The Indian tribes of North America
(content by Magdalena Antonczyk | design by Janett Jaschke)

Many different Native American groups lived in North America. Different groups living in the same region shared the same culture because the land they lived on shaped their way of life.
Northeast Woodlands
There were two main language groups of Native Americans in the northeast region: Iroquois and Algonquin. Within those language groups were many individual tribes or nations.
The Algonquin lived in two areas: around the Great Lakes, and near the Atlantic Ocean. The Wampanoag nation were the first tribe that Europeans met when they came to America. Both the Illini and Potawatomi, tribes that lived in Illinois long ago, were part of the Algonquin language group.
In 1570, the League of the Iroquois was formed from five tribes: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. The Tuscarora tribe joined in 1772, and it became the Six Nations. This group of people lived in what is now New York state. The Iroquois call
themselves the Hodenosaunee, which means "People of the Longhouse".
The woodlands of the northeast part of the United States is a land of rivers, streams, lakes, and, most of all, trees and plants. The weather isn't too harsh. The summers are hot and humid, and winters are cold and snowy. There is a lot of rain so plants grow well. Where there are many plants, there are many animals. The Woodland Indians did not have any trouble finding and growing food.
The most important foods for the woodland people were corn, beans, pumpkins and squash. They called them the "Three Sisters". The native Americans of the woodlands, especially the Iroquois, were farmers.
Another important food for the woodland people was wild rice. The women would paddle their birch bark canoes in the shallow water on the edges of the lakes. They bent the wild rice plants over the canoe and hit the plants so the rice fell into the boat.
Southeast woodlands
The land of the southeast woodland Native Americans stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Ohio River. What are now the states of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida are in the southeastern region.
Large groups like the Cherokee, the Chickasaw and the Creek lived in the northern part of the region. Tribes like the Natchez, Biloxi and Seminole lived in the southern area.
The ancestors of these people were called Mound Builders. They lived there from about 1000 B.C. to A.D. 700, a very long time ago. They built huge mounds that were as high as a ten story building. The mounds were used for temples and as burial sites.
The southeast is a land of mountains, rivers and forests in the northern area and grasses and swamps in the south. The picture above is of the Everglades swamp in what is now the state of Florida. The soil is good for growing crops and the climate is hot in the summer and mild in the winter. Natives grew corn and tobacco. There is a great deal of rainfall in the southeast.
The most important crops for the southeast farmers were corn, tobacco and gourds. They made corn mush and corn bread. They dried corn so they would have something to eat in the winter. Tobacco was used in ceremonies and for trade with the settlers. Gourds were dried and used as drinking cups and bowls. People also gathered nuts and berries in the forest.
The Plains
The land of the Plains Native Americans stretched from the the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and from Canada to Texas.
Groups like the Lakota and Dakota (Sioux), Pawnee and Arapaho lived in the northern and central part of the region. Tribes like the Kiowa, Apache and Comanche lived in the southern area.
The people of the Plains came from other areas after being pushed out by other tribes. In their old lands, they had been farmers. In the plains they became buffalo hunters.
The Great Plains are a huge grassland in the center of the United States. Snow covers the ground in the winter and it gets very cold. It can get very hot in the summer. There are flash downpours of rain that last only a few minutes. There are few trees on the plains, but there are rivers and streams. The land is hilly, with waves of grass and wild flowers dotted with groves of trees. There is more rain in the eastern region than in the west, so the grass is taller in the east.
People gathered nuts and berries. They used grasses to cover their wickiups or to make mats for sleeping. Trees, usually lodgepole pines, were cut down and stripped of their bark to make the frames for the teepees. Wildflowers were used to make medicine to cure stomach aches and headaches.
Pemmican was a nutritious food made by the Plains people. It lasts for many months. Although most pemmican was made from buffalo, sometimes moose and caribou were used. After the meat was dried, it was pounded into a fine powder. Then it was mixed with animal fat and dried berries like blueberries or currants.

Buffalo were especially important to southeast Native Americans. Plains tribes used every part of the buffalo.
The hide was used for teepees, clothing, and drums. Tools used for hunting, building and eating were made from bones. The meat from the animal provided food. Even the dung was used for fuel.

The Southwest
There were two groups of Native Americans in the southwest region. The Pueblo, Hopi and Zuni were descended from the Anasazi culture of 1,700 years ago. The Navajo and Apache came down from the north later.
The Anasazi have been called "the cliff dwellers". They built their homes high on the side of cliffs to protect themselves from the enemy. Long ladders reached the homes, and when they saw someone coming, they would pull them up or kick them down. The later pueblos were like the cliff houses.
The Navajo and the Apache came into the area later. They were used to moving around to find food, but food in the desert is hard to find. They learned how to be farmers from the Pueblo people. The Navajo call themselves the Diné. It means "people" in the Navajo language. The Navajo are now the southwest's largest tribe.
In the northern region of the southwest are tall mountains and deep canyons where rivers flow. The Grand Canyon is in this region. Forests of pine, juniper and piñon grow on the mountains in the middle of the region. The south is mostly desert with sagebruch and cacti. The days can be very hot and the nights very cold because the air is dry. There is not much rain. In parts of Arizona and New Mexico it rains less than ten inches a year.
The most important foods for the southwest people were corn, beans, pumpkins and squash. The native Americans of the southwest, especially the Pueblo people, were farmers.
Corn was the most important crop for the southwest people. They ground it into corn meal and baked it in ovens like this one in a pueblo. Corn was dried and stored for times of drought when there was no rain. The pueblo people made pottery to store the dried food in.
Great Basin, Plateau and California
The Great Basin got it's name because it is an area between two mountain ranges and the rivers there do not flow to the ocean. There were few people living in the area. The names of tribes in this area were Shoshone, Paiute and Mono.
The plateau area north and west of the Great Basin was home to tribes named the Nez Perce, the Ute, and the Umatilla.
Before the Europeans came to California, there were many native people living there in many different small tribes. Californian people spoke at least eighty languages. The Hupa and the Shasta were tribes that lived in northern California. The Cumash and the Salina people lived along the coastline. The Maidu and the Miwok lived in the desertlike eastern area and the Pomo lived in the area just north
of what is now San Francisco.

In the northern area, the plateau, there are mountains and forests. Spruce, balsams and aspens grow higher in the mountains. The states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are in the plateau area.
In the southern area, the Great Basin, there are flatlands with salty soil and sand where very little grows but sagebrush. It is very dry and desertlike, but cold. As in the southwest desert, piñon and ponderosa pines and juniper grow. This area includes Utah, Nevada and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.
California is the area west of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Northern California has a cool, moist climate. There are dry, hot deserts in eastern California, and southern California is sunny and mild.

The people of the plateau region gathered roots, nuts and berries. They ate plants such as wild onions, carrots, potatoes and huckleberries. Pine, reeds and grasses were used to build their homes.
In the dry and desertlike Great Basin, food was more difficult to find. Plants provided most of the food for the people. Piñon nuts, agave paste, berries, wild onion and carrots were often eaten. Baskets were made from brush and grasses, because the people carried their things with them when they traveled looking for food.
Acorns from oak trees were one of the primary foods for the California and Plateau people. The nuts were gathered in baskets. Acorns are bitter raw, so they had to be crushed and washed in warm water. The acorn meal was then cooked into mush or baked into bread.
Redwood trees found in northern California were important in building the roundhouses made of planks.

The Northwest
The Pacific Northwest people lived along 2,000 miles of coastline from southern Alaska to northern California. The plateau region was to the east beyond the Cascade mountain range, and California people lived to the south.
More than 500,000 people in tribes such as the Chinook, Haida, Nootka and Tlingit lived in the region before 1800. There was plenty of food and cedar to built their homes and make their canoes.
The Pacific northwest coast is a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean on the west and mountains in the east. The coast is jagged with many inlets and islands. The mountains trap the wet ocean air so that summers are cool, and winters are mild and wet, so there are many trees and plants. There are frequent rain storms and winters could suddenly get very cold.
Cedar trees were by far the most important tree in the forest for the people of the Pacific Northwest. Almost everything was made from wood including houses, totem poles, canoes, dishes, baskets and even clothes! Hats to keep out the winter rains were tightly woven from cedar bark.
Salmon was a very important food for all the people in these regions. Whole villages would set up camp by rivers when the salmon were swimming up the river in the spring to lay their eggs. Fish were caught in several different ways. Other fish were important to the northwest people, too. Oysters and clams were picked up on the beach.
Some of the groups went out to sea to hunt whales, but often whale meat, bones and oil were obtained from whales that had washed up on the beach and died. Whale and candlefish oil was used to light lamps.
The people of the northwest gathered all the food they needed for the whole year in spring and summer. In the winter they had time to create beautiful artwork, carve totem poles and canoes, have fun and play games.