Navigation Menu
The Indigenous people of the United States

The Indigenous people of the United States

By on Feb 6, 2018 in Blog |

The problems European settlers had in trying to occupy large areas of the United States later led to the story lines for many a Hollywood film. At the centre of the picture would often be the conflict that the new settlers would have with the indigenous population. This led to many spin offs as the story would be told of brave cowboys overcoming hostile Indians. As time has evolved these feelings of patriotism have slowly changed. The feeling is now that the Europeans came across the United States and took the lands away from the indigenous people.

Apaches on horseback

Today the indigenous people of the United States are known as Native Americans although some of their older generation refer to themselves as American Indians. Their ancestors travelled to the region from Asia 15,000 years ago through the Bering Sea when the sea level was lower and the Bering Strait was passable. This produced around 500 different tribes in the country. The area is so large that many tribes would be surviving in totally different environmental areas. This produced different societies and cultures as the indigenous people adapted to the environment they survived in.

Some of the tribes would be nomadic. The Apache people were portrayed by the 20th century media as a hostile people who were always looking for conflicts with either rival tribes or European settlers. In reality the Apache were peaceful nomadic people who occupied vast areas of the south western area of the United States. They survived by moving their bands of people in search of wild game, such as deer, bison, sheep and rabbits, and also wild vegetation. They hunted on horseback and used bows and arrows to kill their prey and the tribes used to keep packs of dogs to help with their hunting. They lived in tepees where whole families would often dwell and with like all nomadic people they needed large areas of land to survive on.

The Navajos, are cousins of the Apache and also based in the south west of the country, and they were semi-nomadic when they needed to go and search for food. However, they did have a more permanent home and their existence would be clan based. As well as hunting for animals, land around their permanent homes would be set-a-side for plants, fruit and vegetables. Their traditional homes were “hogans” which were houses constructed out of dried mud and wood. The Navajos are spiritual people which is based balance and harmony to people’s lives and there were many ceremonies around the subject of their people’s health.

“Hogans”, the home for Navajos

The Cherokee is the largest of the 567 recognized tribes in the United States with 819,000 people claiming to have Cherokee ancestry. The tribe were originally located in the south-east of the country but were then forced to relocate in between 1836 and 1839 to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. The Cherokee would combine hunting for animals with cultivating plants and vegetables such as maize, corn and squash. The tribe would be split between the elder people who were responsible for religious activities, and the younger men who would go out on horseback hunting and fighting. The problems that the Cherokees faced with the European invasion was experienced by virtually every other native tribe. The first problem was that the Europeans brought disease into the country that the Indians simply could not cope with such as influenza and small pox. This led to many deaths and a weakening of the tribal numbers.

Another major problem was the vast cultural differences. For centuries different tribes would share the vast plains which provided the wide variety of game that the indigenous people would need in order to survive on. As soon as the Europeans arrived they wanted to individually own the land. There was no room for the nomadic activities of the Native Americans. This was clearly experienced in Mississippi as the previous hunting grounds of the Cherokees was turned into Cotton fields for the European farmers.

The decimation of the native population and the forced removal of them from their homelands onto reservations, has left the country with a feeling of regret. Today the plight of the Native Americans is widely covered and their rights are heavily protected.