"The American Indians"
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Native Americans or Indians were the first people to live in the New World. They had been living there long before the first Europeans arrived. In 1492, Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to find a shorter and faster route to India. When he landed on an island near the American coast he thought he had reached India, so he called the people he met there Indians. Many historians think that the first Indians came to the American continent from Asia over 20,000 years ago. At that time it was very cold and ice covered most of the northern part of our world. Indian tribes wandered across the Bering Strait and spread down to the southern part of South America. Indians lived in different ways and had different cultures that depended on the climate and their surroundings.
Family Life Most Indians concentrated on the important things in life: getting food, making clothes and building houses.
Food Indians ate many different kinds of food. Those who lived on the plains of the Central United States ate the meat of buffalo. The Pueblos of the south-western part lived on corn, beans and squash. Indians in Alaska and Canada were fishers and hunted deer and other wild animals in the forests. Most Indians ate berries and collected nuts.Indians cooked their food in ovens that they made with hot stones. They preserved meat by smoking or drying it in the sun.
Marriage and Children Many Indians married at an early age – girls between 13 and 15, boys between 15 and 20. In some Indian tribes parents chose husbands and wives for their children. Some Indian tribes allowed men to have more than one wife. After a man died his wife often lived with his brother’s family. Most Indian families were small because many children died at birth or at an early age. When boys got older they were tested for their strength and bravery. Many had to live alone in the wilderness for a long time. In many areas, Indians lived in big families called clans. These clans were a group of relatives who had one common ancestor.
Clothing Many Indians made clothes from animal skins and furs. Buffalo skin and rabbit fur were especially popular. They also used bird feathers to decorate their heads. Indians of the tropical regions only wore simple skirts. Some tribes wore no clothes at all
Houses and Homes Indians built many different types of homes because they lived in different climates and didn’t have the same building materials. Some groups built large houses with many rooms where many families could stay together, others had small dwellings in which only very few people lived.The Inuit of Canada built snow houses during the winter and in summer they lived in tents made of animal hides.In some parts of America, Indians built wigwams that were covered with leaves. Some tribes built houses into the earth that they covered with leaves and grass.Indians of in the Great Plains built tepees made of buffalo skin. The Pueblo Indians of the south-western part of America used sun-dried bricks to make houses.
Government Indians often fought against other tribes because it was sometimes the only way to settle disputes. The bow and arrow was the most common weapon of the Indians. Some tribes put poison on the arrowheads. Many Indians fought with spears and tomahawks. When an Indian defeated his enemy he often took his scalp as a prize to show to others. Killing an enemy tribesman often made a warrior famous and respected. When white people came to North America, Indians bought guns and other new weapons from them.