Interaction with New Settlers

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Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about the Native Americans and the interaction with new settlers from Europe.

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New Settlers

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New Settlers

America's earliest settlers who came in search of religious freedom in the seventeenth century passed on a vision of America as 'a shining beacon of hope' to the world that still shines today. Between 1820 and 2001, more than sixty-seven million people came to the United States from every corner of the globe, lured by the promise of liberty and opportunity. The open-door policies of the early years of the republic eventually gave way in the late-nineteenth century to more restrictive measures driven by concerns for the nation's economy and security.


Two-thirds of the seventy million people, who have left Europe since 1600 have come to America. Millions more have come from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Today, the United States pulses with the energy of a dizzying mix of cultures, races, religions, and languages. The people of the United States are joined together, not by religion, race, or genealogy, but by a shared set of beliefs about freedom.

The Plains Indians:

Plains Indians

The Plains Indians included tribes such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Black feet, Comanche, Pawnee, and many more. These tribes lived in the Great Plains region of North America. The Great Plains region was made up of grasslands, valleys, streams, and hills. There were very few trees found in the Great Plains area.

Food and Shelter:

Food and Shelter

Plains Indians got their food by hunting animals, growing crops, or gathering meat. Some tribes grew crops such as maize, beans, and pumpkins. Others gathered wild fruits and vegetables. Food was often traded between the different tribes. They often hunted buffalo and antelope. These animals were used for their meat and their skins.

Plains Indians lived in teepees made of buffalo hides and held up by wooden poles. These teepees were warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The Plains Indians thought their teepees were very important so they often painted them. These paintings were often religiously symbolic. Women in these tribes were responsible for putting up and taking down the teepees. The Indians transported their teepees from place to place using horses. These tribes were called nomads. Some tribes did not move from place to place, so, these Indians lived in earth or grass lodges. These lodges were dome-shaped and covered with earth.

Clothes and Art:

Plains Indians made all of their own clothes. Most of their clothes were made from animal skins. Antelope and deer were the most often used. The women were responsible for making clothes for the entire tribe. Men typically wore animal skin leggings, a loincloth, and a belt. Women and girls of the tribes wore dresses made of deerskins. Women often wore jewelry, such as earrings and bracelets, made of seashells, metal, or beads.

The Plains Indians were naturally gifted artists. Most of their artwork was done in the form of painting. Painting was done on objects such as their teepees, clothes, and on religious objects. The Plains Indians also carved pipes made of either wood or stone. Some of them were decorated with beautiful designs. The rock carving, the men of the tribes mostly did painting, and pipe making. The women were skilled at doing beadwork, quillwork, needlework, and clothing design.


Plains Indians believed in underwater spirits who controlled all animals and plants. Above the sky, they believed there was an upper world ruled by the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds were the most powerful of the spirits. The Indians believed that spirits could control their health. Plains Indians honored and greatly respected the spirits they believed in. The Indians honored the spirits with the creation of their medicine bundles, Medicine Pipes, and religious ceremonies.

The Sun Dance was a very important ceremony among the Plains Indians. It lasted for several days. Before the ceremony, the Indians would fast. The camp was set up in a circle of teepees. A tree was cut and set up in the center of the space to be used for the dance. Ropes made of hair or leather thongs were fastened to the top of the pole. Men tied these ropes to sticks, which were stuck through the flesh of their chests or backs. The men danced, gazing at the sun, whistling through pipes, and pulling back on the ropes until the sticks torn through the flesh.

The Plateau Indians:

Plateau Indians

Thousands of years before the arrival of American settlers in the early nineteenth century, the Plateau Indians of the American West had experience with introducing change into their lives. How their lives were altered, from the arrival of horses to the motorcar, is part of a new exhibition at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.

Consisting of several tribes that include the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, Spokane, and others, the Plateau Indians first lived along the Columbia River and its tributaries in what are now Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Although each tribe has its own identity, the group as a whole shares cultural traditions developed through centuries of shared experiences along the Columbia River. They interacted with the Northwest Coast Indians to their west, as well as the Plains Indians to their east and exchanged ideas and consumer items with both groups. Guns and horses were brought to this continent by European explorers in the three centuries before American settlement and the tribes of the Plateau Indians, like many other tribes across North America, quickly incorporated them into their culture.

Children and men:

The whole place was a hive of industry, trades plying indoors and outdoors, tillers, herders, vintagers by hundreds, going to and fro, children in schools, women spinning, bands of young men practicing on musical instruments, music, the scores of which, in many instances, they had themselves written out. At evening, all sorts of games of running, leaping, dancing, and ball-throwing, and the picturesque ceremonies of a religion which has always been wise in availing itself of beautiful agencies in color, form, and harmony. With the arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, the Plateau Indians' (who were the Native American tribe) populations were exposed to new infectious diseases, diseases for which they lacked immunity. These communicable diseases, including smallpox and measles, shocked entire native populations. Thus, the arrival of smallpox and the decline of the Native American populations are inevitably or unbendingly linked and the effect of smallpox on the Native Americans from the 15th through the 19th centuries was very high and hazardous, as their tribal numbers become halved within these four centuries.


Settlers - a group of people, who settles in a new colony

Beacon - a source of guidance or inspiration

Transport - system of carrying passengers or goods

Honor - code of high respect

Altered - to change

Inflexibly - incapable of being changed

Books on the Native Americans

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Links to other sites on Native Americans

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Native Americans Clash with European Settlers http://www.wvculture.org/history/
Role of Dutch in Iroquois Wars http://www.lowensteyn.com/iroquois/
New France and the Iroquois Wars http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/chrono/
The 13 Colonies http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/

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