Native  American  Tribes  in  North  America  


Arctic, Northwest Coast, and California Tribes
Arctic Tribes:
The Aleuts, native inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands and coastal areas of southwestern Alaska, built villages on bays in areas where sea mammals flourished and where they had access to freshwater salmon streams and stones for making tools. Villages had high lookout points for spotting enemies and whales, which they typically hunted for food, along with sea lions, seals, fox, caribou, and a variety of fish. The Aleuts lived in longhouses and traveled in skin-covered boats. They encountered Russian fur traders, who came to the area in search of sea otters, fur seals, and foxes in about 1750, and were quickly devastated by this contact. Disease killed many, and the Russians exploited Aleut hunting skills, depleting the food supply and forcing many Aleuts into slavery. Over the next 100 years, the population rapidly decreased due to disease and harsh treatment.

Living in the harsh, frigid climate along the arctic coast of Alaska, the Inuit survived by hunting and fishing whales, walruses, caribou, and seals in single-passenger, covered seal-skin boats called qajait. From hunting these animals, the Inuit were able to fashion the items they needed for survival, including tools, clothing, shelter, transportation, and trade goods. The Inuit were nomadic, living in igloos built of snow in the winter and tents made of bone and skins in the summer. They bred huskies and used dog sleds to transport them over the icy terrain. In 1576, the Inuits encountered British explorer Martin Frobisher as he searched for the Northwest Passage. By 1763, the British had established whaling stations in Inuit territory. The Inuits discovered that Europeans had trade goods that could improve their lifestyle and often raided foreign trading posts in search of metals. The Inuit population suffered greatly from new diseases introduced by Europeans as well as from the social disruptions caused by encroachment on their whaling grounds.

Totem poles

Living on islands and in the coastal region of southern Alaska, the Tlingit are well known for their totem poles, many of which remain standing today. Hunting game and sea mammals and fishing provided the tribe with food as well as trade goods. The Tlingit traded furs and slaves among their tribes and had a complex social system. In the 1740s Russian fur trappers and traders encountered the Tlingit. By the early 1800s, the Tlingit were fighting the Russians. The fighting didn't end even after 1867, when the U.S. purchased the Alaska territory from the Russians. By the 1880s most of the land used by the tribe was controlled by the U.S. government, and the Tlingit began being absorbed into the population through religious conversion.

Tlingit totem poles in Ketchikan Alaska.

Northwest Coast Tribe
River dwellers living in northwest Oregon along the Columbia River, the Chinook were known for their fishing skills and as traders. They were expert whale hunters and relied heavily on salmon fishing for both survival and trade. Using a trading language understood by many different tribes and groups, the Chinook traded furs, fish, canoes, shells, and slaves for other items they needed. American explorers Lewis and Clark encountered the Chinook as they explored the Columbia River region in 1805. Although the tribe welcomed European traders, the Chinook population was devastated by diseases brought by these foreigners. The tribe was nearly extinct by 1900 when it decided to merge with other tribes in the area.

California Tribes
Making their home along the Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountain region of California, the Chumash were hunter-gatherers. They lived in domed houses made of willow branches and used long, wooden canoes, called tomols, to fish and travel between the tribe's 150 villages. Cave paintings found throughout their lands document the Chumash's rich spiritual heritage. A matriarchal society, they elected both men and women as chiefs. Their monetary system was based on beads and seashells, and they traded herbs, fine baskets, and tools, among other things. Numbering roughly 18,000 people, the Chumash encountered the Spanish in the 1760s. By 1769, the Spanish had established five missions in Chumash territory. The many diseases brought by Europeans caused illnesses that decimated the tribe. By 1831, only about 10% of the tribe's population remained. They became part of Spanish society, working primarily as laborers on farms and ranches.

This peaceful tribe lived in coastal and inland areas of California, often traveling between the regions in search of food and supplies. They were known for their basketry skills and the use of money made from carefully formed pieces of clam shells. The Pomo lived in circular homes made of wooden poles, mud, and reeds called wickiups. Their villages coexisted peacefully, with families and bands owning specific areas of land that were well marked. Only when property rights were violated did the Pomo take up arms against each other. When Russian fur traders established a colony in Pomo territory in 1811, a good relationship was formed between the two. As more settlers entered Pomo lands, they were raided by Mexicans seeking slaves and endured epidemics of smallpox and cholera. With the Gold Rush, the Pomo territory became even more sought after by settlers, and the U.S. government forced the tribe onto a reservation in 1857.

Pomo baskets, mortar, and pestle.

Plateau, Great Basin, and Southwest Tribes
Plateau Tribes: Nez Percé
Living in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, the Nez Percé were noted horsemen, who supplemented their diet of salmon, plants, and roots by hunting large game like buffalo and elk. Villages were established along rivers or streams, and the tribe lived in longhouses surrounding the seat lodge and village council building. The Nez Percé were first encountered by Lewis and Clark on their expedition in 1805. The tribe helped Lewis and Clark in their exploration of the Northwest Territory. As white settlement of the northwest grew, the Nez Percé began to come into conflict with settlers. In 1863, a treaty with the U.S. severely reduced their lands, but some members of the tribe, led by Chief Joseph, refused to relocate. This led to the Nez Percé War of 1877. The tribe was defeated by the U.S. Army and forced onto a reservation in Washington.

Nez Percé leader, Chief Joseph

The Yakima were hunter-gatherers in central Washington who subsisted on seasonal plants, hunting, and fishing. Because of the varied climate, the tribe lived in teepees or mat houses during the summer months and pit houses dug into the ground during the winter months. Their main forms of transportation were dugout canoes and horses. When the Yakima began to encounter settlers, they resisted giving up their land. They went to war against the U.S. in 1855 when the government tried to place the tribe onto a reservation. The Yakima battled until 1858, when they could no longer ward off the settler encroachment into their territories. They were forced to surrender and moved onto a reservation.

Great Basin Tribes Paiute
The Paiute's great expanse of territory included parts of Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California. Much of their land had a harsh, desert climate, so in order to survive, the Paiute lived in small villages centered around lakes or wetlands well supplied with fish and wildlife. As hunter-gatherers, they harvested seasonal, native plants and hunted rabbits and pronghorn. The Paiute's homes were temporary brush shelters, which made it easy to move from place to place to follow game and food supplies. The Paiute had little contact with Europeans until the 1840s. As settlers came into their region, they brought with them new diseases and guns, and also stretched the area's meager food resources. The 1860s Gold Rush and white settlement of land in the newly opened territories created conflicts with the tribe. Most frequently, settlers would raid Paiute villages or harm tribe members in their quest for land, food, or other resources. After battling settlers unsuccessfully, the Paiute were removed from their territory by the U.S. government in 1874.

Paiute man fishing

The Shoshone comprised three main groups: the Northern, who used horses, inhabiting Utah and Idaho; the Western, who did not use horses, living in Nevada; and the Eastern or Wind River, living in Wyoming. First encountered by Lewis and Clark in 1805, the Shoshone managed to barely survive as hunter gatherers in varied, difficult terrain and climates. They traveled, seasonally harvesting plants and hunting for animals. Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman, assisted Lewis and Clark as they explored the difficult, mountainous terrain in Shoshone territory. As settlers began to occupy Shoshone lands in the 1860s, more and more conflicts arose as the groups fought over meager resources. The Shoshone were forcibly removed from their lands to a reservation in 1905.

Hunter-gatherers, the Ute lived in Colorado and Utah. They hunted a variety of game and gathered seasonal plants. The Ute often celebrated and participated in religious ceremonies centered on elements of nature. They were environmentally responsible, not over-hunting or taking more from the land than they needed for survival. When the Spanish brought horses to the Ute, their lifestyle changed since the animals allowed them more mobility. As Mormon settlers moved into their area, they introduced the tribe to farming. Over time, the Utes turned to raiding white settlements and trading with settlers as a way of life. After a number of conflicts with settlers, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Ute from their territory and placed them on a reservation in 1869.

Southwest Tribes Apache
Forced into the desert southwest of New Mexico and Arizona, this nomadic tribe survived by following wild game, hunting mainly buffalo and deer, and gathering wild fruits. They used dogs, and later horses, as pack animals and lived in buffalo or deerskin teepees or wickiups — short, rounded huts made of twigs and mud — which could be moved easily and quickly. Known for being physically tough, the Apache were forced into becoming fierce fighters as Europeans advanced into their lands. The Apache turned to raiding in order to survive when New Mexico became a Spanish colony. With colonists using Apache resources, stealing goods and livestock and reselling it became the tribe's only means for survival. The Apaches fought bitterly for their land and were defeated by the U.S. military in the Indian Wars of 1848. Upon defeat, the Apaches were forced into reservations.

One of the largest tribes in Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo farmed (beans, corn, and squash), hunted (deer, elk, and antelope), and gathered wild vegetables. They lived in small villages in homes made from wooden sticks, tree bark, and mud, called hogans. The Navajo became well known for their weaving and pottery, which they learned from neighboring tribes. The tribe came into contact with Spanish settlers in the early 1600s. The Navajo raided the settlers' livestock, acquiring horses, sheep, and goats. These animals greatly improved life for the Navajo because they could be used for travel, clothing, food, and as trade goods. As more settlers moved into their territory in the mid-1840s, tensions increased as the Navajo continued to raid settlements. The conflict escalated during the 1860s and the U.S. government held 9,000 Navajos captive at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The Navajo were released in 1868, but had signed treaties giving up their land and were relocated to a reservation.

Cañon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona.

The Pueblo live in the harsh climate of Arizona and New Mexico, establishing permanent apartment-like dwellings made of stone and adobe. They were built in terraced stories with access through a trap door on the roof to protect them from enemies. Agriculturally based, these farmers grew corn, cotton, and melons in irrigated fields near river bottoms. They also hunted deer, antelope, and rabbits and occasionally ventured on large hunting parties in search of buffalo. Each village was self-governing, run by a chief. The Pueblo were known for their outstanding skills in making pottery and baskets and also for using native materials to weave cloth and clothing. The Spanish were the first Europeans to encounter the Pueblo in the 16th century. The Pueblo tried to resist Spanish encroachment on their territory, but were unsuccessful. In 1598, the Spanish began establishing missions in Pueblo villages in order to convert them to Christianity. Although several thousand did convert, Pueblos were able to keep their traditional culture intact while living under Spanish rule and overthrew Spanish control in 1680. In 1692, the Spanish reconquered the tribe.

Drawing of a Pueblo jar

Plains Tribes
Occupying Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming, the Arapaho were seasoned hunters, following buffalo, elk, and deer as their primary food source. Highly skilled with the bow and arrow, they used every part of the animal they killed for food, clothing, and to create their homes and tools. To keep up with the herds, the Arapaho lived in teepees made of long poles and buffalo hides and used sleds, known as travois, to move their homes and belongings quickly. With westward expansion came conflict with white settlers. Rather than fight, the Arapaho entered into treaties with the U.S. government. These agreements were not always kept and the tribe lost their land. The Arapaho, along with the Cheyenne, were victims of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, in which U.S. troops murdered approximately 150 men, women, and children as they attempted to surrender. The Arapaho and Cheyenne, allied with the Sioux, fought General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

Occupying the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas, the Cheyenne followed the buffalo herds throughout the Great Plains. Living in teepees allowed the tribe to pack quickly and move from place to place using sleds, called travois, pulled by dogs or horses. The Cheyenne relied primarily on buffalo and traded with other tribes using Plains Sign Language. The Cheyenne first encountered outsiders in 1804 when Lewis and Clark explored their vast territory. In the late 1850s, the Gold Rush brought hordes of white settlers into their lands, creating conflict and exposing the tribe to disease. The Cheyenne were the victims of two infamous massacres by U.S. troops: the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, in which 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children were killed, and the Battle of Washita River in 1868 in which General Custer's forces leveled their camp, killing 100 tribe members. In 1876, the Cheyenne joined forces with other tribes to fight in the Battle of Little Bighorn. By 1877, the tribe split, sending some members to Oklahoma while others fled to Montana.

Cheyenne girl

These fierce warriors occupied areas of Texas and New Mexico. The Comanche followed the buffalo herds and relied on hunting, gathering, and trade for their survival. They were able to make nearly 200 different tools and household items from all parts of the buffalo. The Comanches were the first Plains Indians to use horses and relied heavily on these animals for travel, hunting, and warfare. They were expert horsemen, often learning to ride before they could run. Since the tribe consisted of 12 autonomous groups with no central leadership, they often found themselves at war with one another and with other tribes. Warfare was a major part of Comanche life, especially as settlers advanced into their territories. When white settlers moved into their territory, the Comanche began to raid these settlements, stealing cattle, horses, and food supplies. They would then trade these items with other settlers and explorers. As the Comanche interacted more with the settlers, they contracted diseases such as smallpox and cholera, resulting in epidemics that cut the tribe's population in half. To drive out the tribes, white settlers began hunting buffalo to the point of extinction, despite U.S. government promises that the herds would be preserved. After great resistance, the Comanches eventually signed a treaty with the U.S. and were moved to a reservation in the late 1860s.

This nomadic tribe inhabited the Yellowstone River Valley in Montana and Wyoming. They relied primarily on buffalo. These animals were not only a source of food, clothing, and shelter, but were also considered sacred. The Crow lived in teepees to follow the herds, and constructed the largest teepees of all the Indian tribes. The Crow were rich in horses obtained through trade and by stealing; they were known as the premier horse thieves of the Plains. Because they moved often and had great numbers of horses, the Crow acted as middlemen in the transfer of goods between various tribes. They also befriended fur traders and trappers and opened further trade opportunities by providing robes and furs to settlers. Over time, the U.S. government pushed the tribe out of its territory, even though the Crow had sided with the U.S. in the Indian Wars of the 1860s. By 1870, the Crow were forced to move into reservations.

Successful Crow raid for horses.

Occupying land along the Platte River in Nebraska, the Pawnee farmed (corn, beans, squash, and melons) and hunted buffalo. They lived in dome-shaped lodges covered by willow branches, grass, or earth. When hunting, they used teepees to follow the herds. Pawnee women, who were highly skilled at making pottery, controlled trade and the distribution of goods within the tribe, while men were tribal chiefs, hunters, and warriors. The Europeans came into close contact with the Pawnee during the early 1800s as trails to the west were established through their territory. This brought devastating diseases, such as smallpox, which killed nearly half of the tribe in 1831 and an epidemic of cholera that killed many more in 1849. The Pawnee did not war against the settlers, but became allies of the U.S. Army, providing them with scouts and warriors during the Indian Wars. Their allegiance to the U.S. was not rewarded, and in 1876 the Pawnee were forced to sell their land and relocated to Oklahoma.

Highly skilled hunters, the Sioux lived in a vast stretch of land encompassing portions of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. They were hunter-gatherers who relied heavily on buffalo, which was their source of food, shelter, clothing, and tools. Because they had to be mobile to follow the buffalo herds, the Sioux lived in teepees and used baskets for storing and moving household goods. First encountering the French along the Mississippi River in 1640, the Sioux co-existed with them and then with the British after French power declined. The Sioux allied with the British during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The U.S. government promised the Sioux certain lands, but the treaties were never enforced. Settlers continued to pour into Sioux lands, bringing disease and overhunting buffalo. Tensions mounted and numerous conflicts between the U.S. and the Sioux ensued. After being beaten by the Sioux at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1867, efforts to subdue the tribe increased. In 1890 between 150 to 300 Sioux were killed by U.S. troops during the Battle of Wounded Knee. Subsequently, the tribe was forced onto a reservation.

Battle between the Sioux and settlers in 1862.

Northeast Tribes
The Abenaki, native to Maine and New Hampshire, made their villages along rivers and streams. Each village had a meeting hall, a sweat lodge, and was surrounded by palisades — tall log walls that guarded the village against attacks. The Abenaki lived primarily in wigwams, lodges made of birch, and although they were agricultural, growing corn, beans, and squash for food, they also hunted and fished. Known for their quill and beadwork and making black ash baskets, the Abenaki often traded with other local tribes, using birchbark canoes, sleds, and snowshoes to travel from one place to another. The Abenaki were nearly wiped out by a series of epidemics after encountering Europeans in the 1500s. They allied with the French, and other local tribes in 1600s to fight the English, but after a series of defeats by the British, they withdrew to Canada.

Palisaded Indian village

The Iroquois were a group of five allied tribes known as the Iroquois Confederacy who lived in New York along the St. Lawrence River. They were farmers, growing corn, beans, and squash, but also hunted and trapped native animals. Iroquois villages, which were permanent and moved every 20 years or so when the soil had been exhausted, consisted of longhouses that could hold 30-60 people. These settlements were usually built near streams and surrounded with palisades and watchtowers for protection. When Europeans entered their territory, the Iroquois traded furs with them. Around 1650, epidemics of new diseases greatly reduced the Iroquois population. By the time the Revolutionary War began, however, the Iroquois had regained their numbers through the absorption of other tribes and their own military conquests. All but two of the Confederacy's tribes sided with the British during the war, which proved costly. The colonists defeated the Iroquois still loyal to the British in 1779. In the early 1800s, the Iroquois began selling their land, and by 1838, they were forced onto reservations.

Iroquois longhouse

The primarily agricultural Lenape (also known as the Delaware) lived in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Their villages consisted of wigwams and longhouses, with a sweat house at the center. The Lenape were known as peacemakers, and were often called on to settle disputes between rival tribes. When forced to fight, they were fierce warriors, sporting mohawks and red body paint in battle. Preferring peace, they welcomed some of the first European traders in the early 1600s and enjoyed bartering pelts for European goods that helped to make farming easier and their dress more fashionable. By the mid 1600s, the Lenape were plagued by epidemics of disease brought by the Europeans. During the Revolutionary War, the Lenape supplied the colonists with scouts and warriors when they were promised a leadership role in a future Native American state. The tribe signed their first treaty with the U.S. government in 1778, giving up their land and moving further west. Settlers pushed the Lenape westward over the next 100 years, until the tribe was forced to resettle in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

The Massachuset lived in the Massachusetts Bay area of Massachusetts and survived by farming, hunting, and fishing. They spent summers living in longhouse villages along the coast, harvesting fish and shellfish. In the winter, they retreated to small inland villages where they could hunt. Agriculture was also important; the tribe grew crops such as corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. Some of the first to encounter European explorers, the Massachuset were virtually wiped out by European diseases. When the Puritans arrived in 1629, they found roughly 500 members, and by 1633, a smallpox epidemic had killed nearly all of the remaining Massachuset.

One of the most powerful tribes of its day, the Miami lived in areas of Indiana and Ohio. The tribe resided in oval, reed houses in permanent villages, where their life centered around farming and hunting local animals, particularly buffalo. The Miami traded with many other tribes in the Great Lakes region, and used dugout canoes and sleds pulled by dogs, called travois, to carry trade goods and travel from one area to another. During the 1740s, the Miami allied with the French to push British traders out of their region. When the French lost to the British in the French and Indian Wars, the Miami moved to Indiana in the hopes of avoiding further conflict with the British. When the Revolutionary War broke out, the Miami allied with the British and continued to fight against the colonists following the British defeat. In 1794 the Miami were defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and surrendered most of their land to the U.S. By the 1820s, they had ceded all of their remaining territory and first moved to Kansas and then to Oklahoma in the 1860s.

The Pequot, native to Connecticut, survived through hunting, fishing, and farming. To guard against attack, they lived in heavily fortified villages consisting of longhouses or wigwams. They were highly organized, governed by tribal councils and a chief. Dutch traders formed a relationship with the Pequot in 1614. The Pequot traded beaver skins for European goods. Other tribes in the area also wanted to trade with the Dutch, but the Pequot began attacking their neighbors to establish a trading monopoly. In the 1620s, the English began moving into Pequot territory and trading with them. This caused a rift in the tribe, with half uniting with English traders and the other half allying with the Dutch. A smallpox epidemic in 1633 ravaged those members allied with the Dutch, and the death of an English trader at the hands of a Pequot led to the Pequot War in 1637. Hundreds of Pequot were killed and those who were captured were divided into different tribes or sold into slavery. In the 19th century, the remaining Pequot were confined to a reservation.

A confederacy of nearly 30 tribes, the Powhatan lived in areas of Virginia and Maryland. Their villages were established along rivers for easy access to food and transportation and only moved when the soil became exhausted and could no longer support crops such as corn and tobacco. The establishment of the Jamestown colony in 1607 and its expansion in the years that followed led to warfare between the British settlers and the Powhatans. The situation worsened until Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan's daughter, was abducted in 1613 and held at Jamestown. Her marriage to Englishman John Rolfe in 1614 brought about peace for a few years. But with the death of both Pocahontas and Powhatan, the confederacy's new leader, Opechancanoug, launched an attack on British settlements in 1622. The British retaliation was violent and the two sides continued to battle periodically for more than a decade. When the Powhatan finally signed a peace treaty in 1646, they were forced onto a small reservation after giving up their land.

Living in Ohio and Indiana, primarily in the Scioto River Valley, the Shawnee lived in round wigwams made of tree saplings, thick grasses, and other natural materials. Village life centered around hunting and farming corn and squash. The women were responsible for all domestic labor and were very skilled potters. The men focused on hunting and protecting their families as warriors. When the French moved into Shawnee territory, the tribe allied with them. Conflict arose between the tribe and British traders who began arriving in the 1740s. The Shawnee sided with the French during the French and Indian Wars, and continued to fight the British as they tried to colonize the area following the wars in the mid-1760s. Thinking the British could protect their land from further encroachment by colonists, the Shawnee allied with them during the Revolutionary War. The tribe continued to fight the colonists until their defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. At that time, they were sent to Indiana and were eventually removed to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Southeast Tribes
The Cherokee lived along the fertile rivers of Georgia and the Carolinas and were primarily agricultural, growing corn, beans, sweet potatoes, and squash. They also collected wild plants and relied on fishing and hunting for survival. Members of this matriarchal society lived in log and mud huts stationed around a seven-sided council house that was the center of the village. The Cherokee developed an 80-symbol language and used the printing press to teach it to nearly all of its members by 1810. The Cherokee first encountered Europeans in 1540 when Hernando de Soto ventured into their territory. Beginning in the 1760s, the Cherokee battled white settlers who wanted their land. War and disease brought by the settlers forced the tribe to withdraw to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and they eventually signed over large areas of their land to the British and then the U.S. With the discovery of gold in Georgia and the signing of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 by U.S. President Andrew Jackson, the Cherokee were forced to make a six-month trek to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in 1838. Known as the "Trail of Tears," it claimed the lives of 4,000 of the approximately 14,000 Cherokees who began the journey.

Known as great hunters and warriors, the Chickasaw lived in the Mississippi Valley region, including Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama. Towns were spread out with a council house used for meetings, ceremonies, and ballgames in the center. Most Chickasaw families had two homes, one made of woven mats and bark roofs for summer and another circular in shape, three feet below ground level, and plastered and whitewashed for winter. In addition, families had a storage building for corn and supplies. The Chickasaw first encountered Europeans in 1540 when Hernando de Soto explored their region. He was driven out of the area, and the tribe didn't face outsiders again until about 100 years later when English traders arrived. Wanting to barter with these traders, the tribe expanded its hunting ground and began conquering other tribes. The Chickasaw first allied with the British and then with the U.S. to prevent the French and Spanish from taking their lands. By the 1830s, the Chickasaw had signed numerous treaties with the U.S. ceding their land and in 1834 moved to Oklahoma.

Occupying the Mississippi Valley and parts of Alabama, the Choctaw were farmers who lived in a matriarchal society. A peaceful people, the Choctaw saw economic opportunities and sold goods and livestock to the Europeans who ventured into their territory. Between 1801 and 1830, the Choctaw made a series of treaties with the U.S. government, ceding 23 million acres of land. They were forced to relocate to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in 1832. Once on the reservation, the Choctaw adapted to white culture through interaction with missionaries.

Living in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek were a dominant tribe of the southeast. Their homes consisted of huts shingled with wood or grass built around a plaza that held a rotunda used for dancing, religious ceremonies, and games. Rooted firmly in their communities, the Creek had vast farms and raised livestock. The Creek first encountered Europeans when the Spanish established missions in their area. During the colonial era, they were allies of the British against the Spanish. The Creeks went to war with the U.S. in the early 1800s and fought bitterly for their land. When the Creek War of 1814 ended, the U.S. government forced the tribe to relocate to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and seized Creek land as their own.

Farmers living in Mississippi, the Natchez grew corn, beans, and squash, and also relied on fishing and hunting for survival. Their society was organized into two classes, nobility and commoner, which was determined by birth through the female line. Moundbuilding was an integral part of the Natchez culture and tribal religion. They built large, flat-topped mounds, where members of the tribe would gather for social or religious events. The Natchez first encountered European explorers in 1682. By 1716, the French had established a fort in Natchez territory, which became the center of their colony and a source of conflict between them and the Natchez. The British also wanted control of North American territory, and in the 1720s convinced some of the Natchez to turn against the French. By 1729, war had erupted between the Natchez and the French. The French defeated the Natchez, forcing them to disperse and be absorbed by other tribes, including the Chickasaws, Creeks, and Cherokees.

Originally part of the Creek tribe, the Seminole migrated to Florida in the early 1700s, when the region was under Spanish control. They lived in houses called chickees, which had no walls and were built on stilts, with a wooden floor and thatched roof. The Seminoles grew corn, beans, and squash and supplemented their diet through hunting and fishing. They were also known for their skill at woodcarving and basketry. The presence of runaway slaves in Spanish Florida and escalating raids across the U.S.-Florida border by both white settlers and the Seminoles led to a series of major conflicts, known as the Seminole Wars, beginning in 1817. During the First Seminole War, General Andrew Jackson and his forces invaded Florida, killing Seminoles, destroying their villages, and capturing Spanish forts. The Spanish ceded Florida to the U.S. in 1819. The Seminoles' resistance to the U.S. government's attempts to relocate them to reservations, first by treaty and then with the enactment of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, led to the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Led by Osceola, the Seminoles used guerrilla tactics to fight the vastly larger U.S. forces. The tribe surrendered when they faced starvation after U.S. troops destroyed their crops and villages; many Seminoles were forced to move to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The few Seminoles who remained, isolated in southern Florida, continued to face settler encroachment and fought back, but were defeated in the Third Seminole War (1855-1858).

Arrest of Osceola


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