The first people to inhabit the Americas were the Indians
Their settlements ranged across the Western Hemisphere
They were built on many of the sites where modern cities now rise

They hunted deer, buffalo and other game

They cultivated land where today crops are still grown

Their hunters
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
And lakes bear names from the languages of the first Americans

Native American farmers were the first in the world to domesticate
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
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

Where Did The Indians Come From?

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 seems 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
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 that the sun
Rain And other forces were controlled by spirits

In religion they worshiped Animals
The Sun
And Wind
In ceremonies and prayers
They tried to gain the favor of these gods

Culture Areas In North America

Scholars give the name culture to the way of life of a people
This includes 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
In each area the Indians had special ways of acquiring
And utensils

One thing they had in common was the use of stone tools
All made a variety of Hammers
And Spear Points From Stone
They were handicapped by the lack of sharp metal tools

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 thier 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
Polar Bear
Arctic Birds
And Other Arctic Animals

They Make Warm Clothing Of The Animal Skins
They Turn The Fur Insideout To Hold The Body's Warmth

And Ceremonies

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
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
They 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
They did this 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

Intervillage 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
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

Myths And Fables

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
On snowshoes
Wore moccasins and other clothing of deerskin
They ate Indian foods

The pioneer settlers often wore buckskin too
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

Perhaps the most widely used was the bark-covered wigwam
Sometimes it was shaped like a cone
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 they were bent overhead into an arch
They were tied together with tough bark fibers or with rawhide
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
They had a more involved culture than the northeast tribes
They had winter houses of clay plastered on a framework of poles and woven twigs
They were built with a dome 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 on an open fire
They 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
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
To take part in religious and medicine-society ceremonials
And to sit in the tribal councils

The men helped with building wigwams
They cleared 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
Then 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
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
This 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
They 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
And vines they saw in the woods

They decorated ceremonial costumes richly
At work the women wore a wraparound skirt and 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
Then they scraped 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
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
Grizzly bears
Mountain sheep
And mountain goats

The buffalo were the most valuable game animals
But the big herds moved about constantly seeking pasture
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
They 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
They would shoot several without scaring the others

In snowy weather Indians would encircle a herd
They would 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 would push those in front
The decoy leader would dodge to safety at the last minute
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
This way it could be 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 it was 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
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
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
They 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
They roped any wild ponies that 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
They would chant and shake 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 numbers increased after the Indians got guns from the traders

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
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
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
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
Then they 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
This signified which animals he had killed in a big hunt

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
They sought 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
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
They had to crack acorns
Remove the kernels
Pound them into meal
And treat the meal with hot water to remove the poisonous tannin

They beat the tiny seeds from flowering plants
Then they 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
The basket held water and meal
The thick gruel could be eaten in the hand

They pried up bulbous roots of the camas lily
They 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
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
Trap ground squirrels
Or mice

The tribes in northern California and in the foot-hills found deer
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
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 piñon forest
They would 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 dances and the songs telling tribal legends

The weather was hot and dry most of the year
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
They would 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
They pressed the oil from the candlefish
The Indians used large amounts of this oil
They dipped 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

Wampum was used as money among Eastern Woodland Indians

The 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
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
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
They Knew how to use them to build houses
They girdled the trees with fire
They let them season a few years before felling

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

Clothing From Cedar Bark

The inner bark of the cedar served as raw material for garments
Inner bark was also used to create beautifully woven baskets
The women pounded the bark into shreds
They made fringed aprons and short capes for themselves
They made 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
This caused 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
And People On Boxes
House Fronts
House Posts
And Grave Posts

They made wooden helmets and masks
For the ceremonial dances and dramatic performances

Totem Pole

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
Or Whaling

The designs were carved to represent human and animal faces
They weren"t carved 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
The eagle had a curved beak

Northwest craftsmen also had some native copper to work with
They made some of their arrowpoints from it
They also made copper knives for weapons in war

They engraved designs on a plaque were called "copper"
The copper 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
The Indians themselves did not
An Indian considered himself a
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
They spoke in many different languages
This was several times as many as are spoken in Europe
The differences were great enough to hamper understanding
Even when they were 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
They created 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
They used sign language for communicating with each other
They could convey much information with hand gestures
Some of the gestures were so graphic
That they couldnot 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
They would exchange other help if they spoke the same language
They would help if their hunting ground provided enough for all
This large group could be a tribe

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
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, 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
And Gourds

These plants flourished in the warm rainy summers

Plains Indians
The 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
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
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
They could kill all the animals that they needed
Hunting was usually a tribal activity
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
And cut by mountains and canyons

They had little rain
The rain came mostly in summer when it could help plants grow

Snow fell on the mountains in winter and supplied water for Streams
And Water Holes

The Pueblo Indians learned to irrigate their fields
They learned 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

The Navajo
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
They did this 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
They lived in the dry basins and plateaus between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada

Game animals were scarce
The men could not supply enough food by hunting
The family roamed the desert
The women gathered berries, nuts, seeds and roots
They ground the seeds into flour for gruel
Their shelters were mere windbreaks or flimsy huts
They were 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
They would even hold water
The women also 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 straightgrained wood
Even crude tools could split cedar

These skillful Indians built large houses
The houses were built 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 were made from the inner bark of the cedar

The men were skillful wood carvers
Examples of their crafsmanship have survived
From small dolls to large painted totem poles

Comptons Encyclopedia Online V3.0 © 1998

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