Native American tribes are made up of many groups and ethnicities, many of which survive as sovereign and intact nations.
Thousands of years before Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Guanahani, the Native Americans’ nomadic ancestors had discovered America by traversing the land bridge between Asia and Alaska over 12,000 years ago.
In fact, it’s estimated that some 50 million Indians already inhabited the American continent when the Europeans arrived, and about 10 million inhabited the area now known as the United States of America.
This article provides you with information on indigenous American tribes, their customs, lifestyle, their famous warriors and chiefs.
Native American Tribes of California
- Native American Tribes of California
- Northwest Coast Tribes
- Southwest American Tribes
- Tribes from the Mississippi River Great Plains
- Tribes from the Northern Woodlands
- Tribes from the Southern Forests
Native Americans have lived in California for 19,000 years, and it’s possible that they inhabited the area long before this. These early inhabitants crossed a land bridge that spanned the Bering Strait from Asia to Alaska until they arrived in the south, now known as California.
The oldest human skeleton discovered in California (and possibly North America) is about 13,000 years old. The skeleton, dubbed the Arlington Springs man, was discovered on Santa Rosa Island.
Thanks to an abundant food supply and a temperate climate, the indigenous population flourished in California, and it’s estimated that 300,000 Native Americans lived there before the arrival of Europeans.
Indigenous Californian tribes were isolated from tribes from other regions and even from other tribes within California. This isolation was due to the relief of the land, with high ridges and large deserts.
California generally has a mild climate and therefore the Indians who lived there wore very little clothing. In some of the colder areas, they wore skins in the winter. Epidemics like malaria devastated California’s indigenous population. Its population fell from about 200,000 in 1800 to about 15,000 in 1900.
1- The Yana
Yana means “People” in their Hokan language. In the early 19th century, the Yana lived in the upper Sacramento River valley and the adjacent eastern foothills. The elevation of their territory ranged from 300 to 10,000 feet.
The indigenous Yana population probably had fewer than 2,000 individuals. The last wild Indian in America from the Yana tribe was Ishi, who left his ancestral territory near Oroville, California back in 1911.
The Yana tribe performed rituals to bring good luck to hunters and to celebrate boys and girls entering adulthood, but little else is known of their customs.
2- The Yuki
The Yuki settled in northwest California and spoke the Yuki language. It’s estimated that they had a population of 2,000 in 1770 and by 1910 there were only 100. The Yuki were the largest tribe out of the four tribes united by the Yukian language family, which was only spoken by them.
Yuki culture was different from the rest of the tribes in the northwest and also different from the culture of the larger groups to the south and east, who regarded the Yuki as rough mountain people. Yuki territory was in the mountains of the California Coast Range, a rugged land.
It included the area along the upper Eel River above North Fork, except for the part of the South Eel River occupied by the Huchnom. They mainly ate deer, acorns, and salmon, which they hunted with lances, nets, and their hands.
The Yuki considered ceremonies to be important and they had many special customs linked to young people entering adulthood. They celebrated the Acorn Sing in January and May, a very joyful ceremony that was performed to please Taikomol, the Yuki creator of the world, so that there’d be a bountiful acorn crop.
On special occasions, Yuki men and women danced together, wearing special feathered cloaks and dancing skirts. Before each battle, the Yuki went to a war-ball and they’d celebrate victory with another dance.
3- The Paiute
The Paiute settled in the middle of the border between Northeastern and Eastern California (east of Modoc, Lassen and Mono counties). Their language was from the Uto-Aztecan family. Their population, according to the censuses of 1770 and 1910, could not be recorded.
Their territory was on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, placing the Paiute tribe between the desert cultures and the Great Basin in Nevada. Only a small percentage of the total number of Paiute lived in what is now California.
Pine nuts were the staple food of the Paiutes, and their settlements depended on the supply of this seed. Wild rice, wild rye, and chia seeds were also important sources of food for the Paiute.
The Paiute, who lived near Mono Lake and in the Owens Valley, had friendly contact with other indigenous Californian groups and traveled through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to trade with the Yokuts, Miwok, and Tubatulabal tribes.
The Paiute exchanged pine nuts for acorns that grew on the western side of the mountains. Pearl chains that came from the people who lived along the coast were used as money.
They celebrated the harvest together, all dancing in a circle, where singers and dancers wore a special dress for the occasion. The dances were held outdoors.
Many groups of the Paiute who settled in the Owens Valley met each year for the lamentation ceremony or “weeping ceremony” to remember all those who’d died over the last year.
4- The Miwok
The Miwok settled in central California (Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera and San Joaquin Counties and Southern Sacramento County). Their language came from the Penutian language family.
Their approximate population according to the 1770 census was 9,000 and according to the 1910 census, 670 people.
The Miwok mainly lived along the foothills of the mountains. The Miwok from the mountains depended on deer as their main source of meat. For the Miwok from the plains, elk and antelope were the easiest foods to get. They also ate smaller animals such as rabbits, beavers, and squirrels, but never coyotes, skunks, owls, snakes or frogs.
The plains Miwok also ate salmon and sturgeon from the Sacramento Delta waters. Fish and meat were cooked over an open fire or roasted in the ashes of the fire.
They also had stone-heated earth ovens that were used for baking and steaming food. Most Miwok ceremonies were related to religious practices. They wore special robes and feather headdresses for these celebrations.
Many other dances and celebrations were done solely for entertainment purposes. Some Miwok dances included clowns called Wo’ochi who represented coyotes. The Miwok also celebrated the Uzumati, or grizzly bear, ceremony, where the main dancer pretended to be a bear.
5- The Hupa
The Hupa settled in Northwest California (Humboldt County). Their language was from the Athabaskan language family. They had an estimated population of 1,000 in the 1770 census and 500 in the 1910 census.
The Hupa were close to the Chilula tribe and the Whilkut tribe, their neighbors to the west. These three groups differed in dialect from other Californian Athabaskan tribes.
Their staple foods were acorns and salmon. They also ate other fish like trout and sturgeon. The Hupa maintained trade relations with the Yurok, who lived along the coast near the mouth of the River Klamath. They got canoes, salt (made from dried seaweed) and saltwater fish from the Yurok Indians.
The Hupa had two main ceremonies to celebrate the New Year and the harvest. The most elaborate Hupa ceremonies were the White Deerskin Dance and the Jump Dance. Each of these dances lasted for 10 days.
In the White Deerskin Dance, dancers held white deerskins as they danced. Before each dance, there was a long recital of sacred words that told the origins of the ceremony.
Northwest Coast Tribes
Native Americans on the Northwest Coast lived in clans and had an indigenous population of about 250,000. These American Indians lived along the Pacific coast.
The region they inhabited stretched from southern Alaska to northern California and the coasts of British Columbia and Washington state. This area also includes some notable islands such as the Haida Gwaii archipelago and Vancouver Island.
6- The Chinook
The Chinook Indians were several groups of indigenous tribes from the Northwest Coast of America who spoke Chinookan. These Native Americans traditionally lived along the Columbia River in what is now Oregon and Washington State.
They were great fishermen and merchants who ate food from the rivers and ocean and built their houses with timber. They also built canoes out of red cedars.
Many of their items of clothing were also made from cedar tree bark. The Chinook used tattoos to decorate their skin and bound their heads according to the customs of their people. This physical aspect earned them the nickname ‘Flatheads’.
The Chinook were a friendly, harmless and naturally curious people. They erected totems, which were carved with animals that symbolized their guardian spirits.
7- The Nootka
The Nootka, also known as Nuu-chah-nulth, were North American Indians who lived along the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Along with the Kwakiutl, they formed the Wakashan linguistic family.
The basic Nootka diet included salmon, nuts, roots, ferns, lupines, and berries. In the summer months, they moved to open beaches and fished in the sea. To them, fish oil had three purposes: it meant wealth, it was a very valuable commodity, and they ate it with all their food.
Whaling was also a common form of hunting in the early summer months. The potlatch was this tribe’s great ceremony and it focused primarily on two aspects: confirmation of tribal individuals through inheritance and the distribution of gifts.
Each individual who was to receive a gift in the potlatch had to sit in an order according to their social status and hereditary right. The Nootka had very little interest in the heavenly bodies.
There was absolutely no worship of “god” within the Nootka, however, they had beliefs and rituals that ensured good luck, as well as rituals to cure the sick.
8- The Makah
The Makah were a Native American tribe who lived in the extreme northwest of Washington state, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Along with the Nuu-chah-nulth tribes of Vancouver Island in Canada, the Makah make up the Nootkan subgroup of Northwest Coast native cultures.
Their first recorded contact with Europeans was in 1790 with the Spanish ship the Princesa Real. The 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay established a reservation that preserved their hunting and fishing rights in the tribe’s “usual and customary” areas.
The native population of some 2,000 people fell to 654 in 1861, largely due to epidemics such as smallpox. Whales and whaling characterize this tribe and many rituals focusing on whales were practiced by the Makah.
The Makah Indians believed in several mythological figures from the natural world. Hohoeapbess, translated as the “two men who made things,” are said to be the brothers of the sun and moon who had transformed people, animals, and the land from a different previous state.
9- The Haida
The Haida were a seafaring people, excellent fishermen, and hunters who inhabited the Haida Gwaii archipelago in the north of British Columbia. The Haida tribe lived on produce from the Pacific Ocean and built their houses with timber and their canoes out of cedar wood.
The Haida were one of the northwestern tribes who erected totem poles, symbolizing their guardian spirits who looked over their families, clan or tribe. The mythical thunderbird is usually found at the top of their totems.
Legend has it that this powerful bird captured a whale with its claws in return for a prestigious position among the totems. The people from this tribe spoke the Haida language, called ‘Xaayda Kil’.
10- The Tlingit
Tlingit Indians are Native Americans from the coast along Southern Alaska in the United States, and British Columbia and the Yukon in Canada. The name Tlingit come from their word for “the People of the Tides”.
There are two Tlingit tribes in Canada (called First Nations). Both tribes have their own reservations. The Tlingit Indians living in Alaska live in indigenous towns, not reservations. The Tlingit Indians used canoes made from hollow spruce and cedar tree logs.
They traveled all over the northwest coast, going up rivers and sailing in lakes to fish, hunt, and trade. They also used canoes for war. Some of their war canoes were up to 18 meters in length. Traditionally, Tlingit women were responsible for caring for the children, cooking and gathering plants to eat.
Men’s traditional role was to hunt and fish. Men were also the warriors. Tribal chiefs were always men, but both men and women could be clan leaders.
The Tlingit people traded with many other American tribes on the Northwest Coast. Their blankets or “Chilkat” were highly sought-after in other tribes. Their first contact with Europeans was in 1741 with Russian explorers.
Between 1836 and 1840, about half of the Tlingit were killed by diseases introduced by the Europeans, including smallpox and influenza. The Tlingit were very spiritual and believed that their shamans had magical powers to heal diseases, predict the future and control time.
Southwest American Tribes
- Languages: Siouan, Algonquian, Caddoan, Uto-Aztecan and Athabaskan.
- Geography: Dry and rocky land with cacti. Warm and arid climate. Little rain.
- Animals: Desert animals such as reptiles and snakes.
- Livestock: Sheep and goats.
- Natural Resources: Maize, beans, pumpkins, sunflower seeds.
- Culture and lifestyle: They were farmers and some were nomadic hunters like the Navajo.
- Type of housing, homes or shelter: Farmers lived in adobe homes. Hunters lived in hogans or wickiups.
11- The Hopi
The Hopi were a peace-loving tribe that have kept their culture largely intact due to living in isolated areas of northeastern Arizona.
The most famous Hopi chiefs include Chief Dan and Chief Tuba. The Hopi tribe is famous for its beliefs, including Kachina dolls and the Hopi Prophecy.
The Hopi were farmers. Their villages were located on the high plateaus of northern Arizona. The name Hopi means “peaceful” or “people of peace” in their Uto-Aztecan tongue.
The Hopi’s religion and beliefs are based on Animism, which embraces the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects, animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains, rocks, etc., have souls.
The Hopi tribe is strongly associated with Kachina dolls. The Kachina represent the powerful spirits of deities, animals and natural elements that can use their magical powers for the tribe’s wellbeing, bring rains, heal, and bring fertility and protection.
The Navajo tribe, also known as the Diné, were a semi-nomadic people who lived in the southwestern desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
The Navajo fiercely resisted the invasion of their lands. The most famous chiefs of the Navajo tribe included Chief Barboncito and Chief Manuelito. Men were in charge of hunting and protecting the camp and women were in charge of looking after the house and land.
Navajo men had sheep and goats, and the women spun yarn and weaved wool into fabrics. The Navajo tribe spoke Na-Dené, a language also known as Diné bizaad.
Navajo religion and beliefs were based on Animism, which embraced the spiritual idea that the universe and all natural objects, animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains, rocks, etc., have souls or spirits.
The Navajo believed that the Yei Spirit mediated between humans and the Great Spirit and believed that it controlled rain, snow, wind, and sun, as well as night and day.
13- The Apache
The Apache was a fierce, strong, and warlike tribe who roamed the arid desert lands of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The Apache bravely resisted Spanish, Mexican, and finally American invasions.
The most famous Apache war chiefs included Cochise, Geronimo, and Victorio. They had their own language, which was also called Apache. Rabbit was a basic part of their diet, along with corn, sheep, and goats, which they often traded with the agricultural Native Americans living in the southwest.
Other foods in their diet included beans, sunflower seeds, and pumpkins. The Apache made a beer out of maize called tiswin. Apache religion and beliefs were based on Animism.
The Gila monster was important to them and it represented preservation and survival to them. The Apache believed its breath could kill a man.
14- The Acoma
The Acoma or “white rock people,” are one of the many tribes of people from the southwest. Their town is located in the center of western New Mexico. They lived in multifamily adobe homes.
The Acoma people have lived for over 800 years at the top of a 350-foot high steep mesa, which was carved into a huge plateau thousands of years ago by river water.
Their location provided natural defenses against enemies who’d try to steal their maize, and this arid land is home to a large number of plants and small burrowing animals which were the Acoma’s source of food.
Every year, the Acoma held festivals with dances in honor of rain and maize, giving thanks for the blessings of the gods.
Non-Indian individuals are not allowed in their sacred spaces. Acoma culture exists today despite the fact that half of their population was massacred in 1599 by a Spanish explorer who sought to avenge his brother who’d been killed in the area.
The Acoma didn’t resist, and although there was some conversion to Christianity and missionary work, they continued to work hard to produce crops and crafts that were later sold in Europe and Mexico for large amounts of money going to the coffers of the Spanish conquistadors.
15- The Laguna Pueblo
The name of this tribe originates from a large lagoon that they lived near. The Laguna Pueblo are made up of six major tribes in central New Mexico, 42 miles west of Albuquerque. There were around 330 people living in their village in 1700.
In 1990, 3,600 of them lived in the reservation. They spoke a dialect of Keresan. Religion and life are inseparable in their culture. The sun is seen as a symbol of the Creator.
The sacred mountains in every direction, plus the sun above and the earth below, bring definition and balance to the world of the Laguna Pueblo. Many of their religious ceremonies revolve around the climate and are dedicated to bringing rains.
To this end, the Laguna Pueblo Indians evoke the power of the katsinas, sacred beings who live in the mountains and other holy places.
16- The Maricopa
The Maricopa are an American Indian group whose 200 members live with members of the Pima tribe near the Gila River Indian Reservation and the Salt River Indian Reservation in Arizona.
By the end of 1700, the Maricopa tribe had around 3,000 members and lived along the Gila River in south-central Arizona.
The Maricopa tribal government consists of a popularly elected tribal council with 17 members controlled by a constitution adopted and approved under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
The Maricopa language is classified as being in the Yuman group of the Hokan language family. Tribal income mainly came from agricultural and commercial tenancies and the tribe’s agricultural operations. They grew corn, beans, pumpkins and cotton, gathered beans, nuts, and berries, fished, and hunted rabbits in communal units.
The clans were patrilineal, marriage outside of the clan was practiced and polygyny was allowed, particularly to sisters. The tribe was led by a chief who lived in the village and whose position was sometimes inherited through the male line.
Their dead were traditionally cremated and a horse was killed to allow the deceased to ride west to the land of the dead.
17- The Mojave
The Mojave tribe was made up of fierce hunters, fishermen, and farmers. They communicated using the Yuman language. The Mojave tribe distinguished themselves with the tattoos that adorned their bodies.
Their most famous chiefs include Chief Iretaba and Chief Hobelia. Mojave tattoos were made with ink from a blue cactus. These tattoos were done at puberty as an important rite of passage into adulthood.
Both men and women in the tribe were tattooed, and they were thought to bring good fortune.
Mojave warriors also had protective tattoos when they prepared to go to battle, believing that in addition to protecting them from death, they’d instill fear in the hearts of their enemies.
18- The Pima
The Pima were peaceful farmers who lived in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. The Pima were descendants of ancient North American Indians called the Hohokam.
The most famous Pima leaders include Chief Ursuth, Chief Antonio, and Chief Antonito. The Pima spoke in an Uto-Aztecan language and called themselves “River People”.
They ate rabbits, ducks and river fish and planted corn, pumpkins, and sunflower seeds. Their beliefs were based on Animism, with the “Earthmaker” being their main god. In addition to this, among the other spirits they revered, the most notable deity was known as the “Elder Brother”.
19- The San Ildefonso
San Ildefonso was the name of a Spanish mission established in 1617. The indigenous name of this tribe was Powhoge, which means “where the water runs.”
They settled about 22 kilometers northwest of Santa Fe. In 1990, about 350 of them were still living in the town.
The San Ildefonso tribe spoke a dialect of Tewa, the Kiowa-Tanoan language. The San Ildefonso tribe’s ceremonies revolved around the climate and they performed dances to bring rains. They used the power of the katsinas, sacred beings from the mountains and other holy places.
20- Santa Clara Pueblo
The name for the Santa Clara Pueblo in Tewa is Capo. This tribe was located in the town of Santa Clara, on the banks of the Rio Grande, about 25 kilometers north of Santa Fe.
Its population numbered around 650 in 1780 and may have been several thousand in 1500. In 1990, 1,245 of them still lived in Santa Clara. The Santa Clara Native Americans spoke a dialect of Tewa.
They believed the Sun was the representative of the Creator God and their rituals were always linked to the climate, and they had rain dances.
The Santa Clara Pueblo’s governments came from two institutions: the cacique, the chief or head of the town, and the war chiefs.
In Santa Clara, the summer and winter caciques “governed” by consensus among the leaders of the town, and had the last word in all matters.
Tribes from the Mississippi River Great Plains
Native Americans living in the present state of Mississippi had a Stone Age way of life: they only had stone tools and rudimentary weapons, they’d never seen a horse, and they had no knowledge of the wheel.
21- The Sioux
The Sioux were a tribe of natives who fiercely resisted the European invasion. The names of the most famous leaders who led the Sioux tribe to battle were: Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Gall, Crazy Horse, Rain in the Face and Kicking Bear.
Famous conflicts included the Sioux Wars (1854 – 1890), the Red Cloud War (1865-1868), the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 and the Ghost Dance of 1890.
The Sioux tribe was famous for its hunter and warrior culture. They communicated using the Siouan language. Their main weapons were bows and arrows, axes, large stones, and knives.
Sioux religion and beliefs were based on Animism. In Lakota Sioux mythology, Chapa is the beaver spirit who symbolizes domesticity, work, and preparation. The Sioux believed in Manitou, the Great Spirit.
22- The Comanche
The Comanche was a very amicable tribe located in the south of the Great Plains. They were known to be excellent horsemen. They fought fiercely against enemy tribes and resisted the white invasion of their lands.
The most glorious Comanche chiefs include Chief El Sordo, Chief Buffalo Hump, Quanah Parker, and Chief White Eagle.
They spoke an Uto-Aztecan language. They ate the meat of all animals available on the land: buffalo, deer, elk, bears, and wild turkeys. These high-protein foods were accompanied by roots and wild vegetables like spinach, prairie turnips, and potatoes. They flavored their meals with wild herbs.
They also ate berries and wild fruits. When the animals they ate were scarce, the tribe ate dried buffalo meat called pemmican. They were animists and believed in Manitou, the Great Spirit.
23- The Arapaho
The Arapaho were a people who had secret warrior societies. The Arapaho bravely resisted the European invasion of the Great Plains along with their Cheyenne and Sioux allies. Their most reputable chiefs were Chief Left Hand, Little Raven, and Chief Sharp Nose.
Like the Comanche, they ate the meat of all the animals available on their land: buffalo, deer, elk, bears, and wild turkeys. They also ate berries and wild fruits and when animals were scarce, they ate dried buffalo meat called pemmican.
They were Animists like other tribes from the area, and they believed in Manitou, the Great Spirit.
24- The Blackfoot
The Blackfoot tribe, also known as Siksika, was a cruel and warlike nation that was involved in many inter-tribal conflicts in North Dakota and South Dakota.
The Blackfoot tribe gallantly resisted the European invasion of their lands in the Great Plains. The most well-known chiefs of the Blackfoot tribe include Chief Morning Owl, Chief Red Crow, Chief Yellow Horse, Chief Red Feather, and Chief Running Rabbit.
The Blackfoot tribe were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in teepees and hunted buffalo, deer, elk and mountain sheep. The only plant grown by the Blackfoot tribe was tobacco.
Men oversaw hunting and protecting the camp and women were in charge of the house. The tribe’s wide range stretched from the Missouri River to Saskatchewan in the north and the Rockies to the west.
They spoke Algonquian. They believed in Manitou, the Great Spirit. They called their supreme being Apistotoke.
Tribes from the Northern Woodlands
The northern woodlands have a wide variety of trees and plants and a plethora of lakes, rivers, and streams. The climate has four seasons with very dramatic winters.
25- The Iroquois
The Iroquois Indians are the Native Americans who lived in the northeastern United States as well as in the eastern forests that make up New York state and the immediate surrounding areas.
The Iroquois originally were called Kanonsionni, which means “Longhouse people” (the name of the shelters in which they lived), but today they call themselves Haudenosaunee.
There were originally five tribes that made up this group, but in 1722 a sixth tribe joined the Iroquois nation and they were known as the Six Nations.
They were hunters and gatherers, farmers and fishers, but agriculture was the basis of their diet. The Iroquois are well known for their masks which they used strictly for religious purposes. The masks were considered sacred and couldn’t be seen by anyone who wasn’t a member of their tribe.
26- The Algonquin
The Algonquin were an extensive network of tribes, mainly united by the language family they spoke: Algonquian. The Algonquin were patriarchal, meaning that their tribal society was ruled and led by men.
Hunting lands passed from father to son. Chiefs inherited their titles from their fathers. Although it was a tribe with different chiefs, final decisions were made via consensus. The Algonquin believed that all living things deserved respect.
They strongly believed in respecting the life cycle, whether by observing seasonal changes or finding new hunting grounds to allow old lands to regenerate.
Dreams and visions were of great importance to them, so their culture had shamans (men who could “see” things that others could not).
27- The Chippewa or Ojibwa
The Chippewa are also known as the Ojibwa in Canada. The Chippewa originally inhabited a vast stretch of land around Lake Huron and Lake Superior and Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to the south. They were hunters, fishermen, and farmers.
Their heartless and warlike reputation and their enormous numbers made the Chippewa one of the most feared tribes. The Chippewa spoke a dialect related to Algonquian. “Chippewa” means “the original man” in their language.
Chippewa men were expert fishermen and boatbuilders. The Chippewa who lived around the Great Lakes built canoes for hunting and trade expeditions and to transport their warriors.
For the Chippewa or Ojibwa, the supernatural world had many spiritual beings and forces. Some of these beings were the Sun, the Moon, the Four Winds, Thunder and Lightning, and were benevolent Gods. For them, dreams and visions had great importance and the power gained through dreams could be used to manipulate the natural and supernatural realms, and could be used for good and evil.
Tribes from the Southern Forests
Native Americans from the Southeast were considered forest Indians. 4,000 years ago, there were many indigenous tribes in these forests, the majority being farmers, hunters, and gatherers. Each had a structured government and spoke different languages and dialects.
These tribes had great artists and were considered very intelligent. They created very colorful art forms using natural dyes. They were great storytellers and had a great knowledge of healing herbs and natural medicines. Their knowledge was relayed orally from one generation to the next.
28- The Cherokee
The Cherokee were a large and powerful tribe that had originally moved from the Great Lakes region to the southern Appalachian mountains and lived in a massive area that now spans parts of western North Carolina and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and western Florida.
The Cherokee were hunters and farmers who grew corn, beans, and pumpkins. The Cherokee had their own dialect in the Iroquois language family.
The Cherokee were famous for their masks, which were carved with exaggerated features and depicted non-indigenous people as well as animals.
Cherokee tradition held owls and pumas in high regard as they believed that these two animals were the only ones who’d been able to stay awake during the seven nights of creation while the others had fallen asleep.
The Cherokee included spiritual beings in their everyday lives. Although these beings were different from people and animals, they weren’t considered “supernatural” but were part of the natural real world for them. Most Cherokee claimed to have had personal experiences with these spiritual beings at some point in their lives.
29- The Seminole
The Seminole people were descended from the ancient Mississippi River Valley mound builders. They settled in Alabama and Georgia but made their way further south to Florida.
Notable Seminole chiefs and leaders included Osceola and Billy Bowlegs. The Seminole spoke several dialects of the Muskogean language family. They refer to themselves as “Red People”.
The Seminole ate wild turkeys, rabbits, deer, fish, turtles and alligators. Their basic staples were corn, pumpkins, and beans, which were accompanied with wild rice, mushrooms, and plants. As time passed, the Seminole began to breed cattle and pigs that they’d acquired from the European invaders.
They were a mixed people made up of Indians fleeing whites, as well as black slaves who were also fleeing whites. They were animists and had shamans who healed with medicinal herbs and predicted the future.
30- The Chickasaw
The Chickasaw tribe from north-eastern Mississippi were known for their brave, warlike and independent attitude. They were considered to be the most formidable warriors in the southeast and were known as the “unconquered”.
The Chickasaw were farmers, fishermen, and hunter-gatherers who underwent long excursions throughout the Mississippi Valley. The Chickasaw spoke several dialects related to the Muskogean language.
They ate beans, corn, and pumpkins. Chickasaw men hunted deer, bears, wild turkeys, and fish on long excursions through the Mississippi Valley.
Some even traveled to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo. Their diet was also supplemented by a range of nuts, fruits, and herbs. The Chickasaw Indians believed that they, as well as other neighboring tribes, had emerged from the earth through the “Productive Mountain.”
They also believed that the sun was the highest spiritual power as it created and sustained life. They also believed in minor spirits: clouds, the sky, witches and evil spirits.