest of the American Indian.  

Historic Relations with Government

The first federal agency to oversee governmental promises under Indian treaties was placed under the secretary of war by Congress in 1789. A Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was created within the War Department in 1824 and was transferred to the new Department of the Interior in 1849.  

   The BIA enforced the restrictions on Indian lands and prevented their illegal loss. The BIA helped the Indian sell or lease his land when it was legal to do so. It kept track of land inheritance when the owner died. Money deposited in the United States Treasury to the credit of Indian tribes in payment for land was administered on behalf of the Indians by the BIA.  

   Forcibly restricted to reservations, and finding it difficult to make them productive, the Indians came to depend on the government for the necessities of life. Many whites, regarding ownership of land as the basis of success, hoped that by owning their own farms the Indians would become independent farmers. Other whites, hungry for land, thought that too much land had already been reserved to the Indians.  

   Both groups of whites urged the passage of the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887. This act provided for dividing reservations, which had been held in common by the tribes, into parcels to be allotted to individual Indians. The "surplus" land, in at least one case a larger area than that divided among the Indians, was eventually sold to white homesteaders. Provisions of the act also granted citizenship to the Indians receiving parcels of land and to any other Indians who agreed to give up tribal life for "civilized" ways.  

   The Indian General Allotment Act resulted in the loss of tens of millions of acres of Indian land. Many Indians were unused to the idea of individual ownership of land and had little understanding of money values. They sold their allotments at absurdly low prices, spent the money, and became destitute. Where land was retained, the amount possessed by each Indian became smaller as the land was divided through inheritance. Although the solidarity of the Indian tribes was thereby endangered, the traditional tribal values and customs persisted.  

   Eventually it became apparent to government officials that the programs forcing Indians to adopt an alien way of life had been largely unsuccessful. In 1934 Congress enacted the Indian Reorganization (Wheeler-Howard) Act, which ended the allotment policy. The new law's most important provisions reestablished tribes as political entities and partially restored their internal sovereignty. A revival of Indian culture and religion was promoted.  

   Under the new law many of the tribes set up governments patterned after that of the United States . The tribes wrote constitutions and bylaws, set up executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and proceeded to elect tribal officials by secret ballot. The new law appropriated money for buying back some of the "surplus" land that had passed out of Indian ownership. Money was also provided for better educational and medical facilities and for general economic development.  

   The tribes used the powers granted in 1934 to remove white men from their land and to assert their legal rights to its natural resources. But growing attacks on the Indian Reorganization Act finally bore fruit when in 1953 Congress declared that all federal relations with Indian tribes should be terminated as soon as possible. Congress also permitted the state governments to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian reservations without the consent of the tribes occupying them. The tribes fought strenuously against termination laws in court actions and in appeals to the public. By the 1960s, termination as a national Indian policy was dying. But in the meantime, federal responsibility for a number of tribes, such as the Klamath of Oregon and the Menominee of Wisconsin, had been terminated. Many tribes also fought to regain jurisdiction over their reservations from the state governments. Some tribes pressed claims to land taken in the 19th century and earlier.  

   The Indian Reorganization Act had not given the tribes control of the federal funds that were spent on reservations. But the Indians took advantage of government programs for the poor created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The success of the Indian programs developed under this act spurred other agencies aiding the Indians, including the BIA, to let the tribes assume greater control over the funds given them. Indians also took advantage of the civil rights movement to press their cause.  

Indian Life in Modern America

The American Indian population in the United States was about 1,400,000 in 1980. It had increased sharply from 343,000 in 1950, 524,000 in 1960, and 800,000 in 1970. California , Oklahoma , and Arizona --each with Indian populations of more than 150,000 in 1980--led the states. Other states with large numbers of Indians were New Mexico , North Carolina , Alaska , Washington , and South Dakota .  

Government Control of Indian Affairs

The United States Congress has complete authority over Indian affairs. It can disband the Indian tribes as it did under the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887 and the termination legislation of the 1950s, or it can permit them to organize as it did under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Congress can overrule court decisions dealing with Indian tribes.  

   Congress exercises its authority over Indian affairs through the Indian Affairs subcommittees of the Interior and Insular Affairs committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Congress also controls Indian affairs through appropriations. Money to support the tribal organizations, to pay for social services and education, and to provide development capital is appropriated through the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on Interior and Related Agencies.  

   In 1924 all the Indians in the United States were made citizens. They now possess the same citizenship rights in the states where they reside as do other citizens of those states. However, those Indians who are members of federally recognized tribes or who live on individually owned restricted or trust land enjoy a special status. Their tribes are political entities which generally are outside the jurisdiction of the individual states in which they are located, and their treaty rights are still valid.  

   Most of these tribes were formed under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. They have the power to tax their membership and make certain laws, to issue charters, to regulate marriage and divorce, and so forth. This authority is recognized by the federal government and by the individual states. Those tribes that were not put under state civil and criminal jurisdiction have full civil jurisdiction on their reservations and jurisdiction over all but major crimes--such as murder, arson, and larceny--which are under federal jurisdiction.  

   Title to tribal land and to restricted land belonging to individual Indians is held in trust for the Indians by the United States government. These trust lands and the proceeds therefrom are tax-exempt. Indians residing on their tribal reservations or on restricted land are eligible for services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) of the Department of the Interior and from the Indian Health Service of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The BIA also serves Indians living in the cities.  

   Prior to the restoration of tribal governing bodies under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Department of the Interior, acting through the BIA had complete control of the Indian reservations. The Department of the Interior still legally controls many aspects of Indian life, such as regulating tribal attorney contracts and authorizing the leasing of Indian land. In addition, the approval of the secretary of the interior must be obtained before any Indian land in trust status--either tribal or individual--can be alienated from Indian ownership.  

   The Department of the Interior is also responsible for the protection of Indian interests. Often, however, the department has been indifferent to its responsibility, has substituted its judgment for that of the Indians, or has worked actively against what the Indians wanted. Cases in point were the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887 and the termination legislation of the 1950s.  

   The Interior Department's difficulties in meeting its responsibility also stem from internal conflicts of interest. The BIA is under the Interior Department's assistant secretary for public land management. It is almost inevitable that situations will arise, for example, in which Indian interests will conflict with those of the Bureau of Reclamation, also in the Interior Department. In most cases the Indians do not have enough political influence to force a resolution of such conflicts in their favor.  

   Conflicts also arise with the Justice Department, on which the Interior Department must rely to bring suit on behalf of the Indians. Often the Justice Department will fail to bring suit, especially if the suit is against the United States .  

The Indian Claims Commission

Congress enacted the law establishing the Indian Claims Commission in 1946. Until then it had been necessary for the tribes to secure a jurisdictional act from Congress before they could sue the United States for land and money losses in the Court of Claims.  

   Under the Indian Claims Commission Act, the Indians were given a statutory limit of five years in which to file their claims. By 1951, about 600 claims had been filed. By 1970, half of the claims were still pending and one fourth had been dismissed. Awards totaling about 330 million dollars had been made on the other fourth

   The awards were based on the value of land at the time it was taken from the Indians. This meant mostly 19th-century land prices. Indians were thus being paid, in some instances, at the rate of only 50 cents an acre for land that was later worth up to 30 dollars an acre. After an award has been made in such cases, any past federal expenditures, or offsets, are deducted. Because funds from the awards are held in trust by the federal government, they are tax-exempt. Money is usually paid out on a per capita basis or is put into tribal development programs.  

   The Indian Claims Commission, like the Court of Claims generally, is permitted to make only money judgments. Sometimes the Indians do not want the money but rather want the return of the land. The Taos Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, for example, refused a money judgment awarded by the Indian Claims Commission. In 1970 the tribe secured Congressional passage of a bill returning the Blue Lake area of New Mexico to them.   

   In 1971 Congress approved the largest single land settlement--44,000,000 acres (17,800,000 hectares)--with an award of almost 1 billion dollars to the Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos of Alaska to clear the way for construction of the oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez . In the 1980s land settlements for land in excess of several hundred thousand acres were being sought by various tribes throughout the United States . In many cases, a critical issue in the court battles over land is the fact that much of it was bought by individuals and corporations without knowledge of Indian claims.  

Other Government Involvement

Until the mid-1950s, when Indian health services were detached from the BIA and placed under the United States Public Health Service in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the BIA had sole responsibility for the provision of services to the federally recognized tribes. However, the Indians did participate in some of the federal New Deal programs of the 1930s. They also receive such benefits as old-age assistance from programs under the Social Security Administration. Besides the services connected with the execution of its trust function, the BIA provides services in the areas of education, welfare, and economic development.  

   Indians were equally eligible with non-Indians for an array of federal programs created for the benefit of the poor during the 1960s. The Departments of State, Treasury, and Defense also developed major programs to help the Indians. Among the independent agencies with programs that benefited Indians were the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commission on Civil Rights, and the Small Business Administration. In 1968 the National Council on Indian Opportunity was created to coordinate the federal programs, but it was discontinued in 1974.  

   The Administration for Native Americans, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, is concerned with the social and economic development of all Native Americans. This administration coordinates legislative proposals, develops social and economic policy, and administers a grant program on behalf of Native Americans. In November 1989 United States President George Bush signed legislation to establish a new National Museum of the American Indian in Washington , D.C. , as part of the Smithsonian Institution. The legislation included a promise by the Smithsonian to return thousands of Native American human remains from its collection to modern tribal groups. Many of the new museum's artifacts will be contributed by the Heye Foundation's Museum of the American Indian in New York City .  

The Modern Indian Reservation

An Indian reservation appears much like the surrounding countryside. It resembles a small town, and sometimes a town has grown up around it. Unless a motorist were to leave the main highway and drive by a small Indian community or catch sight of a pueblo or a hogan, only a sign giving the name of the reservation would reveal that the vehicle was in Indian country. The Indian agency, or local headquarters of the various federal offices on the reservation, may be on farming, grazing, or forest land. Here also are the tribal office, schools, stores, and churches.  

   Until the 1960s most tribes subsisted on the natural resources of their reservations. Farming, ranching, logging, and fishing were the usual kinds of occupations. Other Indians received small royalties from mineral rights; eked out a living as seasonal workers in orchards and as part-time workers on railroads, roads, or farms; or worked for local federal agencies or merchants. In some areas Indians made a living by making and selling their own handmade products.  

Specialized Indian Education

Many of the treaties provided for the establishment of schools. Congress also provided schools for Indian children where other educational facilities were not available. In 1979 the BIA operated more than 200 schools for Indian children and 15 dormitories for children attending public schools. In 1979 there were about 44,000 Indian students enrolled in boarding, day, and dormitory schools that were operated by the BIA. There were about 6,400 Indian students enrolled in private, mission, and tribal-operated schools. Increasingly, as fewer Indian families live on reservations, more children are attending the public schools in their local school districts.  

   Congressional education appropriations to the BIA are limited to the education of children who are one-fourth or more Indian and of native children in Alaska . An exception is the Cherokee agency, where children who are less than one-fourth Indian may also attend federal schools. Less than half of the BIA budget is used for education, and there are supplemental funds from other agencies.  

   The Navajo Community College in Arizona , which was established in 1969, is the oldest chartered tribal community college. There are now more than a dozen tribal community colleges. There are also vocational-technical schools above the high-school level.  

Economic Development

Before the 1960s the only alternatives for those Indians unable to find work on their reservations were accepting welfare assistance or migrating to the cities. When the federal Indian policy changed from tribal termination to tribal self-determination, large sums of government money began to pour into the reservations. In 1967 the Economic Development Administration began a program to assist Indians residing on trust lands. The program's direction has been largely in the field of planning and technical assistance, with funding for the construction of community and commercial projects. The Office of Minority Business Enterprise also helps to promote expansion of Indian businesses.  

   Some of the industries created were electronic parts assembly plants on reservations in Nevada , North Dakota , and New Mexico ; prefabricated home manufacturing plants on reservations in North Dakota and Montana ; furniture plants on reservations in Utah and New Mexico ; and a semiconductor plant on the Navajo reservation at Shiprock , N.M.   

   Tribes were also working to expand their tourist industries. New Indian-owned campgrounds were set up in Arizona and South Dakota . The Cheyenne River Sioux of South Dakota owned the telephone system on their reservation. The Navajos operated the public utilities on their reservation. One of the long-range benefits of these developments was that such arrangements enabled the tribes to tax their membership and opened the way to economic self-sufficiency for their tribal government operations.  

Indian Activism

One of the first modern Indian political organizations to be formed was the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Established in 1944, the NCAI sought to act as representative for the Indian tribes at the national level. Its membership included delegates from each of its member tribes as well as individual Indians. The NCAI was active in influencing legislation.  

   Many tribes have also organized politically at the state and local levels. The United Sioux of South Dakota was formed in an attempt to prevent the state from assuming jurisdiction over the Indian reservations in South Dakota . The Sioux were successful in securing enough signatures on a petition to have the assumption-of-jurisdiction law submitted to the voters, but the measure was defeated.  

   In the 1960s Indians in the state of Washington began agitating to maintain their traditional right to fish in the streams in Washington free from state regulation. By the provisions of century-old treaties, the Indians had given up most of their land along the rivers but had inserted articles in the treaties specifying that their people could continue to fish in their "usual and accustomed places" along the rivers. In 1964 the newly organized Survival of American Indians Association began to dramatize the issue of Indian fishing rights by staging demonstrations, or fish-ins. Shots were exchanged when a group of armed Indians staged a fish-in on the Puyallup River in 1970; 54 Indians were arrested for violating state fishing regulations. The Indians also carried their fight into the courts, but the various decisions that were rendered were vague and contradictory.  

   In 1966 a more militant organization, the American Indian Movement (AIM), was founded to force reorganization of the BIA in order to make it more responsive to the needs of native Americans. It also supported tribal demands for the return of Indian lands. In 1973 about 200 armed AIM supporters, led by Russell Means and Dennis Banks, occupied a South Dakota reservation in a 71-day siege that became known as the second battle of Wounded Knee . They declared it the Independent Oglala Sioux Nation. The area was the site of a bloody massacre of Indians by the United States Army in 1890. During the takeover, hostages were seized and government blockades cut off supplies.  

Urban Indians

During World War II many Indians left the reservations to seek work in the war industries of the big cities. This start of Indian urban migration coincided with the government's efforts to get the Indians off the reservations and curtail its responsibilities.  

   In the early 1950s the BIA launched a relocation program to speed the migration. The Indians, who could find little work on the economically depressed reservations, were eager to take advantage of the program. But as the decade progressed, participants in the relocation program came to include many who were poorly educated and thus ill-equipped to succeed in an urban environment. But the newcomers were refused social services in the city because they were "BIA Indians." At the same time the BIA refused them services on the grounds that they were no longer living on or near a reservation. The BIA relocation program failed because the Indians either returned to the reservations or remained in the cities and made unsuccessful adjustments to urban life.

   In 1969 the Office of Indian Affairs in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare sponsored an all-Indian study group called the Task Force on Racially Isolated Urban Indians. It was to investigate the urban Indian problem and develop a program leading to its solution. The study group found that the needs common to urban Indians were: (1) more effective systems of social-service delivery; (2) expanded programs for Indian youth; (3) better physical facilities to house Indian centers; (4) additional staff to work in those centers; (5) training for staff and board members of the centers; and (6) improved techniques for informing urban Indians of programs and resources available to them. The task force recommended the creation of a model Indian center demonstration project. Some centers were funded in 1971. Enactment of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act in 1973 was another attempt to help urban Indians by providing grants for manpower programs, including vocational training, to the unemployed, underemployed, and disadvantaged.  

Native Alaskans

There are more than 85,000 Inuit (Eskimo), Indians, and Aleuts in Alaska . Most live in towns and villages. The Inuit live on the western and northern coasts along the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean . The Indians live in southeastern, interior, and south-central Alaska . The Aleuts live in the southwest, along the Alaska Peninsula and on the Aleutian Islands .  

   Prior to 1924 the Native Alaskans were almost all under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior's Trust Territories Division. When they became citizens under the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, jurisdiction was transferred to the BIA, which is responsible for providing the same kinds of services in Alaska as it does in the other states.  

   When the United States acquired Alaska in 1867, the settlement of native land titles was left to Congress. But Congress persistently put off action, and the matter was still unresolved when Alaska became a state in 1959. The Native Alaskans, frustrated by this long delay--especially after a method was found to exploit the state's vast oil reserves--organized the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) in 1966. The AFN contended that in the settlement of their land rights the natives should get just compensation. In 1971 Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which awarded Native Alaskans nearly a billion dollars and 40,000,000 acres (16,000,000 hectares) of land. Several regional corporations were established to administer the settlement

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