Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Overview

views updated May 17 2018

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Overview

Diversity. By the time Europeans first encountered North America, there existed hundreds of Native American groups. Each people had its own history, culture, and language. The type of physical environment in which they lived largely determined their day-to-day lives. Every region of what is now known as the United States provided subsistence for groups of native people who adapted to their physical settings in practical and ingenious ways. Whether building canals in the arid Southwest or constructing fishing weirs in the streams and rivers of the rest of the continent, Indians altered their environments to provide the necessities of daily existence. Native Americans constantly adjusted to changing surroundings by developing new methods of acquiring sustenance. The manner of their adjustment decided the size of their settlements, the varieties of shelter in which they lived, the clothing they wore, the extent of their seasonal movements, and the types of familial and interpersonal relationships they maintained.

Subsistence. No group relied on a single source of food. A varied diet made up of meat, fish, berries, nuts, and plants provided the basis of Indian menus. All tribes hunted some animals and gathered plant products found in their territory. For example, California Indians relied primarily on acorns as a gathered food, whereas Eastern Woodlands people hunted deer, cultivated corn, and collected berries to supplement their diets. For those living in the Great Plains, the hunting of buffalo and other large mammals furnished the bulk of their nutritional needs. For those who lived on the northwest coast or on the southern tip of Florida, fish and other marine products provided the mainstay of the food supply. The Powhatan Indians near the Chesapeake Bay grew crops; hunted deer, bear, and other animals; and gathered oysters, fish, and other seafood. Many groups planted and harvested vegetables in addition to hunting and gathering. Those tribes who practiced horticulture lived in areas where the growing season was sufficiently long and rainfall amounts were adequate. Corn, beans, and squash were the principal crops for horticultural Indians. But even in the areas where gardens produced abundantly, natives relied to some degree on hunting, gathering, and fishing.

Maize Agriculture. Cultivation of corn originated in Mesoamerica (present-day Mexico) around six thousand years ago. From Mexico the techniques of maize agriculture spread northward, and corn became the dominant crop in the Southwest, in the Missouri and Mississippi River valleys, and along the Atlantic coast. In nearly every native society where horticulture existed, women did the bulk of planting, harvesting, and preparing of crops into a variety of tasty foods. The role of women in bringing corn and other vegetables out of the earth was associated with their ability to reproduce and sustain society through childbirth. By the time of European contact in the 1500s, corn had become so important that Indian peoples performed elaborate annual ceremonies, such as the Green Corn Ceremony in the Southeast, to give thanks and to ensure a successful harvest. Requesting spiritual sanction reflected Native American beliefs and values, in which they recognized their dependence upon the bounties of nature for their survival. The cultivation of corn (along with tomatoes, potatoes, squash, peanuts, and beans) originated in America and remains a principal source of food around the world.

Hunting. All Native American societies hunted a variety of animals for food and utilitarian purposes. In the Plains region buffalo hunting predominated, greatly facilitated by the introduction of horses and guns beginning in the seventeenth century. Buffalo supplied meat, shelter, clothing, and tools to Plains Indians. Throughout North America deer, elk, bear, beavers, turkeys, dogs, rabbits, and other small animals provided meat, clothing, and tools. Communal hunting parties tracked large game animals and traveled for weeks or months killing game. Because Indians traveled great distances while hunting, Europeans often called them nomads, meaning that they had no fixed home or village. Except for some of the Plains groups, this label was grossly inaccurate. In the East, Southwest, and Northwest Coast, Indians lived in villages that stayed in the same place for years, moving only to plant new fields once the old ones wore out. Many Indian pueblos of the Southwest exist where they have for centuries. Americans of the late twentieth century, especially college students, move more often and for greater distances than did most Native Americans of the pre-1600 era.

Shelter. Geography determined to a large degree in what type of home an Indian person lived. In mainstream American consciousness Native Americans are universally portrayed as living in buffalo-hide tepees, but that form of housing only existed among some cultures in the Plains area. More typically, Indians lived in dome-shaped earth lodges (prevalent on the Upper Plains among groups such as the Mandans and Hidatsas), hogans (circular above-ground dwellings typical among the Navajos), or wickiups (temporary brush shelters). Many native peoples were distinctive for the type of shelter they utilized: the Iroquois and Hurons of the Great Lakes region built large, rectangular, wooden longhouses that held several nuclear families; most southwestern groups created apartment-style adobe or stone pueblos; northwest coast Indians constructed cedar plank houses; and southeastern peoples erected wattle and daub circular dwellings with thatched roofs. Many Indian societies occupied different residences in winter and summer; summer homes allowed breezes to pass through while winter structures remained airtight. Native Americans also constructed buildings for specialized purposes. These included the kivas of the Pueblo Indians in the Southwestunderground ceremonial chambers, usually round and with entrances through the roof. Mississippian peoples in the Southeast raised hundreds of immense temple mounds during the few centuries before European contact. Additionally, nearly all native societies utilized the sweathouseeither small temporary structures or large communal lodges built partially undergroundfor ritual sweating and purification.

Clothing. As with housing, the prevailing image of Native American clothing is that of Plains Indians, consisting of leather, beadwork, and war bonnets. Like diet and shelter, however, the clothing an Indian wore depended upon local plant and animal resources as well as climate and season. All native peoples used animal skins as clothing, especially those living in the Plains and Great Lakes regions, but many also utilized woven fibers when grasses and other plants were available. Some southwestern peoples, for example, made woven plant-fiber sandals and cotton garments, and southeastern women fabricated skirts out of grass reeds. In the summer Indians wore as little as possible, perhaps only a breechcloth covering their midsection, which resulted in Europeans deeming them to be naked. It made little sense to native people to wear unneeded clothing in the hot summers, however, and they in turn made fun of Europeans sweating in their woolen pants and shirts. To combat cold winters, Native Americans covered themselves in thick buffalo, deer, elk, or bear skins.

Community Organization. Settlement size and location depended on availability of resources. Where horticulture was practiced and other resources were abundant, settlements tended to be larger and more permanent. This is particularly true among the southwestern Pueblos and the southeastern Mississippian chiefdoms. In both cases, large-scale farming produced societies with permanent villages, immense multifamily buildings, and large populations. Where hunting of migratory animals was important, such as on the Plains, settlements moved and often rotated between small winter camps and large summer sites. Native Americans looked to the family group as the most important social relationship. Each household (or kinship group) maintained its own fields and owned the products grown there. Except in rare cases such as the southwestern Pueblos and southeastern Mississippian societies, a family fed itself first before contributing to the wider groups resources. The animals that men killed were likewise distributed to the members of their immediate family before being offered to more-distant relatives. After the immediate family, other members of the same clan formed an individuals next closest relatives. Members of a clan, generally speaking, recognized a common ancestor and considered themselves related to each other. Most Native American groups consisted of several clans, with each clan having members in many villages. Leaders of each clan usually formed a village or tribal council responsible for certain political decisions such as war and diplomacy.

Land and Migration. Across North America, Indians held usufruct rights to the lands that they used and occupied, or, in other words, no group owned a particular area of land, but they maintained rights to its use based upon a history of residing in that particular area. Indian societies were not static. They moved to new territories when they exhausted an areas resources and sought better living conditions elsewhere. Indian peoples migrated to new areas before contact with Europeans, although European contact greatly increased the frequency of such movements. Navajos and Apaches, to furnish one example, migrated south away from their Athapaskan relatives in western Canada to present-day New Mexico and Arizona before 1500. The Lakota Sioux, the quintessential Plains Indians, moved onto the Upper Plains after Europeans arrived in North America, in order to monopolize access to natural resources and to control the flow of European trade to the Plains. Migrations impacted social conditions and lifestyles in various ways, such as sparking wars with groups already living in the area and transforming cultural beliefs to match new environmental conditions.

European Invasion. Europeans traveled through and around North America with increasing frequency in the sixteenth century. Three areas of the continent received the most intrusive contact: the Southwest (present-day Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), the Southeast (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia), and the Northeast (particularly Maine, the Hudson River valley of New York, and the eastern Great Lakes). Spanish, French, and English expeditions to North America sought to find riches, establish colonies, convert Indians to Christianity, and discover an all-water route through the continent to Asia. Such expeditions were overwhelmingly military in character. Violence between Indians and Europeans arose immediately as whites sought slaves, rare minerals, and food from native populations. Despite the prevalence of violence, mutually beneficial trade between Europeans and Indians also occurred and served to introduce new items and technology into native societies. Another legacy that Europeans brought to America proved to be far more devastating than either trade or violence: disease.

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Chronology

views updated Jun 08 2018

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Chronology




  • The Mississippian mound-building societies, such as Cahokia in present-day Illinois, develop in the Mississippi River valley and the Southeast.



  • John Cabot explores the Atlantic coast, encountering Beothuks, Abenakis, Massachusetts, and Powhatans and kidnapping three Micmacs.


  • Juan Ponce de León makes contact with Calusas, Timucuans, and other Indians in Florida.



  • Lucas VáSquez de Ayllón sails up the Atlantic coast and kidnaps more than one hundred Indians for slaves.


  • Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca encounters several tribes as he travels overland through Texas and Mexico to the Gulf of California.


  • Jacques Cartier sails up the St. Lawrence River and meets Beothuks, Micmacs, Montagnais, Algonkins, and Hurons. He takes a tribal leader named Donnacona and several other Hurons to Europe.


  • The Franciscan Missionary and explorer Fray Marcos de Niza claims to have seen the Seven Cities of Cibola in the Southwest.


  • Hernando de Soto visits several Mississippian societies during his expedition through the Southeast.


  • Francisco Vásquez de Coronado leads an expedition that reaches the Grand Canyon. In the process he makes contact with the Hopi, Zuni, Apache, Wichita, and Pawnee tribes.


  • TristáN De Luna y Arellano explores the Alabama River and encounters Mobiles, Napochis, and Tohomes.


  • Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda is held prisoner by Calusa Indians in Florida.


  • Jean Ribault Attempts to form a settlement on Parris Island, South Carolina, called Charlesfort. He also explores the Florida coast and makes contact with Cusabos, Saturiwas, Tactacuras, and Timucuas.


  • René Goulaine de Laudonnière and Jacques le Moyne establish a settlement on the St. Johns River on the Atlantic coast of Florida, and le Moyne paints pictures of the local Timucuans.


  • Pedro MenéNdez de Aviles seizes Laudonnieres post and establishes St. Augustine.


  • Juan Pardo journeys inland from the Atlantic coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains, making alliances with several native groups in the process.


  • Spanish Jesuits Attempt to settle in the Chesapeake Bay area, while returning the Powhatan Indian Don Luis, kidnapped a decade earlier. Powhatans kill the Jesuits but suffer at the hands of a Spanish punitive expedition three years later.



  • The Antonio Espejo expedition travels through Pueblo settlements in the Rio Grande and New Mexico area.



  • John White At The Roanoke settlement draws highly detailed pictures of the Algonquian Indians there.


  • Gaspar Castaño de Sosa visits the Pecos River, New Mexico, area and encounters Tiwa Pueblos.


  • Juan De Fuca Sails to the northwest coast of North America and makes contact with Cowichans, Nootkas, Songish, and Stalos.


  • Juan De OñAte massacres inhabitants of the Acoma Pueblo.

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Publications

views updated May 17 2018

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Publications

David Beers Quinn, New American World: A Documentary History of North America to 1612, 5 volumes (New York: Arno, 1979)all of the known early travel accounts and reports by Spanish, French, Dutch, and English explorers of North America. Included are documents from the expeditions of Jacques Cartier, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, Hernando de Soto, Juan de Oñate, Samuel de Champlain, Thomas Hariot, and others. An indispensable source of information on the native groups of the continent;

James Axtell, ed., The Indian Peoples of Eastern America: A Documentary History of the Sexes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981)conveniently divided into chapters such as Birth, Love and Marriage, Work, and Death, this collection of documents provides an in-depth look at Native American daily life.

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation

views updated Jun 11 2018

Pre-1600: Chapter Seven: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation






Daily Work 161

Gendered Work and the Raising of Children 161

The Importance of Agriculture 163

The Uses of Corn at Hochelaga 163

The Iroquois Longhouse 164

Champlain Shoots Two Mohawk Chiefs 165

Kinship 165

Mississippian Chiefdoms 166

Pueblos of the Southwest 167

Pueblo Architecture and Clothing 167

Rites of Passage 168

Isolated Women 168

San Agustín: Europeans Come to Stay 170

Sickness 170

The People Began to Die Very Fast 171

Sports and Recreation 171


Don Luis 172

Manteo 173


Sidebars and tables are listed in italics.

social trend

views updated Jun 11 2018

social trend A notable pattern of change displayed by a social indicator or index. The term is also used more loosely to refer to national social reports which present unvarying distributions, as well as time-series data showing change.

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Topics in the News

views updated May 21 2018

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Topics in the News

Daily Work

The Importance of Agriculture

The Iroquois Longhouse


Mississippian Chiefdoms

Pueblos of the Southwest

Rites of Passage

San Agustín: Europeans Come to Stay


Sports and Recreation

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Headline Makers

views updated May 23 2018

Pre-1600: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Recreation: Headline Makers

Don Luis (Flourished 1560s)

Manteo (Flourished 1580s)

trend, social

views updated Jun 08 2018

trend, social See SOCIAL TREND.