The First Americans

The people who first lived in North America can be called “American Indians,” “Native Americans,” and “First Nations People”. It is not correct to use the terms such as “Red Indian” or “Redskin,” because this name originally referred to a specific tribe, the Beothuk, who painted their bodies and faces with red ochre. “American Indians,” “Native Americans,” and “First Nations people” are synonyms. Most indigenous people in the US use “American Indian,” and most indigenous people in Canada use “First Nations.”

Native American tradition says that Indians were always here. Most of the scientific evidence suggests that Indian ancestors came from Asia in prehistoric times, either by foot over a land bridge or using ancient boats. This would have happened more than 20,000 years ago, and no human culture has good records of what it was doing 20,000 years ago, so perhaps we’re both right.

There were hundreds of Native American cultures, from coast to coast and from the Yukon to the Gulf of Mexico.

All of the Native American tribes had some things in common. They lived off the land by gathering food in the earliest times and then planting crops later in history. Once they began planting crops, they were able to begin creating villages that were permanent.

They all hunted and eventually domesticated animals. Most of the tribes used as much of the animal as they could. Meat was used for food. Furs and skins were used for clothing and shelters. The stomach was used to carry and hold water. Bones were used for needles and weapons.

The most important Native American food crop was corn, or what they called maize and other local vegetables and fruit. They also eat meat. Mostly from animals that had lived there. Native American cooking was simple. Most Native Americans preferred to eat their food very fresh.

All Native American people were very spiritual and they had many customs and rituals. They also had many gods. They believed in a special relationship with nature. For most, the Sun was the supreme god. They worshiped the sun because they needed it to grow their crops. They also needed rain, so many had a Rain god. Other elements in nature were also worshipped. Most tribes believed in the power of their dreams They were considered to be revelations made by the gods. Most had an important religious leader which some called Shaman, or medicine man.

Native Americans did not know about the wheel, so they used travois to transport their goods while following the bison herds. A travois was made from two large branches joined to one end and diverging to the other. The travois was attached through harnesses to the back of a horse. It was dragged on the ground and cargo was place on the skins that was stretched across it. Before wild horses were domesticated, smaller travois were dragged by dogs.

The roles men and women in most Native American tribes were the same. The men hunted and provided protection for their people. The women prepared the food, made clothing and shelters and cared for the children. The men used bows and arrows, spears and knives to hunt.

Native Americans had many different kinds of shelters depending upon where they lived. Some used portable structures – called “tipi” – that could be moved to follow the bison herds.  Some built homes out of logs. Others built homes from mud bricks they baked in the sun. Others made their homes from blocks of ice.

The Native American tribes almost got extinct when white settlers moved to their lands. Native Americans were eventually moved to reservations. Many died from disease during these forced moves.

The most well-know Indian chiefs during this period were:

Sitting Bull,

Crazy Horse, and


Most Native Americans still live in North America. Some Indians live in cities and towns with while others live on reservations – special villages and lands which are under Indian jurisdiction, and have some different laws than the rest of the state.

There are about 150 Native American languages in Canada and the United States, and another 600 700 languages in Central and South America.

According to the census reports, there are about 2 million Native Americans in the United States and 1 million in Canada.

Native Americans

First Americans

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This work by EnglishOŠAca is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

4 thoughts on “The First Americans

  1. Diane January 17, 2015 / 20:46

    Are there copies of the color map of American Indian Tribes available for sale? If so what is the size and cost?
    Thank you.

  2. video maker fx July 24, 2015 / 09:15

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  3. Erma Opiitz December 23, 2019 / 01:46

    Looking for information about Henry (Red Bear) Arapahoe. He was the second signer of the Laramie Treaty.

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