Chapter 4 Native Americans of North America thinking about history and geography

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Native Americans of North America


Chapter 4 tells the story of some of the many Native Americans of North America. From the Tlingit in the West to the Iroquois of the Northeast, Native American culture stretched from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. Read the time line below to follow the major events of this chapter. The background color of each event on the time line matches a square marker on the map.




Focus Activity


How did the Tlingit use their environment?



totem pole





"When I was growing up," says Marie Olson, whose Tlingit (KLIHNG iht) name is Kaayistaan (K1 yih stan), "I was taught to treat the environment with respect

. . . . A fisherman would talk to a fish before catching it. He would say thank you for coming to his net."


As you read in Chapter 3, Native Americans have lived for thousands of years in what is now the United States. In each of the five regions of the United States, Native American peoples created distinctive ways of life that were strongly influenced by their environment.

The Western region of the United States provides an example of varied environments. Many Native Americans, such as the Mohave (moh HAH vee), lived in the mild climate of present-day southern California. Others, such as the Paiute (pi 00T), lived in the deserts of the Great Basin. Farming was so difficult there that these peoples had to move from place to place to get food. After about 1000 B.C., however, most people in the Western Hemisphere relied on farming as their main source of food.

The Northwest Coast of the Western region had yet another type of environment. Native Americans such as the Tsimshian (TSIHM shee un) and Chinook lived in villages all year round without farming. In this lesson you will learn how one people, the Tlingit, use the resources of the sea. You will learn about how the Tlingit lived before the Europeans arrived in the 1700s.



The Northwest Coast is a narrow area of land that extends roughly south from Anchorage, Alaska, to San Francisco, California. To the area's east are forests, plateaus, basins, and rivers. To the west is the Pacific Ocean. As you saw on the United States climates map on page 37, this area has a wet climate with mild winters and cool summers.

Riches from the Forest and the Sea

How did the people of the Northwest Coast live without farming? First, the wet climate of the Northwest Coast helps a rich variety of plants to grow. So, the peoples of the Northwest Coast gathered roots and berries from the dense forests that lined the shore. Second, the forest was also home to such animals as deer, elk, beaver, and bears. Third, Native Americans of this area got almost everything else they needed from the sea.

Many kinds of fish—salmon, cod, herring, trout, halibut—lived in the nearby streams, rivers, and the ocean. On the open sea, fishers in huge canoes caught large sea animals including sea lions and sea otters. From the shore people gathered mussels, clams, and the eggs of seabirds. Salmon, however, was the most important source of food to the Northwest Coast peoples. Salmon became important because the Native Americans always knew when and where large numbers of the fish could be caught.

The Salmon Run

The salmon run was and still is an important event in the lives of the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast. The salmon run is the yearly return of salmon to lay eggs in the freshwater rivers where they were born. From early spring to late summer, millions of salmon swam from the Pacific Ocean to rivers, such as the Columbia.

During the salmon run a family could catch over 1,000 pounds of fish. Men and women set aside their daily tasks to go to the river to catch the plentiful fish. Some of the salmon was eaten. Most was dried or smoked then stored for meals throughout the year.

On Washington State's Columbia River, a present-day Native American fisher catches a salmon.



Today if you visited Sitka, Alaska, you would find a busy American city. You might not guess that this city stands in the heart of the Tlingit homeland of long ago. As you can see on the Info-graphic on page 76, the Tlingit lived in the northernmost part of the Northwest Coast. Like many Native Americans in this area, the Tlingit got most of their food from the sea. In addition to fish, they and their neighbors caught seals, porpoises, and even whales. During the winter they hunted animals from the forests and mountains.

The Tlingit had direct water routes from the coast to other parts of the country. This enabled them to trade their surplus food for other goods they needed. The Tlingit also helped other Native Americans to the north, south, and east trade with each other and with the Inuit in the far north. Trade helped to make the Tlingit wealthy people.

Technology and Art

Because food was plentiful, the Tlingit were able to specialize in making art and developing technology. Technology is the design and use of tools, ideas, and methods to solve problems. The lingit used their technology to build dams and traps for catching salmon. hey also made large canoes that could old up to 50 people.

As highly skilled woodworkers, the Tlingit built large homes. In front of most houses stood a totem pole. Totem poles are tall logs carved with many designs. Most totem poles were 40 to 60 feet tall, but some were as high as 150 feet. Many totem poles were built to honor family members or new chiefs, or to mark special events.

Even everyday objects made by the Tlingit were often as beautiful as they were useful. Almost everything—from spoons to blankets to wooden storage boxes—was highly decorated.

A Tlingit father teaches his daughter to carve a totem pole (far left). Someday her carvings may come to look like this totem pole (near left) in Haines, Alaska.

The Potlatch

To mark an important event, a family sometimes held a potlatch (PAHT lach). Potlatches are special feasts at which the guests, not the hosts, receive


gifts. A potlatch, for example, might be held to honor a new chief or to celebrate a wedding.

It could take years for the host's family to prepare for a potlatch. A special gift was collected or made for each guest. A guest's importance in the community determined what kind of gift the host gave.

Suppose that you could attend a wedding potlatch. Everyone would be dressed in his or her finest clothing. The host would wear one of the family's best woven blankets. The ceremony, which could last for days, would include songs and dances. Each person would contribute in some way. Excitement would mount as guests waited to see what each gift would be.

A Northwest Coast potlatch (above) was an elaborate event. Handmade baskets such as those shown below were often given as gifts by the Native American hosts of the feasts.

An important guest might receive a canoe or fur robe. The host might distribute hundreds of valuable gifts. In return, the host received the respect of the community.

To show their generosity, each host's family tried to give more gifts than the hosts of the last potlatch they attended. Sometimes the host's family gave away all of their valuables. But over time, wealth would return when the potlatch was held by another host. Potlatches may have been a way of sharing wealth and determining social standing. They were also happy times of celebration and togetherness.



As you will learn in Chapter 6, contact with Europeans led to great changes in the cultures of many Native Americans. Since Alaska is so far north, Europeans arrived there later than in other parts of North America. Russians were the first Europeans to become interested in the area. An explorer named Vitus Bering sailed from Russia to Alaska in the middle of the 1700s across what is now called the Bering Strait.

Russian, English, Spanish, and French people traded with the Tlingit for fur. The traders also built settlements in the area. In 1867 the United States government bought Alaska from Russia, which had claimed it earlier. Sitka was the place where the Russians officially handed over control of Alaska to the United States. Alaska became our country's 49th state in 1959.

Conflict with the Government

When their homeland became part of the United States, the Tlingit found it hard to keep their way of life alive. In some places, the United States government forced Northwest Coast peoples to move far from the ocean.

The Tlingit and other Native Americans in the area struggled to preserve their culture. As a result of efforts by Native Americans and the Inuit, the United States government passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971. This law gave them back control of over 44 million acres of their original homelands in Alaska.

Many Northwest Coast villages looked like this one (above) in the early 1900s. The fishing boats (right) are owned by present-day Tlingit fishers.



Today Sitka is a major business center. Many of our country's 15,000 Tlingit work at logging and fishing. Some have moved to large cities. But the creation of beautiful artwork and the giving of potlatches are still an important part of Tlingit life.

Looking at how the Tlingit lived in the early 1700s, you can see how important environment is to people. To understand our country's history, it helps to learn about people and their environments all over the United States. The next lesson continues this story.

These members of a Tlingit dance group wear traditional dress during performances.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• The West includes many types of environments in which many different Native American peoples live.

• Native Americans of the Northwest Coast of North America developed a rich way of life that was based on resources from the sea.

• Because food was plentiful in their region, the Tlingit were able to spend time developing their technology and art.

• The potlatch is a feast at which the host gives away many valuable gifts to the guests. It is still an important part of Tlingit life.


1. What role did salmon fishing play in the life of Native Americans of the Northwest Coast?

2. What purposes does a potlatch serve?

3. FOCUS How did the Tlingit make use of the natural resources in their environment?

4. THINKING SKILL What conclusions can you make about the effect of trade on the Tlingit? On what information did you base your conclusions?

5. WRITE Suppose your class was giving a potlatch. What would be your reason for holding the potlatch? Whom would you invite? What activities would you plan? What gift would you give to each person?





The Navajo people have been master artists and craftworkers for hundred of years. From materials in their environment, the Navajo made blankets, baskets, pottery, clothing, and other useful objects. They also made art for religious purposes. It was important to the Navajo that the objects they made were beautiful as well as useful.

Navajos continue to be known for their artwork. Their woven rugs and silver jewelry attract buyers from all over the world. Today Navajo art can be seen in many museums. The creation of art by the Navajo is a legacy from the past that continues to enrich our present.

The Navajo are world famous for their skill as weavers. Since many Navajo are sheep herders, wool from their sheep is often used to make blankets. Today machine-made yarns are also used by Navajo women, who do most of the weaving.


Navajo ceremonies often include the creation of a sand, or dry, painting. The designs are made by sprinkling powdered minerals or plants onto a blanket covered with clean, smooth sand. Each symbol in the design has a meaning. A sand painting can take 15 people and an entire day to complete.

Squash-blossom necklaces, concha belts, and bracelets made of silver are the major types of jewelry created by Navajo artisans. The Navajo learned the art of working with silver from their neighbors, the Mexicans. They passed on this knowledge to the Hopi and Zuni, who are also known for their skill as jewelry makers.




Focus Activity


What traditions have helped shape Hopi life?








Old Oraibi


"Before dancing, I get a little nervous," says Timmy Roybal, a 10-year-old from the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico. "My legs start shaking, but they settle down once I am dancing. When I am dancing, I feel I am part of everything." Timmy is talking about the Green Corn Dance, in which Pueblo peoples give thanks for all that nature has given them.


In Chapter 3 you read about the Anasazi, who lived in the Southwestern United States. Many historians think that the Anasazi were the ancestors of today's Pueblo peoples, Native Americans who live in the Southwest.

Also living in the region are non-Pueblo Native Americans such as the Navajo (NAHV uh hoh) and Apache (uh PACH ee). Historians believe the Navajo and Apache are fairly new to the Southwest. They probably began arriving from present-day Alaska and the northwestern part of Canada around A.D. 1000.

Scholars often divide Native Americans in the Southwest into two groups. The first includes the Navajo and Apache, who were mainly hunters and herders. The second includes Pueblo peoples such as the Hopi and the Zuni (ZOO nee), who were mainly farmers. In this lesson, you will read about the Hopi, who became skilled farmers of the desert.



The Hopi call themselves Hopiti, which in their own language means "the gentle people." When the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, they called the Hopi apartment-style homes pueblos which means "villages" in Spanish. The Spanish used the word pueblo to describe both the people and the type of home in which they lived. Over time Native Americans living in pueblos have become known as the Pueblo people. The Hopi pueblo of Old Oraibi (oh rah EE bee) is one of the oldest settlements in the United States. The Hopi have lived there for about 800 years.

Farmers of the Desert

The land of the Hopi is mostly made up of tall mountains, deep canyons, and steep mesas. This dry land is not a place where you would expect to find farming people. Yet the Hopi were among the most successful farmers in North America.

The Hopi have been growing crops in the Southwest for hundreds of years. Some of their farming methods were passed down to them by the Anasazi. To grow their crops, the Hopi use a method called dry farming. Dry farming a way of growing crops in places here there is little water. To water their crops, the Hopi built dams and irrigation canals. They also grew special corn plants with long roots to reach the water underground.

Farming was sacred to the Hopi. each plant had to be tended according ancient religious practices. Every person in the community performed a task. Some planted, some weeded, some kept pests away. Success depended on everyone working together and carefully observing nature. As you can tell from the Hopi poem below, respect for nature is important to the Hopi and other Native Americans.

Power is very mysterious.

Power is all around us

in the wind

and the clouds

and the earth.

A Hopi uses dry farming to grow corn (above) in Oraibi, Arizona. The Taos Pueblo (left) looks much the same today as it did long ago.


This piece of Zuni jewelry shows a kachina called Long Hair (below). In this painting (right) the kachina dancers perform in a Hopi village.


The Hopi built homes made of adobe (uh DOH bee). Adobe is a type of clay found in the earth. It protected the house from the desert's blistering heat and extreme cold as well as floods and blizzards. In summer the roof of an adobe house could get as hot as 140¡F. Even then, the temperature inside remained between 75¡F and 85¡F.

To keep invaders out, the Hopi built the first floor of most pueblos without doors or windows. To get in and out, people climbed ladders up to and down from doors in the roofs. Like the Anasazi towns, most pueblo towns had kivas for religious ceremonies.


The Kachinas

Kachina ceremonies are an important part of Hopi religion. The Hopi kachinas are spirits who can visit Hopi villages for half of every year. The Hopi believe the kachinas bring the rains and help the crops to crow. They also show people how to live and behave, and bring peace and prosperity.

Kachina ceremonies are held throughout the six months the kachinas are said to dwell in the Hopi villages. Kachina dances are an important part of these ceremonies. Each kachina dancer represents one of the hundreds of different kachinas. For example, one dancer might become the kachina Crow Mother. Crow Mother is the mother of all kachinas. Other dancers represent clowns who follow the kachinas and cause mischief. One clown named Tcutckutu (koot KOO too) is known for his love of food. It takes years of training to become a kachina dancer, which is a position of honor among the Hopi.

During the kachina festivals, some kachina dancers give out colorful wooden dolls that look like the kachinas they represent. Kachina dolls are used to


teach Hopi children about the powers and abilities of each of the hundreds of different kachinas.

Generations of Artists

The skill of Hopi artists can also be seen in their pottery. A Hopi woman named Nampeyo (nahm PAY oh) was one of these artists. In 1895 Nampeyo's husband was working with an archaeologist digging up the ruins of an ancient

Hopi pueblo. When Nampeyo saw the pottery that had been found there, she was struck by its beauty. She thought the ancient designs were more beautiful than the designs she and other artists of her time were creating. She began to visit the digging site to study the ancient pottery.

At first she tried to copy the designs she saw. Then she began to create her own designs in the ancient style. Over the next 20 years, Nampeyo made many beautiful pots. Her work soon gained wide recognition. Determined to spread interest in the traditional Hopi pottery, Nampeyo taught her skill to her daughters. Today many Hopi potters, including Nampeyo's grandchildren, carry on her work.

The Hopi artist Nampeyo (above) displays her pottery. The pottery shown at right includes many of the traditional designs that were brought back into use by Nampeyo.



Today the Pueblo peoples' way of life includes a mix of the old and the new.

Adobe homes exist alongside buildings made of other materials. Some of the irrigation canals built hundreds of years ago are now used by big cities like Phoenix, Arizona.

The Hopi have worked hard to maintain their traditional way of life. Hopi ceremonies, government, and social organizations continue to exist much as they always have. Kachina dances are still being held. Visitors come from all over the world to watch these ceremonies and to buy Hopi artwork.

This Zuni necklace uses the traditional Pueblo materials of silver, turquoise, and other stones.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Native Americans in the Southwest include such Pueblo peoples as the Hopi and the Zuni, and such non-Pueblo peoples as the Apache and the Navajo.

• The Hopi were skilled dry farmers in a harsh, desert climate.

• Art and tradition have been and still are central to Hopi life.

• In 1895 a Hopi artist named Nampeyo revived the art of making traditional Hopi pottery.


1. Name some of the Native American peoples who live in the Southwestern region. How and when did they come here?

2. How did the Hopi succeed at farming in their dry environment?

3. FOCUS Explain how art and tradition influence and enrich the life of the Hopi people.

4. THINKING SKILL How did Nampeyo become interested in traditional Hopi pottery? What effect did this have on Hopi art? Explain the reasons for your answer.

5. GEOGRAPHY What might the Hopi's belief in kachinas show about the effect of geography on their lives? Explain your answer.




Sharing the Old Ways

LAGUNA PUEBLO, NEW MEXICO, is one of 19 Pueblo communities in the state. At Laguna Elementary School, Ron Sarraceno's students begin the day with the greeting "Guwatzi" (guh WAHT zee). In the Keres (KE rez) language, this word means "How are things here?"

Today English has replaced Keres as the main language spoken in many pueblos. Because of this, few young people have learned to speak Keres. To Mr. Sarraceno, the Keres language plays an important part in the Laguna community. He explains:

All our ceremonies are based on our traditional language. The elders of our pueblo are telling us that if the young people do not learn the language, then our culture, ceremonies, and everything else that goes with it will be lost.

Mr. Sarraceno learned Keres from his parents as he was growing up in Laguna. Today, in his classroom, the learning continues. The older people, or elders, in the community are helping Mr. Sarraceno and his students. He explains that during Native American Week, which is held each April, "the elders share the old ways with our children." They tell traditional stories of long ago and talk about events from their own childhoods. "The students are surprised," says Mr. Sarraceno, "at how different life in Laguna was then. Children herded sheep and went to the river for water for cooking and drinking."

Dancing is also an important part of the festivities. Students dance the arrow dance or the deer dance to songs Mr. Sarraceno sings in Keres. One of the dancers is fifth grader Samantha Fernando. She has been learning Keres at home from her grandparents, as well as from Mr. Sarraceno in school. "I'm glad we're learning our Laguna language," she says. "When we grow up, we don't want our traditions to be forgotten." Thanks to the efforts of the elders and people like Mr. Sarraceno, they will be remembered.




Focus Activity


How did the Lakota adapt the horse to their culture?






coup stick



Black Hills


Iron Teeth, a woman from the Plains, described how the horse changed the lives of her people: "My grandmother told me that when she was young . . . people themselves had to walk. In those times they did not travel far or often. But when they got horses, they could move more easily from place to place. Then they could kill more of the buffalo and other animals, and so they got more meat for food and gathered more skins for [homes] and clothing."


For thousands of years Native Americans who lived on the plains of the Middle West lived mostly in villages. The villages were usually located near rivers, where there was plenty of water for farming. The Plains peoples lived in lodges. Lodges are homes made of logs covered with grasses, sticks, end soil. During the summer, the men left their villages to hunt buffalo. They returned in the fall to harvest their crops.

In the 1500s the Spanish arrived in North America. They brought something that would change the Plains peoples' lives forever—the horse. In this lesson you will read about the Lakota Sioux (luh KOH tah S00), one of the peoples of the Plains, from about 1500 to 1800. You will read about how their taming of the horse led to major changes in their way of life.



The Great Plains are made up of dry prairies that cover much of the Middle West. A prairie is flat or gently rolling land covered mostly with grasses and wildflowers. Summers can be extremely hot, and winters extremely cold. The lack of rain makes growing corn and other crops difficult except in river areas. Until the late 1800s, herds of buffalo roamed the Great Plains.

When they were hunting buffalo, the Plains people lived in teepees (TEE peez). Teepees are cone-shaped tents made of animal skins. Some Plains people still use teepees today. Jerry Flute says this about the teepee:

We live in a very harsh climate. . . . , It's not unusual to hear the [reporter] say it's going to be 85¡F below zero with the wind chill. . . . [The teepee is] a dwelling that is cool in the summer, that is warm in the winter, and that is extremely mobile.

When it was time to move, the teepee was folded up and loaded onto the travois (truh VOY). A travois was a sled-like device used for carrying people and belongings. Plains people used the travois to carry buffalo meat home after a hunt. Before the arrival of the horse, the travois was often pulled by dogs.

Taming the Horse

By the 1600s horses that had run away from their Spanish owners roamed freely across the Plains. By the 1700s the Lakota were taming these wild horses and adapting them to their way of life., Many Plains peoples became expert riders, breeders, and trainers. The most important change the horse brought was in the economy of the Plains people. The buffalo replaced farming as the Lakota's main source of food. Many stopped living in permanent settlements. Instead, they moved from one campsite to another to hunt the buffalo.

This doll (right) was made from deerskin and horsehair. The Plains rider (below) is using a travois in the early 1900s.


The Buffalo Hunt, a painting by Edgar S. Paxon, shows hunters using their skill and their knowledge of the horse and the buffalo.


The Lakota Sioux, who are also known as the Dakota, live in the northern part of the Great Plains. The time is 1800. You are about to meet Standing Bear and Red Deer, young members of the Lakota people. They live in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills were and still are a sacred area to the Lakota people.

A Young Lakota Boy

Standing Bear, an 11-year-old boy, is at a buffalo hunt with his father and other men from their camp. First the hunters ride straight into the buffalo herd to create confusion. Then they go after a single buffalo using a lance, bow and arrow, or rifle. Standing Bear admires the great courage and skill it takes to do this. He is only here to help, but someday he will kill his own buffalo. His father cuts out the liver of a buffalo that has just been killed. It is the most nutritious part, so he and Standing Bear eat some of it now. They save the rest for Standing Bear's mother and sister.

After the hunt Standing Bear practices riding. Someday he would like to become one of the leaders who govern his community. To do this he must show courage in the face of danger—during the buffalo hunt and in battle. Standing Bear knows the bravest act that he can make in battle is to touch an enemy without killing him. To do this, Standing Bear would have to use a special weapon called a coup (KOO) stick. Coup is a French word that means "strike" or "hit."

Standing Bear can also bring honor to himself in other ways. Being a good speaker and generosity are other qualities that the Lakota admire.

A Young Lakota Girl

Red Deer, Standing Bear's older sister, works hard beside her mother. The hunt is over, but Red Deer's tasks have just begun. As you can see in the diagram on the next page, the buffalo serves many purposes. Thousands of pounds of buffalo meat lie in the field. If the meat is not cut and cured quickly, it will spoil.


Red Deer and her mother slice the buffalo meat in thin strips and leave it to dry in the sun. This dried meat is called jerky. Sometimes they make pemmican by adding berries and fat to jerky. Red Deer's family will eat this food all through the winter.

After the buffalo meat is prepared, Red Deer helps her mother make a teepee. The teepee will use about ten buffalo skins. First the skins must be cleaned and scraped. Then Red Deer and her mother will cut them and sew them together. Finally they will stretch the skins over several wooden poles.

Tomorrow Red Deer might go with her mother to search for herbs. Many Native Americans use herbs to cure common sicknesses. The major ingredient in aspirin today, for example, comes from an herb used by many Native Americans to treat illnesses.



The Lakota kept track of time with calendars called winter counts. Each winter the Lakota met to choose an important event of the past year. An artist then recorded this event by drawing a symbol, or picture of it, on the hide of an animal.

Studying winter counts has helped historians understand the history of the Lakota. On this page is a winter count from the 1800s. What other means do people use to record important events from their past?



An 1801-1870 winter count by Lone Dog, published by the Smithsonian Institution.

Most of this winter count was recorded on a buffalo hide by a Lakota who lived in what is today Montana. The symbols are read in a counterclockwise spiral. The key tells the meaning of some of the symbols.



The arrival of the horse on the Great Plains changed the lives of the Native Americans of the Plains in many ways. It made buffalo hunting easier and helped the Lakota become a powerful people. It also made them much more dependent on the buffalo than they had ever been before.

The buffalo, in fact, became central to the Plains peoples' way of life. Their very existence now depended on their maintaining large buffalo herds on the Great Plains.

When Europeans started moving to the Plains, problems arose. Would there still be enough land for the buffalo to graze? You will learn more about these developments on the Great Plains in Chapter 18 of this book.


How did the different Plains peoples communicate with each other?

Native Americans on the Great Plains spoke at least 20 different languages. They developed a special sign language to communicate. When they met people from another group, they used hand signals for important words. For example, to express the word buffalo, a person would raise an index finger to each side of his or her head to show horns.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Before they learned to tame the horse, most Native Americans on the Great Plains were farmers who lived in permanent villages.

• With the horse, many Plains peoples began moving from place to place to hunt the buffalo herds.

• The Lakota began to depend on the buffalo about 1700. They used the animal for food such as jerky and pemmican, for clothing, and as a covering for the teepee. They kept a record of their history by making a winter count each year.

• The Lakota kept a record of important events in their history with a calendar called a winter count.


1. For what purposes did the Lakota people use the different parts of the buffalo?

2. What qualities did the Lakota value in a person? Why were they important?

3. FOCUS How did the Lakota's taming of the horse lead to changes in their way of life?

4. THINKING SKILL Compare the roles of the Lakota children Standing Bear and Red Deer, described in this lesson. How might you expect these roles to be different today?

5. WRITE Write your own version of a winter count. Pick one event from each year of your life and draw a symbol for it. Write down the meaning of each symbol.




Focus Activity


How did the Iroquois bring peace among their people?





Iroquois Confederacy






Hodenosaunee Trail


"Into our bundle we have gathered the causes of war. We have cast this bundle away. . . . Our great-grandchildren shall not see them," spoke the Mohawk leader Hiawatha (hi uh WAH thuh). Hiawatha helped to bring peace to the Iroquois (IHR uh kwah).


In Chapter 2 you read about Arid and Humid America. Because of its fertile soil and plentiful rainfall, hundreds of years ago Humid America was almost completely covered by forest. This region was home to many Native Americans. Today these people are known as Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands.

Among the peoples of the southern woodlands were the Cherokee and the Creek. In the northern woodlands lived the Penobscot (puh NAHB skaht), the Lenni Lenape (LEN ee LEN nah pee), and others. The Potawatomi (poh tuh WAH tuh mee) and the Winnebago (wihn uh BAY goh) lived near the Great Lakes.

Scholars usually divide the Native Americans in the Eastern Woodlands into two major language groups. The larger of the two groups spoke a language called Algonkian (al GAHNG kee un). In this lesson you will learn about the second group, the Iroquois, who spoke Iroquoian. By the 1700s the Iroquois had become a major power in the Eastern Woodlands.



As you saw on the Infographic on page 76, the Eastern Woodlands is a vast area that extends roughly from the Atlantic Coast to west of the Mississippi River. In addition to forests, the area has many lakes and rivers. In most of the Eastern Woodlands there are four distinct seasons.

Natural resources are plentiful. The Atlantic Ocean, the lakes, and the rivers are rich sources of fish. The forests provide animals for food and wood for building homes and canoes. Wild rice grows in the Great Lakes area. Along the coastal plains and river valleys, the soil is excellent for farming.

North and South

Like other Native Americans discussed in this chapter, the peoples of the Eastern Woodlands used and changed their environments. In what is now Maine, the Penobscot lived in mountainous areas where farming was difficult. They moved from place to place, hunting animals for food. The Penobscot also gathered fruits, nuts, and berries from the forests. To protect themselves from the cold and snowy winters, the Penobscot wore warm clothes made from deerskin.

The Natchez, who were descendants of the Mound Builders, lived in what is now the state of Mississippi. In the south, where the climate is mild much of the year, the Natchez and other peoples depended mostly on farming. To keep cool in their warm climate, the Natchez wore light clothes woven from the fibers of plants.

Overall, Native American peoples throughout the Eastern Woodlands had much in common. Most were farming people who lived in permanent villages. They built homes out of wood and grew crops of corn, squash, and beans. In addition to farming, they hunted and fished. Using the area's many lakes, rivers, and streams, Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands traveled far in their canoes. Most important, they shared similar beliefs and traditions.

In Iroquois culture, women (below) were mainly responsible for growing and harvesting crops.


Map Work

The hunting grounds of the five major Iroquois peoples once extended well beyond present-day New York State to the Mississippi River

1. Which people lived near Lake Champlain?

2. Which peoples lived closest to the Onondaga?


In the 1500s the Iroquois lived mostly in what is now New York State. The map on this page shows the location of the five Iroquois peoples in this area. Historians have called them the Iroquois because of the Iroquoian language they spoke. But the Iroquois call themselves Hodenosaunee (hoh den oh SAH nee). In Iroquoian this means "people of the longhouse." Longhouses are long buildings made of poles covered with sheets of bark.

A longhouse can be as long as 200 feet. In the 1500s each longhouse provided a home for several families. A central aisle with cooking fires ran the length of the building. Each family had its own living space on either side of the aisle. Goods were stored overhead. The diagram on the next page shows what a longhouse looked like during this time period.

The Iroquois Homeland

During the 1500s the homelands of the Iroquois were connected by well-used trails. One central route, the Hodenosaunee Trail, ran through the main villages of all five peoples. This winding path ran 250 miles through Iroquois territory.

The Iroquois were expert farmers. Women did most of the farming. They grew 15 types of corn and over 60 different kinds of beans. From the forest, the Iroquois obtained animals for meat, maple syrup, nuts, roots, vegetables, oils, fruits, all kinds of berries, teas, and herbs for medicines.


Wampum (WAHM pum) was one thing the Iroquois could not get from the forest. Wampum consisted of small, polished beads that were usually made from shells and then strung or woven together. These beads took a long time to make by hand. First a bead had to be carefully carved out of part of a shell. A small, slender drill was used to create a hole. Sand was then used to polish the bead. The finished beads were woven into belts or strung into necklaces. You can see an example of wampum on page 106.

Every belt of wampum was different. Often a wampum maker would create a piece to remember an important event. The time and effort that went into creating wampum made it very valuable. It was often given as a gift on special occasions. In the early 1600s the Iroquois began trading wampum to the Europeans for other goods.


The Clan Mother

Women held a great deal of power in the Iroquois world. They decided how the land would be used and who would use it. They were also the leaders of the clans. A clan is a group of families who share the same ancestor.

Almost all Iroquois property was controlled by clans. This meant that women were the owners of the land. They owned the longhouses and everything in them. When a man married, he moved into his wife's longhouse and lived with her family. The head of each clan was called a clan mother.

No important decision could be made without the consent of the clan mother. Although the leaders of each village were men, they were chosen by the clan mothers. If a leader failed in his duties, the clan mother would meet with other clan women. They would then decide who would replace him.

Conflicts Among the Iroquois

As long as the Iroquois peoples remained small in number, they cooperated on many matters. Then, around 1300, when their numbers began to grow, arguments arose and fighting broke out. They also fought other Eastern Woodlands peoples. These conflicts were often over hunting grounds.

The Iroquois believed that if one person was wronged, it hurt the peace of the whole clan. For this reason, wrongs had to be punished. Warfare soon became a constant problem for the Iroquois peoples.



According to the Iroquois legend, two Iroquois leaders, Deganawida (day gahn uh WEE duh) and Hiawatha, saw that fighting was destroying their people. Read Hiawatha's speech below. How does Hiawatha think uniting will help the Iroquois?



Excerpt from a speech by Hiawatha in about 1570, as told by Iroquois chief Elias Johnson, 1881.

Friends and Brothers: You being members of many tribes, you have come from a great distance; the ,voice of war has aroused you up; you are afraid . . . [for] your homes, our wives and your children; you tremble for your safety. Believe me, I am with you. My heart beats with our hearts. We are one. We have one common object. We come to promote our common interest, and to determine how this can be best done.

To oppose those hordes of northern tribes, singly and alone, could prove certain destruction. We can make no progress in that way. We must unite ourselves into one common band of brothers. We must have but one voice. Many voices makes confusion. We must have one fire, one pipe [of peace] and one war club. This will give us strength.

hordes: crowds

The Great Laws

In about 1570 five separate Iroquois peoples banded together to form the Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Iroquois League. A confederacy is a union of people who join together for a common purpose. The five peoples that made up the Iroquois Confederacy were the Onondaga (ahn un DAW gah), the Mohawk, the Oneida (oh Na. duh), the Seneca (SE nih kuh), and the Cayuga (kah YOO guh).

Deganawida became known as the Peace Maker. Deganawida and Hiawatha developed rules for the Iroquois to follow. These were called the Great Laws. The Great Laws were not only rules, though. They, were also guidelines for living together in peace.

The Grand Council

Deganawida described the Iroquois Confederacy as a great longhouse that stretched the length of the Hodenosaunee Trail. To keep peace within the confederacy, Deganawida set up a Grand Council.

This Iroquois wampum belt (above) was made in the early 1800s. It was made to honor the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy.


Representatives to the council were chosen by the clan mothers from each of the Iroquois peoples. The Grand Council made decisions through discussion and compromise. A compromise is the settling of a dispute by agreeing that each side will give up something.


Deganawida's ideas brought peace to the Iroquois and helped make them powerful. By the 1700s they had influence over Native Americans from the St. Lawrence River in the north to present-day Tennessee in the south and to Michigan in the west. In the early 1700s the Tuscarora (tus kuh RAWR uh), an Iroquoian-speaking people from the southern woodlands, moved to New York State. The Tuscarora joined the Iroquois Confederacy about 1722. Today the Grand Council governs the Iroquois, using discussion and compromise.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Algonkian and Iroquoian were two major language groups in the Eastern Woodlands.

• Most Native Americans in the Eastern Woodlands, such as the Iroquois, were farming peoples living in permanent villages.

• Women had a great deal of power in Iroquois communities of the 1500s, and still do today.

• According to Iroquois legend, Deganawida and Hiawatha formed the Iroquois Confederacy in around 1570. The Confederacy brought peace and unity to the Iroquois.


1. How did Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands use the natural resources in their environment?

2. What role do clan mothers play in Iroquois communities?

3. FOCUS How did the Iroquois Confederacy bring peace to its members?

4. THINKING SKILL Based on what you have read, what generalizations might you make about the different Eastern Woodlands peoples in about 1500?

5. GEOGRAPHY Referring to the Info-graphic on page 76, make two lists: one of Native American peoples of the northern woodlands and one of peoples of the southern woodlands.

A present-day Iroquois couple (left) joins in a traditional community dance.



This Iroquois council meeting took place in New York State in the early 1900s.

Identifying Cause and Effect





As you study history, you will notice that one event often follows another. Some of these events, but not all, are related to each other. One of the most important of these relationships is cause and effect.

A cause is something that makes something else happen. The event that happens as a result of a cause is the effect. For example, on a cold winter night, you might close your window. This cause, the closing of the window, produces an effect—your room gets warmer.


A cause-and-effect connection exists when something causes another thing to happen. How can you find this connection? Looking for word clues can help you.

Words such as because, caused by, and as a result of are clues to causes and effects. Because, since, or caused by signal a cause. As a result, therefore, and so usually signal an effect.

You learned about cause and effect in the last lesson. For example, in the 1500s the Iroquois peoples were fighting among themselves. Iroquois leaders urged them to unite. As a result of these events, the Iroquois Confederacy was formed.

These historical events, which follow each other, have a cause-and-effect relationship. Which were causes? What was the effect?

The word clues as a result signal that the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy was an effect. The constant warfare and the urging of Iroquois leaders caused the Iroquois to unite.



Read the following paragraph. Try to identify the cause-and-effect connections. Refer to the Helping Yourself box for a reminder of what causes and effects are.

The Iroquois prided themselves on being able to travel great distances. In the winter, however, snow slowed them down. If you have ever walked through deep snow, you know why. Your weight causes you to sink into the snow. To keep that from happening, the Iroquois made snowshoes that helped keep their feet on top of the snow. As a result, they were able to walk quickly in the snow. Some even claimed to walk faster in snow than on dry land.

Think about the events described in this paragraph. What is the effect that results from walking in deep snow without snowshoes? If you are having trouble finding the cause and effect, look for a clue word.


1. What is a cause? An effect?

2. What clue words signal that you are talking about a cause? What clue words signal that you are talking about an effect?

3. What was the cause of the Iroquois slowing down when they walked in the snow without snowshoes? How do you know?

4. Name two effects that occurred as a result of the Iroquois wearing snowshoes. How do you know?

5. When might finding cause-and-effect connections be useful to you?


• A cause is something that makes something else happen. An effect is the result of a cause.

• Look for clue words that show causes—because, since, caused by.

• Look for clue words that show effects—so, therefore, as a result.




Number a paper from 1 to 5. Beside each number write the word from the list below that matches the description.






1. A group of families who share the same ancestor

2. A type of clay found in the earth

3. The settlement of a dispute in which each side agrees to give up part of its demands

4. The design and use of tools, ideas, and methods to solve problems

5. Flat or gently rolling land covered with grasses and wildflowers


1. How did the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast make use of the resources of the sea? How did this affect other areas of their lives?

2. What did the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act say?

3. What is a kachina? What role does the kachina play in Hopi life?

4. What material did the Hopi use to build their homes? Describe this material.

5. What is the role of women among the Iroquois?

6. How do the Lakota use a coup stick?

7. What were the two major language groups in the Eastern Woodlands?

8. Where did the Penobscot live?

9. Who are the ancestors of the Natchez?

10. Look at the time line above. Name the event that eventually led to the appearance of the horse on the Great Plains by the 1600s.




Write a story of your own in which you show the importance of the natural environment to one of the Native American peoples you have read about.


Suppose that you are the Lakota who made the winter count pictured on page 100. Choose one of the events the picture shows and write an account of what happened.


Suppose that you are a newspaper reporter assigned to write about the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy. You might wish to include a quote from Hiawatha's speech in the story you write.



Answer the questions below to practice the skill of identifying cause and effect.

1. What is a cause? What is an effect?

2. What are some clue words that can help you identify cause and effect?

3. What caused the Hopi to use the dry farming method?

4. What was the effect of the horses from Spain arriving on the Great Plains?

5. How is understanding the connections between cause and effect important in the study of history?

Summing Up the Chapter

Copy the cause-and-effect chains on a separate piece of paper. Review the chapter to complete the blank sections. When you have finished, write a paragraph describing how life might have changed if a cause in the first part of the chain had been different. For example, what might have happened to the peoples of the Great Plains if the horse had not been introduced to North America?


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