Native Americans in the United
States are the indigenous peoples from
North America now encompassed by the
continental United States, including parts of Alaska and the
island state of Hawaii.
comprise a large
of distinct tribes
, and ethnic
, many of which survive as intact political communities.
The terminology used to refer to Native Americans is controversial
European colonization of the Americas led to centuries of conflict
and adjustment between Old
and New World
societies. Most of the written
historical record about Native Americans was made by Europeans
after initial contact. Native Americans lived in hunter/farmer
subsistence societies with significantly different value systems
than those of the European colonists. The differences in culture
between the Native Americans and Europeans, and the shifting
alliances among different nations of each culture, led to great
misunderstandings and long lasting cultural conflicts.
Estimates of the pre-Columbian population of what today constitutes
the United States of America vary significantly, ranging from 1
million to 18 million.
After the colonies revolted against Great Britain and established
the United States of America, the ideology of Manifest destiny
became integral to the
American nationalist movement. In the late 18th century, George Washington
and Henry Knox
conceived of the idea of "civilizing"
Native Americans in preparation of American citizenship.
Assimilation (whether voluntary as with the Choctaw
or forced) became a consistent policy through American
administrations. In the early 19th century, most Native Americans
of the American Deep South
from their homelands to accommodate American expansion with some
groups presently residing in Alabama, Florida, Lousianna,
Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. By the American Civil
War, many Native American nations had been relocated west of the
. Major Native
American resistance took place in the form of "Indian Wars," which
were frequent up until the 1890s.
Native Americans today have a unique relationship with the United
States of America because they can be found as members of nations,
tribes, or bands of Native Americans who have sovereignty or
independence from the government of the United States. Their
societies and cultures still flourish amidst a larger immigrated
American populace of African
, and European
peoples. Native Americans who were not already U.S. citizens were
granted citizenship in
by the Congress
of the United States
to the still-debated New World migration
model, a migration of humans from Eurasia to the Americas took place via Beringia, a land bridge
which formerly connected the two continents across what is now the
Strait. Falling sea levels
created the Bering land bridge
that joined Siberia to Alaska, which began
about 60,000 - 25,000 years ago.
- Further information: Models of migration to the
New World, Paleo-Indians, Lithic period in
Canada and Pre-Columbian
The minimum time depth by
which this migration had taken place is confirmed at 12,000 years
ago, with the upper bound (or earliest period) remaining a matter
of some unresolved contention. These early Paleoamericans
soon spread throughout the
Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct
nations and tribes. The North American climate finally stabilized
by 8000 BCE; climatic conditions were very similar to today's. This
led to widespread migration, cultivation
of crops, and subsequently a dramatic rise in population all over
The big-game hunting culture labeled as the Clovis culture
is primarily identified with
its production of fluted projectile points. The culture received
its name from artifacts found near Clovis, New Mexico; the first evidence of this tool complex was
excavated in 1932.
The Clovis culture ranged over much of
North America and also appeared in South America. The culture is
identified by the distinctive Clovis
, a flaked flint spear-point with a notched flute, by
which it was inserted into a shaft. Dating of Clovis materials has
been by association with animal bones and by the use of carbon dating
methods. Recent reexaminations
of Clovis materials using improved carbon-dating methods produced
results of 11,050 and 10,800 radiocarbon years B.P.
(roughly 9100 to 8850 BCE).
Paleoindian cultures occupied North
America, with some restricted to the Great Plains and Great
Lakes of the modern United States of America and Canada, as well as
adjacent areas to the west and southwest.
The Folsom Tradition
was characterized by use
of Folsom points
as projectile tips,
and activities known from kill sites where slaughter and butchering
took place. Folsom tools were left
behind between 9000 BCE and 8000 BCE. Poverty Point culture
is an archaeological culture
inhabited the area of the lower Mississippi Valley and surrounding
Gulf Coast. The culture thrived from 2200
- 700 BCE
, during the late Archaic period
. Evidence of this
culture has been found at more than 100 sites, from Poverty Point,
Louisiana across a 100-mile range to the Jaketown Site near Belzoni, Mississippi.
According to the oral histories of many of the indigenous peoples
of the Americas, they have been living there since their genesis,
described by a wide range of traditional creation accounts. The
people occupied much of
northwest and central North America starting around 8000 BCE. They
were the earliest ancestors of the Athabascan
- speaking peoples, including the
present-day and historical Navajo
. Their villages were constructed with
large multi-family dwellings, used seasonally. People did not live
there year round, but for the summer to hunt and fish, and to
gather food supplies for the winter. The Oshara Tradition
people lived from 5500 BCE
to 600 CE. The Southwestern Archaic
Tradition was centered in north-central New Mexico, the San Juan Basin,
Grande Valley, southern Colorado, and southeastern Utah.
The Woodland period
of North American pre-Columbian
cultures refers to the time
period from roughly 1000 BCE
to 1000 CE
in the eastern part of North America. The term "Woodland" was
coined in the 1930s and refers to prehistoric sites dated between
the Archaic period
and the Mississippian
. The Hopewell
tradition is the term used to describe common aspects of the
Native American culture that flourished along rivers in the
northeastern and midwestern United States from 200 BCE to 500 CE.
The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture
or society, but a widely dispersed set of
related populations, who were connected by a common network of
trade routes, known as the Hopewell Exchange System. At its greatest
extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the
States into the southeastern Canadian shores of Lake Ontario.
Within this area, societies participated in
a high degree of exchange with the highest amount of activity along
the waterways serving as their major transportation routes. The
Hopewell exchange system traded materials from all over the United
Coles Creek culture
the Lower Mississippi
the southern present-day United States. The period marked a
significant change in the cultural history of the area. Population
increased dramatically. There is strong evidence of a growing
cultural and political complexity, especially by the end of the
Coles Creek sequence. Although many of the classic traits of
societies were not yet manifested,
by 1000 CE the formation of simple elite polities had begun.
Creek sites are found in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas.
is considered ancestral to the Plaquemine culture
is one of the four major prehistoric
archaeological traditions of the present-day American Southwest.
Living as simple farmers, they raised corn and beans. The early
Hohokam founded a series of small villages along the middle
. The communities were located
near good arable land, with dry farming common in the earlier years
of this period. Wells
, usually less than
deep, were dug for domestic water supplies by 300 CE to 500 CE.
Early Hohokam homes were constructed of branches bent in a
semi-circular fashion and then covered with twigs, reeds and
heavily applied mud and other materials at hand.
Although not as technologically advanced as the Mesoamerican
civilizations further south,
sophisticated pre-Columbian sedentary societies evolved in North
America. The Iroquois League of Nations
"People of the Long House" was a politically advanced and unique
social structure whose confederacy model contributed to political
thinking during the later development of the democratic United
States government. Their system of affiliation was a kind of
federation, a departure from the strong monarchies from which the
Europeans came. Long-distance trading did not prevent warfare among
the indigenous peoples. For instance, archaeology and the tribes'
oral histories have contributed to an understanding that the
Iroquois' conducted invasions and warfare about 1200 CE against
tribes in the Ohio River area of present-day Kentucky. Finally they
drove many to migrate west to their historically traditional lands
west of the Mississippi River. Tribes' originating in the Ohio Valley who
moved west included the Osage, Kaw, Ponca and Omaha.
mid-17th century, they had resettled in their historical lands in
present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The Osage warred with native Caddo
-speaking Native Americans, displacing them in
turn by the mid-18th century and dominating their new historical
is the name archeologists have given to the
regional stylistic similarity of artifacts
of the Mississippian culture
, which coincided
with the people's adoption of maize
agriculture and chiefdom
social organization from 1200 CE to 1650 CE. Contrary to popular
belief, this development appears to have no direct links to
. It developed independently,
with sophistication based on the accumulation of maize surpluses,
more dense population and specialization of skills. This Ceremonial
Complex represents a major component of the religion
of the Mississippian peoples, and is one
of the primary means by which their religion is understood.
Mississippian culture created the largest earthworks in North America north
of Mexico, most notably at Cahokia, based on a tributary of the Mississippi River in
present-day Illinois. Its 10-story Monks Mound has a larger circumference than the Pyramid of
the Sun at Teotihuacan or the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
six-square mile city complex was based on the people's cosmology
and had more than 100 mounds, oriented to their sophisticated
knowledge of astronomy
. It included a
Woodhenge, whose sacred cedar poles were
placed to mark the summer and winter solstices and fall and spring
Its peak population in 1250 CE of 30,000-40,000
people was not equalled by any city in the present-day United
States until after 1800. In addition, Cahokia was a major regional
chiefdom, with trade and tributary chiefdoms ranging from the Great
Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Further information: European colonization of
After 1492 European
exploration of the
Americas revolutionized how the Old
the first major contacts, in what would be called the American
Deep South, occurred when conquistador
Juan Ponce de León landed in
Florida in April of 1513.
Ponce de León was later
followed by other Spanish explorers, such as Pánfilo de Narváez
in 1528 and
Hernando de Soto
From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Native
Americans declined in the following ways: epidemic diseases
brought from Europe; genocide
and warfare at the hands of European
explorers and colonists; displacement from their lands; internal warfare
; and a high rate of intermarriage
. Most mainstream scholars
believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease
was the overwhelming cause of the
population decline of the American natives because of their lack of
immunity to new diseases brought from Europe. With the rapid
declines of some populations and continuing rivalries among their
own nations, Native Americans sometimes re-organized to form new
cultural groups, such as the Seminoles
Impact on Native Populations
The lack of hard evidence or written records has made estimating
the number of Native Americans living in what is today the United
States of America before the arrival of the European explorers and
settlers the subject of much debate. A low estimate arriving at
around 1 million was first posited by anthropologist James Mooney
in the 1890s, computing population
density of each culture area based on its carrying capacity
In 1965, American anthropologist
estimating the original population at 10 to 12 million. By 1983,
however, he increased his estimates to 18 million. He took into
account the mortality rates caused by infectious diseases
explorers and settlers, against
which Native Americans had no natural immunity
. Dobyns combined the known
mortality rates of these diseases among native people with reliable
population records of the 19th century, to calculate the probable
size of the original populations.
, though common and rarely fatal among
Europeans, often proved deadly to Native Americans. Smallpox
proved particularly fatal to Native
American populations. Epidemics
immediately followed European exploration and sometimes destroyed
entire village populations. While precise figures are difficult to
determine, some historians estimate that up to 80% of some Native
died due to European diseases after first contact.
One theory of Columbian exchange suggests explorers from the
from indigenous peoples
and carried it back to Europe, where it spread widely. Other
researchers believe that the disease existed in Europe and Asia
before Columbus and his men returned from exposure
to indigenous peoples of the Americas, but that they brought back a
more virulent form. (See Syphilis
1618–1619, smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans.
Historians believe Mohawk
Native Americans were infected after contact with children of Dutch
traders in Albany in 1634. The disease swept through Mohawk villages,
reaching Native Americans at Lake Ontario in 1636, and the lands of the Iroquois by 1679, as it was carried by Mohawks and
other Native Americans who traveled the trading routes.
high rate of fatalities caused breakdowns in Native American
societies and disrupted generational exchanges of culture.
Between 1754 and 1763 many Native American tribes were involved in
the French and Indian
/Seven Years War
forces against British Colonial militias. Native Americans fought
on both sides of the conflict over Western US Territories; the
greater number of tribes, unwilling to be subjugated, fought with
the French, while fewer tribes fought with the British to prove
assimilation and loyalty in support of treaties, many of which were
later dishonored. Though there is some evidence of biological
pox infected blankets
at Pontiac's Rebellion, the contact of
trade and combat provided much greater exposure to disease.
Similarly, after initial direct contact with European explorers in
the 1770s, smallpox rapidly killed at least 30% of Northwest Coast
Americans. For the next 80 to 100 years, smallpox and other
diseases devastated native populations in the region. Puget Sound area populations once as high as 37,000 were
reduced to only 9,000 survivors by the time settlers arrived en
masse in the mid-19th century.
Smallpox epidemics in 1780–1782
brought devastation and
drastic depopulation among the Plains
. By 1832, the federal government finally established a
Native Americans (The Indian Vaccination Act of 1832
was the first program created to address a health problem of Native
With the meeting of two worlds, animals, insects, and plants were
exchanged between two. The horse, pig, and cow were all old world
animals that were introduced to Native Americans who never knew
In the sixteenth century, Spaniards and other Europeans brought
to the Americas. The early American horse
was game for the earliest humans
and was hunted to extinction about 7,000 BC, just after the end of
the last glacial period
reintroduction of horses resulted in benefits to Native Americans.
As they adopted the animals, they began to change their cultures in
substantial ways, especially by extending their ranges. Some of the
horses escaped and began to breed and increase their numbers in the
The reintroduction of the horse to North America had a profound
impact on Native American culture of the
. The tribes trained and used horses to ride and to
carry packs or pull travois
. They fully
incorporated the use of horses into their societies, including
expanding their territories, exchanging goods with neighboring
tribes, hunting game
) and conducting warring
Foundations for freedom
For some Europeans, Native American societies reminded them of a
conception of a golden age known to them only in folk
The political theorist Jean
wrote that the idea of freedom and democratic
ideals was born in the Americas because "it was only in America"
that Europeans from 1500 to 1776 knew of societies that were "truly
The Iroquois nations
' political confederacy
and democratic government
have been credited as influences on
the Articles of
and the United States Constitution
Historians debate how much the colonists borrowed from existing
Native American governmental models. Several founding fathers had
contact with Native American leaders and had learned about their
style of government. Prominent figures such as Thomas Jefferson
and Benjamin Franklin
were more involved with
their stronger and larger native neighbor—the Iroquois.
John Rutledge of South Carolina in particular is said to have read lengthy tracts
of Iroquoian law to the other framers, beginning with the words
"We, the people, to form a union, to establish peace, equity, and
the American Revolution, the
newly proclaimed United
States competed with the British for the allegiance of
Native American nations east of the Mississippi River.
Americans who joined the struggle sided with the British, hoping to
use the American
to halt further colonial expansion onto
Native American land. Many native communities were divided over
which side to support in the war. The first native community to
sign a treaty with the new
United States Government
was the Lenape
For the Iroquois
Confederacy, the American
Revolution resulted in civil war
. The only
Iroquois tribe to ally with the colonials were the Onondaga.
warfare during the American Revolution
was particularly brutal,
and numerous atrocities were committed by settlers and native
tribes alike. Noncombatants suffered greatly during the war.
Military expeditions on each side destroyed villages and food
supplies to reduce the ability of people to fight, as in frequent
raids in the Mohawk Valley and western New York. The largest of
these expeditions was the Sullivan
of 1779, in which American colonial troops destroyed
more than 40 Iroquois villages to neutralize Iroquois raids in
upstate New York
. The expedition
failed to have the desired effect: Native American activity became
even more determined.
The British made peace with the Americans in the Treaty of Paris
, through which they
ceded vast Native American territories to the United States without
informing the Native Americans, leading immediately to the Northwest Indian War
. The United States
initially treated the Native Americans who had fought with the
British as a conquered people who had lost their lands. Although
many of the Iroquois tribes went to Canada with the Loyalists,
others tried to stay in New York and western territories and tried
to maintain their lands. Nonetheless, the state of New York made a
separate treaty with Iroquois and put up for sale of land that had
previously been their territory. The state established a
reservation near Syracuse for the Onondagas who had been allies of
The United States was eager to expand, to develop farming and
settlements in new areas, and to satisfy land hunger of settlers
from New England and new immigrants. The national government
initially sought to purchase Native American land by treaties
. The states and
settlers were frequently at odds with this policy.
Transmuted Native America
European nations sent Native Americans (sometimes against their
will) to the Old World as objects of curiosity. They often
entertained royalty and were sometimes prey to commercial purposes.
Americans was a charted purpose for some European colonies.
United States policy toward Native Americans had continued to
evolve after the American Revolution. George Washington
and Henry Knox
believed that Native Americans were
equals but that their society was inferior. Washington formulated a
policy to encourage the "civilizing" process.
Washington had a six-point plan for civilization which included,
1. impartial justice toward Native Americans
2. regulated buying of Native American lands
3. promotion of commerce
4. promotion of experiments to civilize or improve Native American
5. presidential authority to give presents
6. punishing those who violated Native American rights.
Robert Remini, a historian, wrote that "once the Indians adopted
the practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated
their children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans
would win acceptance from white Americans."
The United States appointed agents, like Benjamin Hawkins, to live among the Native Americans and to teach them how to live like whites.
Portrait of Native Americans from the
Cherokee, Cheyenne, Choctaw, Comanche, Iroquois, and Muscogee
tribes in American attire.
Photos date from 1868 to 1924.
In the late eighteenth century, reformers starting with Washington
and Knox, supported educating native children, in efforts to
" or otherwise assimilate
Native Americans to the larger society (as opposed to relegating
them to reservations
The Civilization Fund Act
1819 promoted this civilization policy by providing funding to
societies (mostly religious) who worked on Native American
After the American Civil War and Indian wars in the late 19th
American boarding schools
were established, which were often
run primarily by or affiliated with Christian missionaries. At this
time American society thought that Native American children needed
to be acculturated to the general society. The boarding school
experience often proved traumatic to Native American children, who
were forbidden to speak their
, taught Christianity
and denied the right to practice
their native religions, and in numerous other ways forced to
abandon their Native American identities and adopt
European-American culture. There were documented cases of sexual,
physical and mental abuse occurring at these schools.
Native Americans as American citizens
In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B.
expressed that since Native
Americans were "free and independent people" that they could become
Taney asserted that Native Americans could be naturalized and join
the "political community" of the United States.
The Indian Citizenship
Act of 1924
granted U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans.
Prior to the passage of the act, nearly two-thirds of Native
Americans were already U.S. citizens.
The earliest recorded date of Native Americans' becoming U.S.
citizens was in 1831 when the Mississippi Choctaw
became citizens after the United States
Legislature ratified the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit
. Under article XIV of that treaty, any Choctaw who
elected not to move with the Choctaw Nation could become an
American citizen when he registered and if he stayed on designated
lands for five years after treaty ratification.
Through the years, Native Americans became US citizens by:
1. Treaty provision (as with the Mississippi
2. Registration and land allotment under the Dawes Act of February 8, 1887
3. Issuance of Patent in Fee Simple
4. Adopting Habits of Civilized Life
5. Minor Children
6. Citizenship by Birth
7. Becoming Soldiers and Sailors in the U.S. Armed Forces
8. Marriage to a US citizen
9. Special Act of Congress.
American expansion justification
In July 1845, the New York newspaper editor John L. O’Sullivan
coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny,” to explain how the "design of
Providence" supported the territorial expansion of the United
States. Manifest Destiny
serious consequences for Native Americans since continental
expansion implicitly meant the occupation of Native American land.
Manifest Destiny was an explanation or justification for expansion
and westward movement, or, in some interpretations, an ideology or
doctrine which helped to promote the process of civilization.
Advocates of Manifest Destiny believed that expansion was not only
good, but that it was obvious and certain. The term was first
used primarily by Jacksonian
Democrats in the 1840s to promote the annexation of much of
what is now the Western United
States (the Oregon
Territory, the Texas
Annexation, and the Mexican
The age of Manifest Destiny, which came to be known as "Indian Removal
", gained ground. Although some
humanitarian advocates of removal believed that Native Americans
would be better off moving away from whites, an increasing number
of Americans regarded the natives as nothing more than "savages"
who stood in the way of American expansion. Thomas Jefferson
believed that while Native
Americans were the intellectual equals of whites, they had to live
like the whites or inevitably be pushed aside by them. Jefferson's
belief, rooted in Enlightenment
thinking, that whites and Native Americans would merge to create a
single nation did not last, and he began to believe that the
natives should emigrate across the Mississippi River
and maintain a separate
Indian Appropriations Act of 1871
In 1871 Congress added a rider to the Indian Appropriations Act
ending United States recognition of additional Native American
tribes or independent nations, and prohibiting additional
U.S. government authorities entered into numerous treaties during
this period but later violated many for various reasons. Other
treaties were considered "living" documents whose terms could be
altered. Major conflicts east of the Mississippi
River include the Pequot War, Creek War, and Seminole Wars.
Notably, a multi-tribal army led by
, a Shawnee chief, fought a number
of engagements during the period 1811-12, known as Tecumseh's War
. In the latter stages,
Tecumseh's group allied with the British forces in the War of 1812 and was instrumental in the conquest
of Detroit. St. Clair's Defeat (1791) was the worst U.S.
Army defeat by
Native Americans in U.S. history.
Native American Nations west of the Mississippi were numerous and
were the last to submit to U.S. authority. Conflicts generally
known as "Indian Wars
" broke out between
American government and Native American societies. The Battle of
Little Bighorn (1876) was one of the greatest Native American
victories. Defeats included the Creek War of 1813-14, the Sioux Uprising of 1862, the Sand Creek
Massacre (1864) and Wounded
Knee in 1890.
These conflicts were catalysts to the
decline of dominant Native American culture. By 1872, the U.S. Army
policy to exterminate all Native Americans unless or until they
agreed to surrender and live on reservation
"where they could be taught
Christianity and agriculture."
Removals and reservations
In the nineteenth century, the incessant westward expansion of the United States
incrementally compelled large numbers of Native Americans to
resettle further west, often by force, almost always reluctantly.
Native Americans believed this forced relocation illegal, given the
Hopewell Treaty of 1785
President Andrew Jackson
, United States Congress
Indian Removal Act
of 1830, which
authorized the President to conduct treaties to exchange Native
American land east of the Mississippi
for lands west of the river. As many as 100,000 Native
Americans relocated to the West as a result of this Indian Removal
policy. In theory, relocation
was supposed to be voluntary and many Native Americans did remain
in the East. In practice, great pressure was put on Native American
leaders to sign removal treaties.
The most egregious violation of the stated intention of the removal
policy took place under the Treaty
of New Echota
, which was signed by a dissident faction of
but not the elected leadership.
President Jackson rigidly enforced the treaty, which resulted in
the deaths of an estimated 4,000 Cherokees on the Trail of Tears
. About 17,000 Cherokees, along
with approximately 2,000 enslaved blacks held by Cherokees, were
removed from their homes.
American Removal forced or coerced the relocation of major Native
American groups in the Eastern United States, resulting directly and indirectly in the deaths of
tens of thousands.
Tribes were generally located to
reservations where they could more easily be separated from
traditional life and pushed into European-American society. Some
southern states additionally enacted laws in the 19th century
forbidding non-Native American settlement on Native American lands,
with the intention to prevent sympathetic white missionaries from
aiding the scattered Native American resistance.
Native American Slavery
Traditions of Native American Slavery
The majority of Native American tribes did practice some form of
slavery before the European introduction of African slavery into
North America; but none exploited slave labor on a large scale. In
addition, Native Americans did not buy and sell captives in the
pre-colonial era, although they sometimes exchanged enslaved
individuals with other tribes in peace gestures or in exchange for
their own members. In fact, the word "slave" may not even
accurately apply to these captive people.
The situation of enslaved Native Americans varied among the tribes.
In many cases, enslaved captives were adopted into the tribes to
replace warriors killed during a raid. Other tribes practiced debt
slavery or imposed slavery on tribal members who had committed
crimes; but this status was only temporary as the enslaved worked
off their obligations to the tribal society.
Among some Pacific Northwest
tribes, about a quarter of the population were slaves. Other
slave-owning tribes of North America were, for example, Comanche
of Texas, Creek
of Georgia, the Pawnee
, and Klamath
When Europeans arrived as colonists
North America, Native Americans changed their practice of slavery
dramatically. They found that British settlers, especially those in
the southern colonies, purchased or captured Native Americans to
use as forced labor in cultivating tobacco, rice, and indigo.
Native Americans began selling war captives to whites rather than
integrating them into their own societies. As the demand for
labor in the West
Indies grew with the cultivation of sugar cane, Europeans enslaved Native Americans
for export to the "sugar islands."
Accurate records of the
numbers enslaved do not exist. Scholars estimate tens of thousands
of Native Americans may have been enslaved by the Europeans.
The slave trade of Native Americans lasted only until around 1730,
and it gave rise to a series of devastating wars among the tribes.
The Indian wars of the early 18th century, combined with the
increasing importation of African slaves, effectively ended the
Native American slave trade by 1750. Colonists found it too easy
for Native American slaves to escape, and the wars took the lives
of numerous colonial slave traders. The remaining Native American
groups banned together to face the Europeans from a position of
strength. Many surviving Native American peoples of the southeast
joined confederacies such as the Choctaw
, and the Catawba
Native American women were at risk for rape whether they were
enslaved or not, as in many southern communities, there were a
disproportionate number of men in the early colonial years. Both
Native American and African enslaved women suffered rape and sexual
harassment by slaveholders.
Native American adoption of African slavery
Native Americans resisted Anglo-American encroachment on their
lands and maintained cultural ways. Native Americans interacted
with enslaved Africans and African Americans on many levels. Over
time all the cultures interracted. Native Americans began to slowly
absorb white culture Native Americans shared some experiences with
Africans, especially during the period when both were
The five civilized tribes tried to gain power by owning slaves, as
they assimilated some other European-American ways. Among the
slave-owning families of the Cherokee
percent claimed some white ancestry. The nature of the interactions
among the peoples depended upon the historical character of the
Native American groups, the enslaved people, and the European
slaveholders. Native Americans often assisted runaway slaves.
However, they also sold Africans to whites, trading them like so
many blankets or horses.
While Native Americans might treat enslaved people as brutally as
Europeans did, most Native American masters rejected the worst
features of southern white bondage (Chattel Slavery
). Though less than 3% of
Native Americans owned slaves, bondage created destructive
cleavages among Native Americans. It added to a class hierarchy
that seemed related to European ancestry, but was based on the
transfer of social capital as a result of such heritage. Proposals
for Indian Removal
tensions of cultural changes due to the increase in the number of
Native Americans. Full bloods
sometimes tried harder to maintain traditional ways, including
control of land. The more traditional members who did not hold
slaves often resented the sale of lands to Anglo-Americans.
King Philip's War
King Philip's War
Metacom's War or Metacom's Rebellion, was an armed conflict between
Native American inhabitants of present-day southern New England and
English colonists and their Native American allies from 1675–1676.
It continued in northern New England (primarily on the Maine
frontier) even after King Philip was killed, until a treaty was
signed at Casco Bay in April 1678. According to a combined estimate of loss
of life in Schultz and Tougias' "King Philip's War, The History and
Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict" (based on sources from the
Department of Defense, the Bureau of Census, and the work of
Colonial historian Francis Jennings), 800 out of 52,000 English
colonists of New
England (1 out of every 65) and 3,000 out of 20,000 natives
(3 out of every 20) lost their lives due to the war, which makes it
proportionately one of the bloodiest and costliest in the history
More than half of New England's ninety towns
were assaulted by Native American warriors. One in ten soldiers on
both sides were wounded or killed.
The war is named after the main leader of the Native American side,
Metacomet, Metacom, or Pometacom, known to the English as "King
Philip." He was the last Massasoit (Great Leader) of the Pokanoket
Tribe/Pokanoket Federation & Wampanoag Nation. Upon their loss
to the Colonists and the attempted genocide of the Pokanoket Tribe
and Royal Line, many managed to flee to the North to continue their
fight against the British (Massachusettes Bay Colony) by joining
with the Abanaki Tribes and Wabanaki Federation.
Many Native Americans served in the military during the Civil War
., the vast majority of whom
siding with the confederates. By fighting with the
European-Americans, Native Americans hoped to gain favor with the
prevailing government by supporting the war effort. They also
believed war service might mean an end to discrimination and
relocation from ancestral lands to western territories. While the
war raged and African Americans were proclaimed free, the U.S.
government continued its policies of assimilation, submission,
removal, or extermination of Native Americans.
General Ely S. Parker
, a member of the Seneca tribe
, created the articles of
surrender which General Robert E.
Lee signed at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Gen. Parker, who served as
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's military secretary and was a trained
attorney, was once rejected for Union military service because of
his race. At Appomattox, Lee is said to have remarked to Parker, "I
am glad to see one real American here," to which Parker replied,
"We are all Americans."
The Spanish–American War was an armed military conflict between
Spain and the United States that took place between April and
August 1898, over the issues of the liberation of Cuba, Philippines
and Puerto Rico. Theodore
actively encouraged intervention in Cuba. Roosevelt
worked with Leonard Wood
the Army to raise an all-volunteer regiment, the 1st U.S. Volunteer
Cavalry. The "Rough Riders" was the name bestowed on the 1st United
States Volunteer Cavalry and the only regiment to see action.
Recruiters gathered a diverse bunch of men consisting of cowboys,
gold or mining prospectors, hunters, gamblers, and Native
Americans. There were sixty Native Americans who served as "Rough
World War II
Some 44,000 Native Americans served in the United States military
World War II
. Described as the first
large-scale exodus of indigenous peoples from the reservations
since the removals of the
1800s, the international conflict was a turning point in Native
American history. Men of native descent were drafted
into the military
like other American males. Their fellow soldiers often held them in
high esteem, in part since the legend of the tough Native American
warrior had become a part of the fabric of American historical
legend. White servicemen sometimes showed a lighthearted respect
toward Native American comrades by calling them "chief."
The resulting increase in contact with the world outside of the
reservation system brought profound changes to Native American
culture. "The war," said the U.S. Indian commissioner in 1945,
"caused the greatest disruption of Native life since the beginning
of the reservation era", affecting the habits, views, and economic
well-being of tribal members. The most significant of these changes
was the opportunity—as a result of wartime labor shortages—to find
well-paying work. Yet there were losses to contend with as well.
Altogether, 1,200 Pueblo people
served in World War II; only about half came home alive. In
addition many more Navajo
code talkers for the military in the Pacific. The code they made
was never cracked by the Japanese.
Native Americans today
Portrait of Native Americans from
various bands, tribes, and nations from across "Indian
In 1975 the Indian
Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act
marking the culmination of 15 years of policy changes. Related to
Indian activism, the Civil Rights Movement and community
development aspects of social programs of the 1960s, the Act
recognized the need of Native Americans for self-determination. It
marked the U.S. government's turn away from the policy of
termination; the U.S. government encouraged Native Americans'
efforts at self government and determining their futures.
There are 562 federally recognized
in the United States. These tribes possess
the right to form their own government, to enforce laws (both civil
and criminal), to tax, to establish requirements for membership, to
license and regulate activities, to zone and to exclude persons
from tribal territories. Limitations on tribal powers of
self-government include the same limitations applicable to states;
for example, neither tribes nor states have the power to make war,
engage in foreign relations, or coin money (this includes paper
Many Native Americans and advocates of Native American rights point
out that the US Federal government's claim to recognize the
"sovereignty" of Native American peoples falls short, given that
the US still wishes to govern Native American peoples and treat
them as subject to US law. True respect for Native American
sovereignty, according to such advocates, would require the United
States federal government to deal with Native American peoples in
the same manner as any other sovereign nation, handling matters
related to relations with Native Americans through the Secretary of
State, rather than the Bureau
of Indian Affairs
. The Bureau of Indian Affairs reports on its
website that its "responsibility is the administration and
management of of land held in trust by the United States for
American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives." Many Native
Americans and advocates of Native American rights believe that it
is condescending for such lands to be considered "held in trust"
and regulated in any fashion by a foreign power, whether the US
Federal Government, Canada, or any other non-Native American
to 2003 United States Census
Bureau estimates, a little over one third of the 2,786,652
Native Americans in the United States live in three states:
California at 413,382, Arizona at 294,137 and Oklahoma at 279,559.
As of 2000, the largest tribes in the U.S. by population were
, and Pueblo
2000, eight of ten Americans with Native American ancestry were of
mixed blood. It is estimated that by 2100 that figure will rise to
nine out of ten.In addition, there are a number of tribes that are
by individual states
, but not by the federal government. The
rights and benefits associated with state recognition vary from
state to state.
Some tribal nations have been unable to establish their heritage
and obtain federal recognition. The Muwekma
of the San Francisco bay area are pursuing litigation in
the federal court system to establish recognition. Many of the
smaller eastern tribes have been trying to gain official
recognition of their tribal status. The recognition confers some
benefits, including the right to label arts and crafts as Native
American and permission to apply for grants that are specifically
reserved for Native Americans. But gaining recognition as a tribe
is extremely difficult; to be established as a tribal group,
members have to submit extensive genealogical
proof of tribal descent.
Native American struggles amid poverty to maintain life on the
reservation or in larger society have resulted in a variety of
health issues, some related to nutrition and health practices. The
community suffers a disproportionately high rate of alcoholism
.. In addition, some studies have found
high rates of heart disease
, mental illness
suicide. Agencies working with Native American communities are
trying better to respect their traditions and integrate benefits of
Western medicine within their own cultural practices.
2000 the Washington
state Republican Party adopted a
resolution recommending that the federal and legislative branches
of the U.S. government terminate
tribal governments .
This Census Bureau map depicts the
locations of Native Americans in the United States as of
In 2007 a group of Democratic Party
congressmen and congresswomen introduced a bill in the U.S. House of
to "terminate" the Cherokee Nation
. As of 2004, various Native
Americans are wary of attempts by others to gain control of their
reservation lands for natural resources, such as coal
state of Virginia, Native Americans face a unique problem.
Virginia has no federally recognized tribes. Some analysts
attribute this to work by Walter
, who as registrar of the state's Bureau of Vital
Statistics vigorously applied his own interpretation of the
. He served from
1912-1946. In 1920 the state's General Assembly passed a law
recognizing only two races: "white" and "colored". Plecker believed
that the state's Native Americans had been "mongrelized" by
intermarriage with African
and, further, that some people with partial black
heritage were trying to pass as Native Americans. To Plecker,
anyone with any African heritage had to be classified as colored,
regardless of appearance and cultural identification. Plecker
pressured local governments into reclassifying all Native Americans
in the state as "colored", and gave them lists of family surnames
to examine for reclassification based on his interpretation of data
and the law. This led to the state's destruction of accurate
records related to Native American communities and families.
Sometimes different members of the same family were split by
classification as "white" or "colored". There was no place for
primary identification as Native American. However, in 2009, the
Senate Indian Affairs Committee endorsed a bill that would grant
federal recognition to tribes in Virginia.
To achieve federal recognition and its benefits, tribes must prove
their continuous existence since 1900. The federal government has
maintained this requirement, in part because through participation
on councils and committees, federally recognized tribes have been
adamant about groups' satisfying the same requirements as they
In the early 21st century, Native American communities remain an
enduring fixture on the United States landscape, in the American
economy, and in the lives of Native Americans. Communities have
consistently formed governments that administer services like
, natural resource
management, and law enforcement
. Most Native American
communities have established court
adjudicate matters related to local ordinances, and most also look
to various forms of moral and social authority vested in
traditional affiliations within the community. To address the
housing needs of Native Americans, Congress passed the Native
American Housing and Self Determination Act
(NAHASDA) in 1996.
This legislation replaced public housing, and other 1937 Housing
Act programs directed towards Indian Housing Authorities, with a
block grant program directed towards Tribes.
Societal discrimination, racism and conflicts
Perhaps because the most well-known Native Americans live on
reservations relatively isolated from major population centers,
universities have conducted relatively little public opinion
research on attitudes toward them among the general public. In 2007
the non-partisan Public Agenda organization conducted a focus group
study. Most non-Native Americans admitted they rarely encountered
Native Americans in their daily lives. While sympathetic toward
Native Americans and expressing regret over the past, most people
had only a vague understanding of the problems facing Native
Americans today. For their part, Native Americans told researchers
that they believed they continued to face prejudice and
mistreatment in the broader society.
Conflicts between the federal government and Native Americans
occasionally erupt into violence. Perhaps the more notable late 20th
century event was the Wounded Knee
incident in small town South Dakota. During the period of expanding civil rights
protests, activist members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) had
taken control of Wounded Knee.
They were protesting issues related to
Native American rights and the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation
. On February
27, 1973, federal law enforcement officials and the United States
military surrounded the town. In the ensuing confrontation, two
members of AIM were killed and one United States Marshal
was wounded and
paralyzed. Leonard Peltier
, an AIM
activist and leader of the event, was arrested and charged, and at
trial convicted of causing the uprising that resulted in the attack
on the US marshal. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Senator Sam Brownback (Republican of Kansas) introduced
a joint resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 37) to “offer an
apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States” for
past “ill-conceived policies” by the United States Government
regarding Indian Tribes.
The United States Senate
has yet to take
action on the measure.
In 2007, AIM activist John Graham
extradited from Canada to the US to stand trial for killing N.S.
Mimaq in 1975. The Native American woman activist was killed years
after the Wounded Knee standoff, allegedly for having been an FBI
informant at the time.
Native American mascots in sports
of Native American mascots in sports has become a contentious issue
in the United
States and Canada.
Americans have had a history of "playing Indian" that dates back to
at least the 1700s. Many individuals admire the heroism and
romanticism evoked by the classic Native American warrior image,
but numerous Native Americans think use of items associated with
them as mascots
is both offensive and
demeaning. While many universities (for example, North Dakota Fighting Sioux
University of North
) and professional sports teams (for example, Chief Wahoo
of Cleveland Indians
) no longer use such
images without consultation with Native American nations, some
lower level schools and sports teams continue to do so.
In August 2005, the National Collegiate
(NCAA) banned the use of "hostile and
abusive" Native American mascots in postseason tournaments.
exception was made to allow the use of tribal names as long as
approved by that tribe (such as the Seminole Tribe of Florida's
approving use of their name for the team of Florida
State University.) The use of Native American-themed team names in
U.S. professional sports is widespread.
Examples are mascot
and teams such as the
and Washington Redskins
controversial by some.
Depictions by Europeans and Americans
Native Americans have been depicted by American artists
in various ways at
different historical periods. During the sixteenth century
, the artist John White
made watercolors and
engravings of the people native to the southeastern states. John
White’s images were, for the most part, faithful likenesses of the
people he observed.
Later the artist Theodore de Bry
used White’s original watercolors to make a book of engravings
entitled, A briefe and true report of the new found land of
In his book, de Bry often altered the poses and
features of White’s figures to make them appear more European.
During the period when White and de Bry were working, when
Europeans were first coming into contact with native Americans,
Europeans were greatly interested in in native American cultures.
Their curiosity created demand for a book like de Bry’s.
centuries later, during the construction of the Capitol
building in the early nineteenth century, the U.S. government commissioned a series of
four relief panels to crown the doorway of the Rotunda.
The reliefs encapsulate a vision of
European—Native American relations that had assumed mythic
historical proportions by the nineteenth century. The four panels
depict: The Preservation of Captain Smith by Pocahontas
(1825) by Antonio Capellano, The Landing of the Pilgrims
(1825) and The Conflict of Daniel Boone and the Indians
(1826–27) by Enrico Causici, and William Penn’s Treaty with the
(1827) by Nicholas Gevelot. The reliefs present
idealized versions of the Europeans and the native Americans, in
which the Europeans appear refined and the natives appear
ferocious. The Whig representative of Virginia, Henry A.
, voiced a particularly astute
summary of how Native Americans would read the messages contained
in all four reliefs: “We give you corn, you cheat us of our lands:
we save your life, you take ours.” While many nineteenth-century
images of native Americans conveyed similarly negative messages,
artists such as Charles Bird King
sought to express a more balanced image of Native Americans.
During this time there were writers of fiction who were informed
about Native American culture and wrote about it with sympathy. One
such writer was Marah Ellis
In the 20th century, early portrayals of Native Americans in
roles were first depicted by
European-Americans dressed in mock traditional attire. Examples
included The Last of the Mohicans
(1920), Hawkeye and
the Last of the Mohicans
(1957), and F
(1965-67). In later decades, Native American actors
such as Jay Silverheels
television series (1949-57) came to prominence.
Roles of Native Americans were limited and not reflective of Native
American culture. In the 1970s some Native Americans roles were
improved in movies: Little Big
(1970), Billy Jack
(1971), and The Outlaw Josey
(1976) depicted Native Americans in minor supporting
In addition to overtly negative depictions, Native people on US
television have also been relegated to secondary, subordinate
roles. During the years of the series Bonanza
(1959-1973), no major or secondary
Native characters appeared on a consistent basis. The series
The Lone Ranger
and Law of the
(1959-1963) had Native characters who were
essentially aides to the central White characters. This
characterization was also a feature of later television pilots and
shows such as How
the West Was Won
. These programs resembled the
“sympathetic” yet contradictory film Dances With Wolves
of 1990, in
which, according to Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, the narrative
choice was to relate the Lakotas story as told through a
Euro-American voice, for wide impact among a general
During the 1990s, several major films were released in which Native
Americans were portrayed with historical accuracy and a sense of
cultural continuity: Dances with
(1990), The Last of the
(1992), and Geronimo: An American
(1993). All employed Native American actors, and
had accurate portrayals of culture and languages.
In 2004, Co-Producer Guy Perrotta presented the film Mystic Voices: The
Story of the Pequot War
(2004), a television documentary
on the first major war between colonists and Native peoples in the
Americas. Perrotta and Charles Clemmons intended to increase public
understanding of the significance of this early event. They
believed it had significance not only for northeastern Native
Peoples and descendants of English and Dutch colonists, but for all
Americans today. The producers wanted to make the documentary as
historically accurate and as unbiased as possible. They invited a
broadly based Advisory Board, and used scholars, Native Americans,
and descendants of the colonists to help tell the story. They
elicited personal and often passionate viewpoints from contemporary
Americans. The production portrayed the conflict as a struggle
between different value systems that included not only the Pequots,
but a number of Native American tribes, most of which allied with
the English. It not only presents facts, but also seeks to help the
viewer better understand the people who fought the War.
In 2009, We Shall
(2009), a television documentary by Ric Burns
and part of the American Experience
series, presented a
five-episode series from a Native American perspective: it
represented "an unprecedented collaboration between Native and
non-Native filmmakers and involves Native advisors and scholars at
all levels of the project." The five episodes explore the impact of
King Philip's War
northeastern tribes, the "Native American confederacy" involved in
, the forced relocation
known as Trail of Tears
, the pursuit
and capture of Geronimo
and the Apache Wars
, and concludes with the American Indian Movement
involvement at the Wounded Knee
and the resurgence in modern Native cultures
Common usage in the United States
Native Americans are also commonly known as Indians or American
Indians, and have been known as Aboriginal Americans, Amerindians,
Amerinds, Colored, First Americans, Native Indians, Indigenous,
Original Americans, Red Indians, Redskins or Red Men.The term Native
American was originally introduced in the United States in preference to the older term Indian to
distinguish the indigenous peoples of the
Americas from the people of India, and to avoid negative
stereotypes associated with Indian.
Because of the
widespread acceptance of this newer term in academic circles, some
academics believe that Indians
should be considered as
outdated or offensive. People from India (and their descendants)
who are citizens of the United States are known as Indian Americans
Criticism of the neologism Native
, however, comes from diverse sources. Many American
Indians have misgivings about the term Native American
, an American Indian
activist, opposes the term Native American
believes it was imposed by the government without the consent of
American Indians. He has also argued that this use of the word
Indian derives not from a confusion with India but from a
Spanish expression En Dio,
meaning "in God".
Furthermore, some American Indians
question the term Native American
because, they argue, it
serves to ease the conscience of "white America" with regard to
past injustices done to American Indians by effectively eliminating
"Indians" from the present. Still others (both Indians and
non-Indians) argue that Native American
because "native of" literally means "born in," so any person born
in the Americas could be considered "native". However, very often
the compound "Native American" will be capitalized
in order to differentiate this
intended meaning from others. Likewise, "native" (small 'n') can be
further qualified by formulations such as "native-born" when the
intended meaning is only to indicate place of birth or
A 1995 US Census Bureau survey found that more Native Americans in
the United States preferred American Indian
. Nonetheless, most American Indians are comfortable
, American Indian
, and Native
, and the terms are often used interchangeably.
traditional term is reflected in the name chosen for the National
Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 2004 on the Mall in Washington,
Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau has introduced the "Asian-Indian"
category to avoid ambiguity.
has become a leading industry.
operated by many Native American
governments in the United States are creating a stream of gambling
revenue that some communities are beginning to use as leverage to
build diversified economies. Native American communities have waged
and prevailed in legal battles to assure recognition of rights to
self-determination and to use of natural resources. Some of those
rights, known as treaty rights, are enumerated in early treaties
signed with the young United States government. Tribal sovereignty
has become a cornerstone of American jurisprudence
, and at least on the surface, in
national legislative policies. Although many Native American tribes
have casinos, the Impact of Native American
is widely debated. Some tribes, such as the Winnemem Wintu of Redding,
California, feel that casinos and their proceeds destroy
culture from the inside out.
These tribes refuse to
participate in the gambling industry.
Society, language, and culture
Far from forming a single ethnic group, Native Americans were
divided into several hundred ethno-linguistic groups, most of them
grouped into the Na-Dené
many smaller groups and several language isolates
. Demonstrating genetic
relationships has proved difficult due to the great linguistic
diversity present in North America.
The indigenous peoples of North America can be classified as
belonging to a number of large cultural areas:
Early Indian languages in the US
Of the surviving languages, Uto-Aztecan has the most speakers (1.95
million) if the languages in Mexico are considered (mostly due to
1.5 million speakers of Nahuatl
comes in second with approximately 180,200 speakers (148,500 of
these are speakers of Navajo
and Algic have the widest geographic distributions: Algic currently
spans from northeastern Canada across much of the continent down to
northeastern Mexico (due to later migrations of the Kickapoo) with two outliers in California (Yurok and Wiyot); Na-Dené spans from Alaska and western
Washington, Oregon, and
California to the U.S. Southwest
and northern Mexico
(with one outlier in the Plains).Another area of considerable
diversity appears to have been the Southeast
; however, many of these
languages became extinct from European contact and as a result they
are, for the most part, absent from the historical record.
Though cultural features, language, clothing, and customs vary
enormously from one tribe to another, there are certain elements
which are encountered frequently and shared by many tribes.Early
tribes made stone
weapons from around 10,000 years ago; as the age of metallurgy
dawned, newer technologies were used
and more efficient weapons produced. Prior to contact with
Europeans, most tribes used similar weaponry. The most common
implements were the bow and arrow, the war club, and the spear.
Quality, material, and design varied widely. Native American use of fire
helped provide insects for food
and altered the landscape of
to help the human population flourish.
Large mammals like mammoths
were largely extinct by around 8,000 B.C.
Native Americans switched to hunting other large game, such as
. The Great Plains tribes were
still hunting the bison when they first encountered the Europeans.
The Spanish reintroduction of the horse to North America in the
17th century and Native Americans' learning to use them greatly
altered the natives' culture, including changing the way in which
they hunted large game. (Evidence of pre-historic horses prior to
the arrival of the Spanish has been found in the La Brea Tar
Pits in Los Angeles, CA.) In addition, horses became such a valuable,
central element of Native lives that they were counted as a measure
Early European American scholars described the Native Americans as
having a society dominated by clans
(in the Roman model) before tribes were
formed. There were some common characteristics:
- The right to elect its sachem and
- The right to depose its sachem and chiefs.
- The obligation not to marry in the gens.
- Mutual rights of inheritance of the property of deceased
- Reciprocal obligations of help, defense, and redress of
- The right to bestow names on its members.
- The right to adopt strangers into the gens.
- Common religious rights, query.
- A common burial place.
- A council of the gens.
Subdivision and differentiation took place between various groups.
Upwards of forty stock languages developed in North America, with
each independent tribe speaking a dialect of one of those
languages. Some functions and attributes of tribes are:
- The possession of the gentes.
- The right to depose these sachems and chiefs.
- The possession of a religious faith and worship.
- A supreme government consisting of a council of chiefs.
- A head-chief of the tribe in some instances.
Society and art
Iroquois, living around the Great Lakes and extending east and north, used strings or belts
called wampum that served a dual
function: the knots and beaded designs mnemonically chronicled
tribal stories and legends, and further served as a medium of
exchange and a unit of measure.
The keepers of the articles
were seen as tribal dignitaries.
items associated with their religious ceremonies. Kachina
dancers wore elaborately painted and
decorated masks as they ritually impersonated various ancestral
spirits. Sculpture was not highly developed, but carved stone and
wood fetishes were made for religious use. Superior weaving,
embroidered decorations, and rich dyes characterized the textile
arts. Both turquoise and shell jewelry were created, as were
high-quality pottery and formalized pictorial arts.
spirituality focused on the
maintenance of a harmonious relationship with the spirit world,
often achieved by ceremonial acts, usually incorporating sandpainting
. The colors—made from sand,
charcoal, cornmeal, and pollen—depicted specific spirits. These
vivid, intricate, and colorful sand creations were erased at the
end of the ceremony.
Chippewa baby waits on a cradleboard
while parents tend rice crops (Minnesota, 1940).
Native American agriculture
about 7,000 years ago in the area of present-day Illinois. The
first crop the Native Americans grew was squash
. This was the first of several crops
the Native Americans learned to domesticate. Others included
, and sump
Agriculture in the southwest started around 4,000 years ago when
traders brought cultigens from Mexico. Due to the varying climate,
some ingenuity was needed for agriculture to be successful. The
climate in the southwest ranged from cool, moist mountains regions,
to dry, sandy soil in the desert. Some innovations of the time
to bring water into
the dry regions and the selection of seed based on the traits of
the growing plants that bore them. In the southwest, they grew
beans that were self-supported, much like the way they are grown
In the east, however, they were planted right by corn in order for
the vines to be able to "climb" the cornstalks. The most important
crop the Native Americans raised was maize
was first started in Mesoamerica
spread north. About 2,000 years ago it reached eastern America.
This crop was important to the Native Americans because it was part
of their everyday diet; it could be stored in underground pits
during the winter, and no part of it was wasted. The husk was made
into art crafts, and the cob was used as fuel for fires. By 800
A.D. the Native Americans had established three main crops —
beans, squash, and corn — called the three sisters
The agriculture gender roles of the Native Americans varied from
region to region. In the southwest area, men prepared the soil with
. The women were in charge of
planting, weeding, and harvesting the crops. In most other regions,
the women were in charge of doing everything, including clearing
the land. Clearing the land was an immense chore since the Native
Americans rotated fields frequently. There is a tradition that
showed the Pilgrims in New England
how to put fish in fields to act like a fertilizer, but the truth
of this story is debated. Native Americans did plant beans next to
corn; the beans would replace the nitrogen
which the corn took from the ground, as well as using corn stalks
for support for climbing. Native Americans used controlled fires to
burn weeds and clear fields; this would put nutrients back into the
ground. If this did not work, they would simply abandon the field
to let it be fallow, and find a new spot for cultivation.
Europeans in the eastern part of the continent observed that
Natives cleared large areas for cropland. Their fields in New
England sometimes covered hundreds of acres. Colonists in Virginia
noted thousands of acres under cultivation by Native
Native Americans commonly used tools such as the hoe
, and dibber
. The hoe was the main tool used to till the
land and prepare it for planting; then it was used for weeding. The
first versions were made out of wood and stone. When the settlers
brought iron, Native Americans switched to iron hoes and hatchets.
The dibber was a digging stick, used to plant the seed. Once the
plants were harvested, women prepared the produce for eating. They
used the maul to grind the corn into mash. It was cooked and eaten
that way or baked as corn bread.
No particular religion or religious tradition is hegemonic among
Native Americans in the United States. Most self-identifying and
federally recognized Native Americans claim adherence to some form
of Christianity, some of these being cultural and religious
syntheses unique to the particular tribe such as the various forms
of the Native American
. Traditional Native American ceremonies are still
practiced by many tribes and bands, and the older theological
belief systems are still held by many of the "traditional" people.
adherence to another faith, or can represent a person's primary
religious identity. While much Native American spiritualism exists
in a tribal-cultural continuum, and as such cannot be easily
separated from tribal identity itself, certain other more
clearly-defined movements have arisen among "traditional" Native
American practitioners, these being identifiable as "religions" in
the clinical sense. Traditional practices of some tribes include
the use of sacred herbs such tobacco, sweetgrass
. Many Plains tribes have sweatlodge
ceremonies, though the specifics of
the ceremony vary among tribes. Fasting, singing and prayer in the
ancient languages of their people, and sometimes drumming
are also common.
The Midewiwin Lodge
is a traditional
medicine society inspired by the oral traditions and prophesies of
(Chippewa) and related
Another significant religious body among Native peoples is known as
the Native American Church
It is a syncretistic
elements of Native spiritual practice from a number of different
tribes as well as symbolic elements from Christianity
. Its main rite is the peyote
ceremony. Prior to 1890, traditional religious
beliefs included Wakan Tanka
American Southwest, especially New Mexico, a syncretism between the Catholicism brought by Spanish
missionaries and the native religion is common; the religious
drums, chants, and dances of the Pueblo
people are regularly part of Masses at Santa Fe's Saint Francis Cathedral.
Native American-Catholic syncretism is
also found elsewhere in the United States. (e.g., the National
Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in
York and the National Shrine of
the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York).
Native Americans are the only known ethnic
group in the United States requiring a federal permit to practice
. The eagle feather law
(Title 50 Part 22 of the
Code of Federal Regulations) stipulates that only individuals of
certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally
recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain eagle
feathers for religious
or spiritual use. Native Americans and non-Native Americans
frequently contest the value and validity of the eagle feather law,
charging that the law is laden with discriminatory racial
preferences and infringes on tribal sovereignty. The law does not
allow Native Americans to give eagle
to non-Native Americans.
Most Native American tribes had traditional gender roles
. In some tribes, such as the
nation, social and clan
relationships were matrilineal
, although several different systems
were in use. One
example is the Cherokee custom of wives owning the family property.
Men hunted, traded and made war, while women gathered plants, cared
for the young and the elderly, fashioned clothing and instruments
and cured meat. The cradleboard
by mothers to carry their baby while working or traveling. However,
in some (but not all) tribes a kind of transgender
was permitted; see Two-Spirit
At least several dozen tribes allowed polygyny
to sisters, with procedural and economic
Apart from making home, women had many tasks that were essential
for the survival of the tribes. They made weapons and tools, took
care of the roofs of their homes and often helped their men hunt
.In some of the Plains Indian
tribes there reportedly were medicine women who gathered herbs and
cured the ill.
In some of these tribes such as the Sioux
girls were also encouraged to learn to ride, hunt and fight. Though
fighting was mostly left to the boys and men, there had been cases
of women fighting alongside them, especially when the existence of
the tribe was threatened.
Native American leisure time led to competitive individual and team
sports. Early accounts include team games played between tribes
with hundreds of players on the field at once .. Jim Thorpe
, Jacoby Ellsbury
are well known professional
Native American ball sports, sometimes referred to as lacrosse
, stickball, or baggataway, was often used
to settle disputes rather than going to war which was a civil way
to settle potential conflict. The Choctaw
called it ISITOBOLI ("Little Brother of War");
DEHUNTSHIGWA'ES ("men hit a rounded object"). There are three basic
versions classifed as Great Lakes, Iroquoian, and Southern.
The game is played with one or two rackets/sticks and one ball. The
object of the game is to land the ball on the opposing team's goal
(either a single post or net) to score and prevent the opposing
team from scoring on your goal. The game involves as few as twenty
or as many as 300 players with no height or weight restrictions and
no protective gear. The goals could be from a few hundred feet
apart to a few miles; in Lacrosse the field is 110 yards. A Jesuit
priest referenced stickball in 1729, and George Catlin painted the
Chunke was a game that consisted of a stone shaped disk that was
about 1–2 inches in length. The disk was thrown down a
corridor so that it could roll past the players at great speed. The
disk would roll down the corridor, and players would throw wooden
shafts at the moving disk. The object of the game was to strike the
disk or prevent your opponents from hitting it.
, a Sauk and Fox Native
American, was an all-round athlete playing football and baseball in
the early 20th century. Future President Dwight Eisenhower
injured his knee while
trying to tackle the young Thorpe. In a 1961 speech, Eisenhower
recalled Thorpe: "Here and there, there are some people who are
supremely endowed. My memory goes back to Jim Thorpe. He never
practiced in his life, and he could do anything better than any
other football player I ever saw."
In the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe could run the 100-yard dash in 10
seconds flat, the 220 in 21.8 seconds, the 440 in 51.8 seconds, the
880 in 1:57, the mile in 4:35, the 120-yard high hurdles in 15
seconds, and the 220-yard low hurdles in 24 seconds. He could long
jump 23 ft 6 in and high-jump 6 ft 5 in. He
could pole vault
11 feet, put the shot
47 ft 9 in, throw the javelin
163 feet, and throw the
136 feet. Thorpe entered
the U.S. Olympic trials for both the pentathlon and the
, a Lakota
won the Gold medal in the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
. He was the only
American ever to win the Olympic gold in this event. An unknown
prior to the Olympics, he had finished second in the U.S. Olympic
Music and art
Traditional Native American
is almost entirely monophonic
, but there are notable
exceptions. Native American music often includes drumming
and/or the playing of rattles or other
percussion instruments but little other instrumentation. Flutes
and whistles made of wood,
cane, or bone are also played, generally by individuals, but in
former times also by large ensembles (as noted by Spanish conquistador de Soto
). The tuning of these
flutes is not precise and depends on the length of the wood used
and the hand span of the intended player, but the finger holes are
most often around a whole step apart and, at least in Northern
California, a flute was not used if it turned out to have an
interval close to a half step.
Performers with Native American parentage have occasionally
appeared in American popular music, such as Robbie Robertson
(The Band), Rita Coolidge
, Gene Clark
, Buffy Sainte-Marie
, and CocoRosie
. Some, such as John Trudell
, have used music to comment on
life in Native America, and others, such as R. Carlos
integrate traditional sounds with modern sounds in
instrumental recordings. A variety of small and medium-sized
recording companies offer an abundance of recent music by Native
American performers young and old, ranging from pow-wow drum music
to hard-driving rock-and-roll and rap.
The most widely practiced public musical form among Native
Americans in the United States is that of the pow-wow. At pow-wows, such as the annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New
Mexico, members of drum groups sit in a circle around a
Drum groups play in unison while they sing in a
native language and dancers in colorful regalia dance clockwise
around the drum groups in the center. Familiar pow-wow songs
include honor songs, intertribal songs, crow-hops, sneak-up songs,
grass-dances, two-steps, welcome songs, going-home songs, and war
songs. Most indigenous communities in the United States also
maintain traditional songs and ceremonies, some of which are shared
and practiced exclusively within the community.
Native American art comprises a major category in the world art
collection. Native American contributions include pottery
, and carvings
Franklin Gritts, was a Cherokee artist, who
taught students from many tribes at Haskell Institute (now Haskell
Indian Nations University) in the 1940s, the Golden Age of Native
The integrity of certain Native American artworks is now protected
by an act of Congress that prohibits representation of art as
Native American when it is not the product of an enrolled Native
, or Eskimo
prepared and buried large amounts of dried meat and fish. Pacific Northwest
tribes crafted seafaring
dugouts 40–50 feet long for fishing. Farmers in the Eastern
Woodlands tended fields of maize with hoes and digging sticks,
while their neighbors in the Southeast grew tobacco as well as food
crops. On the Plains, some tribes engaged in agriculture but also
planned buffalo hunts in which herds were driven over bluffs.
Dwellers of the Southwest deserts hunted small animals and gathered
acorns to grind into flour with which they baked wafer-thin bread
on top of heated stones. Some groups on the region's mesas
developed irrigation techniques, and filled storehouses with grain
as protection against the area's frequent droughts
In the early years, as these native peoples encountered European
explorers and settlers and engaged in trade, they exchanged food,
crafts, and furs for blankets, iron and steel implements, horses,
trinkets, firearms, and alcoholic beverages.
Barriers to economic development
Today, other than tribes successfully running casinos, many tribes
struggle. There are an estimated 2.1 million Native Americans, and
they are the most impoverished of all ethnic groups. According to
the 2000 Census
estimated 400,000 Native Americans reside on reservation land.
While some tribes have had success with gaming, only 40% of the 562
federally recognized tribes operate casinos
According to a 2007 survey by the U.S. Small Business
, only 1 percent of Native Americans own and
operate a business. Native Americans rank at the bottom of nearly
every social statistic: highest teen suicide rate of all minorities
at 18.5 per 100,000, highest rate of teen pregnancy, highest high
school drop out rate at 54%, lowest per capita income
, and unemployment
rates between 50% to 90%.
barriers to economic
development on Native American reservations often cited by
others and two experts Joseph Kalt and
Stephen Cornell of the Harvard
Project on American Indian Economic Development at Harvard
University, in their classic report: What Can Tribes
Do? Strategies and Institutions in American Indian
, are as follows (incomplete list, see
full Kalt & Cornell report):
- Lack of access to capital.
- Lack of human capital (education, skills, technical expertise)
and the means to develop it.
- Reservations lack effective planning.
- Reservations are poor in natural resources.
- Reservations have natural resources, but lack sufficient
control over them.
- Reservations are disadvantaged by their distance from markets
and the high costs of transportation.
- Tribes cannot persuade investors to locate on reservations
because of intense competition from non-Native American
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs is inept, corrupt, and/or
uninterested in reservation development.
- Tribal politicians and bureaucrats are inept or corrupt.
- On-reservation factionalism destroys stability in tribal
- The instability of tribal government keeps outsiders from
- Entrepreneurial skills and experience are scarce.
- Tribal cultures get in the way.
One of the major barriers for overcoming the economic strife is the
lack of entrepreneurial knowledge and experience across Indian reservations
. “A general lack of
education and experience about business is a significant challenge
to prospective entrepreneurs,” also says another report on Native
Northwest Area Foundation
in 2004. “Native American communities that lack entrepreneurial
traditions and recent experiences typically do not provide the
support that entrepreneurs need to thrive. Consequently,
experiential entrepreneurship education needs to be embedded into
school curricula and after-school and other community activities.
This would allow students to learn the essential elements of
entrepreneurship from a young age and encourage them to apply these
elements throughout life.”. One publication devoted to addressing
these issues is Rez Biz
Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans
Interracial relations between Native Americans, Europeans, and
Africans is a complex issue that has been mostly neglected with
"few in-depth studies on interracial relationships". Europeans
relational impact was wide spread and marriages was immediate. One
of the first documented cases was recorded in Post-Columbian Mexico
where a Spanish man (Hernán
) and a Native American woman (Rebecca/Malinal/Malinche)
birthed the first multi-racial Native American.
Native American and African relations
Although not as significant as contact with Europeans, Africans had
some interaction with Native Americans. The earliest record
of African and Native American contact occurred in April 1502, when
the first Africans were brought to Hispanola to serve as slaves.
Often Native Americans resented the presence of African Americans.
In one description the "Catawaba tribe in 1752 showed great anger
and bitter resentment when an African American came among them as a
trader." The Cherokee had the strongest color prejudice of all
Native Americans to gain favor with Europeans. The hostility has
been attributed to European fears of a unified revolt of Native
Americans and African Americans: "Whites sought to convince Native
Americans that African Americans worked against their best
interests." In 1751, South Carolina law stated: "The carrying of
Negroes among the Indians has all along been thought detrimental,
as an intimacy ought to be avoided." Europeans considered both
races inferior and made efforts to make both Native Americans and
Africans enemies. Native Americans were rewarded if they returned
escaped slaves, and African Americans were rewarded for fighting in
"Native Americans, during the transitional period of Africans
becoming the primary race enslaved, were enslaved at the same time
and shared a common experience of enslavement. They worked
together, lived together in communal quarters, produced collective
recipes for food, shared herbal remedies, myths and legends, and in
the end they intermarried." Because of this many tribes encouraged
marriage between the two groups, to create stronger, healthier
children from the unions. In the eighteenth century, many Native
American women did marry freed or runaway
African men due to a large decrease in
the population of men in Native American villages. In addition,
records also show that many Native American women actually bought
African men, but unknown to European sellers the women freed and
married the men into their tribe. It was also beneficial for
African men to marry or have children by a Native American woman
because children born to a mother who was not a slave were free.
European colonists often requested the return of any runaway slaves
in treaties. In 1726, the
British Governor of New York exacted a promise from the Iroquois to
return all runaway slaves who had joined up with them. In the mid
Native Americans were also requested
to return runaway slaves however no record of slaves being returned
occurred. Ads were used to request the return of slaves.
Slave ownership was prevalent among a few Native American tribes,
especially in the southeast where the Cherokee
lived. Though less than 3% of
Native Americans owned slaves, bondage practices created
destructive divisions among Native Americans. Among the Cherokee,
records show that slave holders in the tribe were largely the
children of European men that had showed their children the
economics of slavery. As European expansion increased more African
and Native American marriages became more prominent.
Family of mixed African and Native
American heritage, c.
A few historians suggest that most African Americans have Native
American heritage Based on the work of geneticists
, a PBS
African Americans explained that while most African Americans are
racially mixed, it is relatively rare that they have Native
American ancestry. According to the PBS series, the most common
"non-black" mix is English and Scots-Irish. However, the
Y-chromosome and mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) testing processes for
direct-line male and female ancestors can fail to pick up the
heritage of many ancestors. (Some critics thought the PBS series
did not sufficiently explain the limitations of DNA testing for
assessment of heritage.) Another study suggests that relatively few
Native Americans have African-American heritage. A study reported
in The American Journal of Human Genetics
analyzed the European genetic contribution to 10 populations of
African descent in the United States (Maywood, Illinois; Detroit;
New York; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Charleston, South
Carolina; New Orleans; and Houston) ... mtDNA haplogroups analysis
shows no evidence of a significant maternal Amerindian contribution
to any of the 10 populations."
Researchers caution that genetic ancestry DNA testing has
limitations and should not be depended on by individuals to answer
all their questions about heritage. Testing cannot distinguish
among separate Native American tribes. Nor can it be used alone to
assert membership in a tribe.
Native Americans and assimilation acceptance with
European impact was immediate, widespread, and profound—more than
any other race that had contact with Native Americans during the
early years of colonization and nationhood. Europeans living among
Native Americans were often called "white indians". They "lived in
native communities for years, learned native languages fluently,
attended native councils, and often fought alongside their native
Early contact was often charged with tension and emotion, but also
had moments of friendship, cooperation, and intimacy. Marriages
took place in both English and French colonies between European men
and Native women. On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas
married Englishman John Rolfe
, and they had a child called Thomas Rolfe
Intimate relations among Native American and Europeans were
widespread, beginning with the French and Spanish explorers and
trappers. For instance, in the early 19th century, the Native
American woman Sacagawea
, who would help
translate for the Lewis and
, was married to French trapper Toussaint Charbonneau
. They had a son
named Jean Baptiste
. This was the most typical pattern among the
traders and trappers.
Many settlers feared Native Americans because they were different.
Their ways seemed savage to whites, and they were suspicious of a
culture they did not understand.
A Native American author Andrew J. Blackbird in 1897, found that
white settlers introduced some immoralities into Native American
He wrote in his book, History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of
"The Ottawas and Chippewas were quite virtuous in their
primitive state, as there were no illegitimate children reported in
our old traditions. But very lately this evil came to exist among
the Ottawas-so lately that the second case among the Ottawas of
Arbor Croche is yet living in 1897. And from that time this evil
came to be quite frequent, for immorality has been introduced among
these people by evil white persons who bring their vices into the
The U. S. government had two purposes in mind when making land
agreements with Native Americans. First, they wanted to open it up
more land for white settlement.
Second, they wanted to ease tensions between whites and Native Americans by forcing Natives to use the land like whites did. The government had a variety of strategies to accomplish these aims; many treaties required Native Americans to become farmers in order to keep their land. Government officials often did not translate the documents Native Americans were forced to sign, and native chiefs often had little or no idea what they were signing.
For a Native American man to marry a white woman he had to get
consent of the parents as long as "he can prove to support her as a
white woman in a good home".
In the early 1800s, Shawnee Native American Tecumseh and blonde
hair & blued eyed Rebbecca Galloway had a inter-racial affair.
In the late 19th century, three European-American middle-class
female staff married Native American men met during the years when
Hampton Institute ran its Native American program.
Charles Eastman married his
European-American wife Elaine Goodale
whom he had met in Dakota Territory when Goodale was social worker
and the superintendent of Native American education for the
reservations. They had six children together.
Lillian Gross, described as a "Mixed
Blood" by the Smithsonian source, was of Native American and
She identified with her Cherokee culture.
Intertribal mixing was common among Native American tribes, so
individuals could be said to be descended from more than one tribe.
Bands or entire tribes occasionally split or merged to form more
viable groups in reaction to the pressures of climate, disease and
warfare. A number of tribes traditionally adopted captives into their group to replace
members who had been captured or killed in battle. These captives
came from rival tribes and later from European settlers. Some
tribes also sheltered or adopted white traders and runaway slaves
and Native American-owned slaves. Tribes with long trading
histories with Europeans show a higher rate of European admixture,
reflecting years of intermarriage between European men and Native
American women. A number of paths to genetic diversity among Native
Americans thus existed.
While in recent years some commentators have suggested high rates
of admixture between Native Americans and African Americans,
genetic genealogists have found lesser frequency. Literary critic
and author Henry Louis Gates, Jr. cites experts who argue that only
5 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5 percent Native
American ancestry (equivalent to one great-grandparent). Of course
this means that a greater percentage could have a very small
percentage of ancestry, but it also suggests that past estimates of
admixture may have been too high. As some genetic tests assess only direct male
or female ancestors, individuals may not discover Native American
ancestry from other ancestors. Among an individual's 64
4xgreat-grandparents, direct testing yields DNA evidence of only
In addition to limitations if only direct male and female lines are
tested, DNA testing cannot be used for determining tribal
membership because it can not distinguish among Native American
groups. Native American identity has historically been based on
culture, not just biology. The Indigenous Peoples Council on
Biocolonialism (IPCB) notes that:
"Native American markers" are not found solely among
While they occur more frequently among Native Americans
they are also found in people in other parts of the
Geneticists also state:
not all Native Americans have been tested especially with the large
number of deaths due to disease such as small pox, it is unlikely
that Native Americans only have the genetic markers they have
identified, even when their maternal or paternal bloodline does not
include a non-Native American.
To receive tribal services, a Native American must belong to and be
certified by a recognized tribal organization. Each tribal
government makes its own rules for citizens or tribal members. The
federal government has standards related to services available to
certified Native Americans. For instance, Federal scholarships for
Native Americans require the student to be enrolled in a federally
recognized tribe and have at least one-quarter Native American
descent (equivalent to one grandparent), attested by a Certificate of Degree of
card. Among tribes, qualification may be based
upon a required percentage of Native American "blood", or the
"blood quantum" of an individual seeking recognition.
To attain certainty, some tribes have begun requiring genealogical DNA testing
, but this is
usually related to proving parentage or direct descent from a
certified member. Requirements for tribal membership vary widely by
tribe. The Cherokee require documented genealogical descent from a
Native American listed on the early 20th century Dawes Rolls
. Tribal rules regarding recognition
of members who have heritage from multiple tribes are equally
diverse and complex.
Tribal membership conflicts have led to a number of activist
groups, legal disputes and court cases. One example are the
, descendants of
enslaved African Americans once held by the Cherokees, who were
granted citizenship in the Cherokee nation as freedmen after the
Civil War, by federal treaty. The Cherokee nation has recently
excluded them from the roles unless individuals can prove descent
from a Cherokee Native American (not just freedman) on the Dawes
In the 20th century, an increasing number of Caucasian-Americans
have seemed more interested in claiming descent from Native
Americans. Many people have claimed descent from the
Notable Native Americans of the United States
Swimmer was a noted Cherokee cultural
In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that about 1.0 percent of
the U.S. population was of American Indian
descent. This population
is unevenly distributed across the country. Below, all 50 states,
as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are listed by
the proportion of residents citing American Indian
ancestry, based on 2006
In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that about less than 1.0
percent of the U.S. population was of Native Hawaiian
or Pacific Islander
population is unevenly distributed across 26 states. Below, are the
26 states that had at least 0.1%. They are listed by the proportion
of residents citing Native Hawaiian
or Pacific Islander
ancestry, based on 2006 estimates:
Y Chromosome haplogroup
generally associated with the Indigenous peoples of the
. The Q1a3a
-M3 mutation is on the
lineage roughly 10 to 15
thousand years ago, as the migration throwout the Americas was
underway by the early Paleo-Indians
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