Native Americans Why of life

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Native Americans

Why of life.

Native Americans life was based on the crucial importance of the buffalo for human survival, and on the need to ensure that people cooperated to keep their society together, in the dangerous conditions of the Great Plains.

Nomadic life

Native Americans were still nomadic when the first European settlers arrived in America - with each tribe split into smaller bands of about 400. The bands moved 6-8 times a year and camp could be broken, dismantled and packed up in a few minutes. People put their belongings into buffalo-skin bags called “parflèches”, which were dragged on poles pulled by horses.

Native American lifestyle

The Native Americans had very limited technology when European settlers first arrived in America. Some tribes were still using stone tools.

Native Americans were hunter-gatherers. They gathered maize, squash, beans and turnips.

They also hunted deer, rabbits, ducks and turkeys, but the central event of their life was the buffalo hunt, they did the buffalo – hunt on horseback.

Men and women had clearly defined roles. Men went off to the hunt and to war on horseback. Women gathered food, stayed at home and looked after children and their elders. But here in the 21 century women can go to war not just stay at home, lives has changed for women and men over the years.

Native American sports

Native American sports were designed to help their people survive in the Great Plains, by preparing them both for war and for the buffalo hunt. These sports included horse racing and shooting contests.

The women spent their leisure time decorating their clothes and tipis (tents) with beads and quills. The decorations often had a religious meaning.

Why did Native Americans live in tipis?

  1. Tipis were warm in winter, cool in summer.

  2. A tipi's shape protected it from the Plains winds.

  3. Tipis were easy to move (and fitted the nomadic lifestyle).

  4. Tipis were circular, and Native Americans thought that: "...the power of the world works in circles".

Why were buffalo so important?

Every part of the buffalo was used to supply the needs of the Native Americans.

  1. Buffalo provided the people's main food - buffalo liver, brain and nose gristle were a treat, eaten raw.

  2. Dried buffalo meat, called pemmican, provided food to eat through the winter.

  3. Buffalo bones provided marrow to eat.

  4. Buffalo bones were also carved to make knives, and boiled to make glue.

  5. Buffalo skin could be used to make tipis, clothes, moccasins, bedding, parflèches, saddle covers and water-bags.

  6. Dried buffalo dung provided fuel for fires.

  7. Buffalo horns and hooves were made into cups.

  8. Buffalo sinews were used as bowstrings and thread.

  9. Buffalo fat was used as soap.

  10. The rough tongue of a buffalo could be used as a hairbrush.

  11. The tail of a buffalo could be used as a fly-swat.

How did we find the Native Americans?

The Native Americans was discovered by the European, they were trying to get to India because they didn’t believe that the Earth was flat but round. They asked many contraries to lend the U.S money but no-one would they need the money to build boats to get across the oceans. When they asked Spain they agreed because they had so much money at the time. The U.S wanted to try to get to India going the opposite way, but people though that they was crazy because they would fall off the side of the Earth. But when they though they got to India they found the Native Americans and called then Native American Indians Witch they didn’t like because they wasn’t Indians they was Americans.


Native American clothing prior to the arrival of Europeans was different depending on the tribe and the climate where the tribe lived. However, there were some general similarities. 

How did they make the clothes? 
All of their clothes were made by hand. The women would generally make the clothes. First they would tan the animal skin. Tanning is a process that would turn the animal skin into leather which would last a long time and not decompose. Then they would need to cut and sew the leather into a piece of clothing. 

What clothing did the men wear? 
Most Native American men wore a breechcloth. This was just a piece of material that they tucked into a belt that would cover the front and back. In many areas, especially areas with warm climates, this was all the men wore. In cooler climates, and in the winter, the men would wear leggings to cover up and keep their legs warm. Many men went shirtless throughout much of the year, only wearing cloaks when it got very cold. The Plains Indian men were known for their elaborate and decorated war shirts. 

What clothing did Native American women wear? 
The Native American women generally wore skirts and leggings. Often they wore shirts or tunics as well. In some tribes, like the Cherokee and the Apache, the women wore longer buckskin dresses. 

Later Changes 
When the Europeans arrived many of the American Indian tribes were forced into contact with each other. They began to see how others dressed and took the ideas that they liked. Soon many tribes began to dress more alike. Woven blankets, fringed buckskin tunics and leggings, and feather headdresses became popular among many tribes.

The Native Americans of the United States had all different kinds of art and ways they used to express themselves. Each tribe and nation had its own unique culture and art. The art was depicted in a number of ways including the beading and decorating of clothes, masks, totem polls, paintings, drawings, the weaving of blankets and rugs, carvings, and basket weaving. 

There was many types of art. This is only one type of drawing.drawing of native american dancers

The totem pole is a form of art for many Native American tribes in the north and northwest. Totem poles were generally carved from cedar wood. The meaning of their carvings varied from tribe to tribe. Sometimes they were purely artistic, other times they told stories of local legends or events. They were often carved for spiritual or religious reasons. The word totem comes from a Native American word meaning "kinship group". 

Teepees were the homes of the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains. A teepee was built using a number of long poles as the frame. The poles were tied together at the top and spread out at the bottom to make an upside down cone shape. Then the outside was wrapped with a large covering made of buffalo hide. When the tribe arrived at a new spot, the woman of each family would set up and build the teepee. Building a teepee was very efficient and typically only took around 30 minutes to set up. 

In the summer the covering would be raised to allow for a large gap at the bottom. This gap enabled cool air to flow through the teepee and keep the inside cooled. 

In the winter additional coverings and insulation such as grass were used to help keep the teepee warm. In the centre of the teepee, a fire would be built. There was a hole at the top to let out the smoke. The Plains Indians also used buffalo hides for their beds and blankets to keep their homes warm.

By Paige heath 8/4

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