Native Americans

When European settlers first arrived in America, millions of American Indians lived throughout the continent. Between 1840 and 1890, the United States went through a huge population boom. During that time, the population grew by nearly 46 million people. As settlers and immigrants continued to arrive, the Native Americans were pushed further west.The completion of the trancontinental railroad made it easier than ever for people to move across the vast country seeking new land and experiences. Many Native Americans died in battles over land and by starvation and diseases brought by the settlers. Their customs and traditions almost disappeared. This huge spurt in population and its effects on the native peoples of North America is one of the sad portions of our history.

Native Americans were gathered and placed on reservations. By about 1887, there were no more free Native Americans. Today, there are approximately 275 Indian land areas in the U.S. administered as Indian reservations The largest is the Navajo reservation that consists of about 16-million acres of land in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Many of the smaller reservations are less than 1,000 acres with the smallest less than 100 acres. On each reservation, the local governing authority is the tribal government.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about Native Americans.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about Native Americans.

The American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island
Travel to that famous island in San Francisco Bay. First, thousands of pelicans lived on it for hundreds of years. Then the Spanish visited it in the 1700s and used it as a fortress. Americans took control of it in the 1850s, and it was the site if Alcatraz prison from 1851 to 1933. From 1969 to 1971, a group of Native American activists occupied the island in hopes of establishing a center there.
Cankpe Opi: Wounded Knee Home Page
Travel to Wounded Knee, South Dakota. It was the site of one of the last major battles between the United States military and Native American tribes. During this battle, which occurred in 1890, a band of Sioux, led by Big Foot, fled to the badlands of South Dakota to resist being forced onto reservations. They were captured on December 28, 1890 and brought to the banks of a creek. In attempts to disarm the tribe, a military officer was wounded. The U.S. troops then opened fire and shot about 200 men, women, and children.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History: American Indians and the Natural World
Spend time at this web museum and explore Native American connections with the natural universe. This site highlights four native tribes---the Tlingit of the Northwest Coast, the Hopi of the Southwest, the Iroquois of the Northeast, and the Lakota of the Plains--and examines their belief systems, philosophies, and practical knowledge and they relate to their natural surroundings.
Historical & Cultural Significance of the Bering Land Bridge
Travel back in time and walk the land bridge that probably once connected Asia and North America. Learn about the theory is that the ancestors of Native Americans crossed the land bridge to North America.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Virtually visit a Native American pueblo. These homes, built mostly by the Pubelo peoples of what is now New Mexico, were mostly built of adobe. Many of them were several stories high and terraced for defensive purposes.
Serpent Mound
Visit this ancient, pre-Columbian site in Ohio. It was probably home to the Adena culture of ancient Americans who lived in the area from about 500 BC to 200 AD.
Trail of Tears
Travel along the Trail of Tears. In the winter of 1838-1839, the Cherokee were forced to relocate from their native homelands in the southeastern United States. They walked 800-1,000 miles to Indian Territory, which now is the state of Oklahoma.

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People To See

Chief Crazy Horse
Chief Crazy Horse was a famous chief of the Oglala Sioux. Like Sittle Bull, Crazy Horse urged his people to resist white encroachment in their tribal lands. This site has a collection of interviews with people who actually knew Crazy Horse.
Chief Joseph
Chief Joseph was a name given to him by white settlers. His real name was Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht which meant Thunder Traveling to the Mountains. His tribe lived in the area of northern Idaho and southern Washington and Oregon. He and his people did not want to leave their ancestral lands. His tribe made preparations to travel peacefully to the reservation. But General Oliver Otis Howard of the U.S. Army was misinformed about Chief Joseph's plans and ordered an attack on the tribe. Chief Joseph was able to hold the army back and made a decision to try and flee to Canada and freedom.
Chief Seattle
Visit with Chief Seattle. He was a Suquamish leader in the Pacific northwest. Seattle, Washington was named after this Native American chief.
George Armstrong Custer
Meet the man whom the Sioux called "Long Hair". George Armstrong Custer played a role in the Civil War before he went on to became famous or infamous in his dealing with Native Americans. Before Little Bighorn, Custer made himself known to the native tribes in the Black Hills.
George Catlin
Meet George Catlin. He was an American artist who was fascinated with American Indian life. During the mid 1800s, he traveled the country painting pictures of many Native American scenes.
Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe was one of the greatest all-around athletes in American history. His Native American name was Wa-Tho-Huck which means Bright Path. Growing up in Oklahoma in the early 1900s, he was an accomplished high school athlete in both baseball and football.
Get to know Osceola. He was a Seminole chief who led his people in resisting their removal out of Florida to the west.
Pocahontas was born about 1595 near Jamestown. Her father was Powhatan. As a child, she frequently visited Jamestown bringing gifts of food. Her name, Pocahontas, meant "playful one".
Chief Pontiac was a member of the Ottawa tribe. In the 1760s, he assembled a unified confederation of tribes to resist the British. This group included members of the Ottawas, Delawares, Hurons, Illinois, Kickapoos, Miamis, Senecas, Potawatomies, Shawnees, and Chippewas.
Red Cloud
Get to know Red Cloud. He was leader of the Oglala Sioux. Find out more about this man who is famous for saying, "They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it."
Sitting Bull
Tatanka Iyotanka -- Sitting Bull was born in the winter of 1831 in what is now South Dakota. He was part of the Hunkpapa Sioux. Sitting Bull became a great Sioux leader. He resisted forced settlement on reservations for his people and had a famous part in the battle at Little Bighorn in 1876.

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Things To Do

A Virtual Tour of Southwest American Desert Petroglyphs
Learn about ancient native peoples by viewing the petroglyphs they left behind in the southwestern United States.
Learn about the Anasazi--prehistoric Native Americans who lived in what is now northern Arizona and southern Utah. Mesa Verde is a national park with dozens of preserved Anasazi cliff dwellings.
The California Gold Rush
Between 1848 and 1850, it is estimated that 100,000 Native Americans died in California alone as a result of the huge influx of settlers and adventureres seeking their fortune.
First Nations Histories
Explore links to more than 240 tribal histories categorized by region.
Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868
In the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, the government promised that if Native Americans would cease warfare against American forts and against settlers traveling on thoroughfares such as the Oregon Trail, then the government would give the tribes about $50,000 a year--mostly in food and supplies--for 50 years.
The Homestead Act
Discover how the Homestead of Act of 1862 affected native peoples. This act promised 160 acres of land to any settler who would live on the acres and farm them. Most of these settlers used the provisions of the act to settle throughout the Great Plains.
Indian Country Today
Virtually turn the pages of America's largest Native American newspaper.
Native American Nations
Browse through links to tribal nations listed alphabetically.
Native American Resources
Learn about the Apache, Blackfoot, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Lakota, and Pueblo tribes. Read about native legends, heros, leaders, and great victories.
Native Words / Native Warriors
Learn about this group of warriors that helped during World War I and II by speaking their own language.
Explore information about art including beadwork, feathers, pottery, games, toys, clothing, weaving, and stonework.
On This Date in North American Indian History
Find out what happened "on this date" in Native American history.
The Paiute People of the Great Basin Desert
Explore the culture of the Paiute peoples of Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah.
Quotes from Our Native Past
Find quotations from various American Indian leaders.
Smithsonian: National Museum of the American Indian
Virtually explore rotating exhibits relating to American Indians.
Southwest Native Americans
Learn about the native peoples of Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado, and the northern part of Mexico. These tribes consisted of the Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Zuni.
WWW Virtual Library - American Indians
Locate dozens and dozens of links about Native American culture, art, history, language, indigenous knowledge, ect.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Bruchac, Joseph. Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native America. Mahwah, N.J.: Bridgewater Books, c1997.
  • Force, Roland W. The American Indians. New York: Chelsea House, c1991.
  • Haslam, Andrew. North American Indians. New York: Thomson Learning, 1995.
  • Lassieur, Allison. Before the Storm: American Indians Before the Europeans. New York: Facts On File, c1998.
  • Miller, Jay. Native Americans. Chicago: Childrens Press, c1993.
  • Murdoch, David Hamilton. American Peoples: North American Indian. New York: DK Publishing, 1996.
  • Murdoch, David Hamilton. North American Indian. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2000.
  • Smith-Baranzini, Marlene. Book of the American Indians. Boston: Little Brown; Covelo, Calif: Yolla Bolly Press, c1994.
  • Viola, Herman J. North American Indians. New York: Crown Publishers, c1996.