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What Are Native Americans?

Native American brave
Native Americans have lived in the Americas for thousands of years.

America is a land of many cultures, but it’s also the home of some of the oldest stories in human history. The indigenous people who first populated this continent are the ancestors of today’s Native American tribes. They are often referred to as “Native Americans.” 

As you travel through this great country, you’ll notice that many places have names that reflect their past and that these names come from languages spoken by indigenous people long before European settlers arrived.

What are Native Americans?

A Native American is a person who is a descendant of the original inhabitants of North America. They are also referred to as Amerindians, Indigenous Americans, or Native Americans in the United States and First Nations peoples in Canada. This term has been used throughout history to refer to all indigenous peoples of what is now called the Americas.

The indigenous peoples of North America were diverse groups with distinct cultures, languages, and traditions. Some groups lived in sedentary agricultural societies while others practiced nomadic lifestyles ranging from semi-nomadic (seasonally moving) to completely settled hunter-gatherers (tending their crops).

Throughout parts of prehistory, many native people were skilled at fashioning clothes from furs and skins that Europeans later adopted during colonization.

Native Americans Are the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

The Native Americans are the indigenous peoples of the Americas. They include many different groups, most often identified by their languages, cultures, and ethnology. The term has been applied especially to North America’s indigenous peoples, though it sometimes refers to other ethnic groups living in the Americas.

Native American guardian totem
Native American guardian totem.

Being part of a tribe meant having a shared history and culture unique to that group. It also meant having access to resources like food and clothing (often made from animal skins) and responsibilities such as helping with hunting and protecting their homes and communities from attacks by other tribes or enemy nations.

Additionally, it required taking care of those who were sick or injured without the medical treatment we have available today.

How Long Have Native Americans Lived in the Americas?

Native Americans lived in what is now the United States for thousands of years. They were primarily concentrated in what is now Alaska but also lived throughout the rest of North America. Native people established nations and cultures that developed their traditions and lifestyles. This included creating pottery, crafting jewelry, and building homes out of natural materials such as wood or grasses.

Many indigenous American tribes existed before European settlers arrived on this continent and some were still thriving when Europeans arrived here on Christopher Columbus’s second voyage in 1493!

The Culture of Native Americans

Native American culture is a way of life, a collection of traditions and values that all members of a particular group share. Many have experienced cultures that have been disrupted or damaged as a result of European colonization.

Lakota Native American man at Pow Wow
Lakota Native American man at Pow Wow.

Native American cultures are rich in history and tradition, from storytelling to art forms such as pottery and weaving. They vary among tribes, but all share common themes, including respect for the land and its resources and respect for animals.

There were hundreds of distinct tribes, each with its language, customs, and traditions. They lived in various regions across North America, ranging from the arctic tundra to the deserts of southern California. Some tribes were nomadic, while others lived in permanent villages or settlements. 

Diversity of Native Nations

The culture of Native Americans is an extremely diverse one. Native American cultures are not homogeneous but a multitude of different tribes and native nations that share certain characteristics. Like other indigenous peoples worldwide, the Native Americans had a rich oral tradition. 

Many tribes developed complex and sophisticated agricultural societies with large-scale farming and irrigation projects such as those found in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and Egypt.

The History of Native Americans

The history of Native Americans is long and complex, spanning thousands of years and numerous different cultures. 

The first Native American people arrived in North America from Asia across the Bering land bridge during the last Ice Age (roughly 18,000-10,000 BC). Over time they spread throughout North America, diversifying into hundreds of distinct cultures as they adapted to their local environments. These groups are often referred to as Paleo-Indians.

Black Foot, Standing Bear, Big Eagle, Sioux
Black Foot, Standing Bear, and Big Eagle of the Sioux tribe.

By 8000 BC, a hunter-gatherer lifestyle emerged through the invention of agriculture and the domestication of plants and animals. This agricultural revolution led to the rise of complex societies such as Hawaii (c. 1200-1600 AD), the Mississippi culture in what is now Louisiana and Mississippi (c. 3000-2000 BC), and California.

The Mississippian culture, a farming society, flourished in what is now the southeastern United States from c. 800 AD to 1500 AD. 

The Aztec Empire

The Aztec Empire was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Nahua peoples of Mexico that flourished in the early Postclassic period of Mesoamerican history. At its peak, it encompassed an area that included most of central Mexico and parts of northern Central America.

The empire extended from 1345 – 1521. At the height of its power, it covered a vast region that included most of what is now central Mexico, the North American Pacific coast (all but southern Baja California), and most of Guatemala. The empire had many allies who traded with each other in middle America.

In 1519 Hernan Cortes landed on the Gulf Coast near Veracruz and, after battling and defeating numerous tribes, including the mighty Mexica, founded Mexico City on 13 April 1521.

Native Americans have managed to preserve their cultures and traditions despite this history of conflict and hardship. 

The Different Tribes of Native Americans

There are over 500 federally recognized tribes in the United States, each with its unique history and culture. The largest Native American tribe by population is the Cherokee Nation, which has about 300,000 members living in Oklahoma. Other large tribes include the Navajo (175,000 people), Choctaw (73,000 people), Chickasaw (48,000 people) and Seminole (18,000 people). 

What Do Native Americans Believe In?

Native Americans are a diverse population that includes hundreds of tribes speaking many different languages. They have strong cultural beliefs, such as honoring the Earth and living in harmony with all people. These beliefs can be seen throughout their day-to-day life.

Dream catcher
Honoring nature is a key aspect of Native American spirituality.

They believe in a higher power, the Great Spirit. They also believe in the Creator, who made everything and has given them the land to live on.

The spiritual world is important to Native American people. The afterlife is very important to them as well.

Their culture emphasizes family ties and community values.

What Are Some of the Traditions of Indigenous Americans?

Native Americans have many different traditions, including their beliefs and practices. These include believing in a spirit world where good and bad spirits live. They also have their unique language, which is still spoken today by some tribes.

They have their unique art, including pottery, basketry, and beadwork. Pottery was made by firing clay at high temperatures to harden it into shapes like bowls or jars so they could store food or water in them for later use (for example). 

Basketry was used to weave baskets out of reeds or other plants (like grasses), so they could carry things like water or plants around with them when they hunted for food outside the village area. 

Beadwork was used to make necklaces out of shells from animals such as turtles because these shells were believed to help protect against evil spirits from entering your body while you wore them around your neck.

These are only a few examples.

How has the Native American culture changed over time?

Native Americans have also adopted many of the customs and traditions of other cultures. For example, some Native American tribes became farmers and hunters. They had to work hard to produce food for their families. 

Two Native American girls
Native American culture has change dramatically over time.

Other Native American groups began to live in permanent settlements instead of following the seasons as they hunted. Some Native Americans also developed religious beliefs that were very different from those of their ancestors.

The introduction of Christianity by European settlers was a major influence on the lives of many Native American tribes. Many abandoned their traditional beliefs in favor of Christianity or blended these two religions into what is known today as “Native American Christianity.”

The Native Americans greatly impacted the settlers, who depended on them for food and shelter. The Native Americans taught the settlers how to survive in this new land. They shared their knowledge of plants and animals with them so that they could eat well and be healthy.

Colonization and Resettlement Reduced the Native Population

You may have heard about European diseases’ widespread, devastating effects on native populations. These devastating epidemics were, in fact, responsible for reducing Native populations all over the Americas.

But you might wonder how this worked out on a more personal level. What was it like to be an individual Native person when the disease hit? The way that the disease killed people varied across different tribes-in some places, it would kill indiscriminately across all ages. 

In others, it would only affect those who had already weakened themselves by working too hard or going hungry. But even if a person was spared from death by smallpox, they could still suffer other effects of the illness such as blindness, disfigurement, and/or loss of function in limbs. 

The psychological impact of colonization

In addition to these obvious changes to appearance and ability were less visible psychological consequences. 

The fear that you could catch another disease at any time (and maybe die), distrust towards anyone who looked differently from yourself, especially among others who had not been infected by smallpox.

There would also be anger at those who had survived without losing their friends and family members because they felt guilty about being alive.

The Indian Removal Act Forced Over 46,000 Natives From Their Homes

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law. The act responded to growing pressure to remove Native Americans from tribal land in the Southeast United States.

Tee pees
El Cosmico, Marfa, United States.

It had many provisions, including providing funds for voluntary removal of southeastern tribes west of the Mississippi River, guaranteeing that Indians would be paid for their improvements, and giving sole jurisdiction over criminal cases involving whites and Native Americans to federal courts rather than state courts. 

It also allowed for tribes east of the Mississippi River who voluntarily agreed to move westward after 1831 could do so without being considered “hostile” by the federal government.

About 90% of All Indigenous Americans Live in Urban Areas

Native Americans are the indigenous peoples of the Americas. They are the descendants of the original human inhabitants of North and South America, their ancestors having arrived on the continent from Asia via Beringia sometime in the last 40,000-60,000 years. 

Native Americans experienced many cultures before European contact and now possess hundreds of different dialects and languages that are sometimes separate from each other.

Native American Health Care

You might be surprised to discover that Native Americans have a high rate of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Many Native Americans have difficulty accessing health care due to their remote location and low socioeconomic status.

Native American protest
Health care access is an issue for modern day Native Americans.

Life expectancy for Native Americans has been on the decline since the 1920s. Today, it’s about six years less than for white people in America.

Another concern is that educational attainment among Native Americans is lower than any other racial group in America (12%). This means that many Native Americans do not have access to adequate resources to improve their quality of life or find work opportunities outside their communities.

The problem of dental decay in native communities

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that nearly half of all Native Americans have untreated dental decay.

The problem is especially acute in Alaska, where 61 percent of Native Alaskan children ages 6 to 11 had untreated tooth decay in 2014.

The reasons for this are numerous. Native Americans have less access to dental care than other groups do, and they’re also more likely to live in areas with few dentists or dental offices nearby. 

For many Native American communities, cultural barriers prevent them from seeking treatment. If they can’t get a dentist’s help through normal channels, they may turn to alternative remedies like chewing tobacco or consuming herbs that encourage tooth decay instead.

Native American Culture Has Thrived in Modern Times

Many Native Americans still maintain their traditions today. They have been able to persevere despite the hardships they have faced throughout history.

Pow wow regalia
A Native American man in Pow Wow regalia.

Native Americans have been marginalized for centuries. They are often portrayed as savages in popular media and had to deal with discrimination when Europeans began settling in the New World. Despite these challenges, Native Americans have a rich culture that has endured throughout American history.

Native Americans have been able to thrive in modern times. Many Native American tribes still maintain their traditions today, despite past marginalization. They are often portrayed as savages in popular media and faced discrimination when Europeans began settling in the New World.

A Proud and Resilient People

Native Americans have a rich and fascinating culture that has evolved over thousands of years. Despite the challenges they have faced, Native Americans are still thriving people today. 

Their traditions and culture have endured through history despite being marginalized by Europeans and forced to assimilate into American society. 

The Native American culture is a rich and fascinating part of our history. These people have survived centuries of oppression and discrimination, but they continue to thrive today.

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