Native American tribes from far west coast all the way to the east coast experienced life differently due to conditions of the land. How did the geographical location of tribes affect the life styles of the Native Americans? There were hundreds of tribes and each was unique in a variety of ways from clothing and language; to hunting and gathering resources. Native Americans living in the middle of the United States may have had the best rate, due to the vast land, weather conditions, and food resources.
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When most Americans think of Indians they refer to the people of the Great Plains; hunting buffalo, war attire, and teepees are commonly what they think of. The tribes of the Great Plains were large in numbers. The reason that this area of tribes is so well recognized is that they were able to maintain life longer then any other areas of Native Americans. One tribe from the Great Plains was the Comanche Indians. The Comanche were a strong group of Indians after obtaining horses in the late 1600’s. Horses gave them an advantage in taking over larger areas of land all the way from southwestern Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, Texas, southeastern Colorado, and northern Mexico. The life style of the Comanche people was based on one thing… the horse. The Comanche people would not have been as successful without this animal. They would breed and maintain huge herds of horses, and then would trade them to the native people of the northern plains. They also tracked the wild mustang herds that roamed the areas. The children of the tribes would obtain a horse of there own at the age of four or five, they would train it and then would become successful hunters. The women of the tribes would sometimes hunt antelope with the men. The young men of the tribes used the horses for war as well as hunting buffalo. The men became such good riders that they could hang off the side of their horse in battle and shoot arrows under the neck of the horse, using the horse as a shield. Another major part of the life for the Great Plains Native Americans was war. The Comanche people killed more non Indian people then any other tribe. By 1840 the Comanche’s had allied themselves with several other tribes; Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Kiowa. When Mexico became independent in 1821 and Texas fell into the rules set by Mexico, which did not go over well for a lot of the people coming to Texas, the Comanche people were killing most of the travelers. They were also attacking anyone that was traveling on the Santa Fe Trail. The most famous battle involving the Comanche’s was the battle of the Alamo. The Comanche tribe consisted of many different smaller tribes. These bands were considered one because they spoke the same language. It was believed that the Comanche were part of the Shoshone tribe originally. A similarity in language is why people believe that these two may have branched apart. The Shoshone tribe along with many other tribes covered the Great Plains stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River and from Central Texas all the way up to Alberta, Canada. These people lived on wild game from large animals to small, mostly living on buffalo. The people would use almost every part of this animal from the hide to the bones and everything in between. It is thought that before the 1500’s the only two non farming tribes were the Blackfoot and Comanche tribes.
Even though the tribes of the plains were very successful using the land other tribes in different regions were not so fortunate. The land territory used by the Northwest Native Americans is not large. It is about 2,000 miles in length and only about 150 mile wide. However, the vast area of water they inhabited by was very useful to them in their survival. A majority of the Northwest is made up of islands and large mountain ranges. With the chain of islands to the west and the mountains to the east, the Native Americans would live on the edge of the oceans. This protected them from a lot of the elements such as ocean storms, the abundance of rain, and the cold conditions that would come during the winter months. Due to the amount of water that would come upon this region the trees and vegetation were plentiful. The huge trees that grew in this area were used for many things within the tribes. The Nootka tribe located in the Vancouver Island area, used the huge trees to make many items like totem poles, their living courts, and at least six different styles of canoes. Canoes were the mood of means for the people of the Northwest coast line. A vast majority of the hunting was done by water, however, some game animals were hunted in the winter months due to the harsh conditions of the Northwest coast. Whale hunting provided the Nootka tribe with a lot of great materials like oil, bones for tools, baleen for trapping, and of course plenty of meat. The Nootka tribe was the only tribe to hunt whales because of there size. The leader of the canoe would have been given this position from his father, and he would harpoon the whale first, he would also receive the first piece of the whale when it was returned to shore to be rationed out between the others. Fish trades between the whites were often, and if the Nootka were ever crossed by the whites they would kill them with no hesitations. The buildings constructed by the Nootka tribe were amazing in there size, some times being 100 feet in length and 40 feet in width. There were built with large planks of cedar and each plank was removable. The homes were inhabited by several families of the tribe. The leader of the home would sleep in the rear right corner of the home, and the next of kin would inhabit the left rear corner of the home. The front of the home nearest to the door would be stocked with supplies. Outside the front doors of the homes would be large totem polls carved into them would be faces of animals. The faces were chosen by the shaman or people in secret societies. Since these people lived on the coastal shores they came in to contact with white man sooner then others.
Another costal tribe that came in contact with non Native Americans was the Cherokees, located on the Southeast coast. In 1540 Spanish explorers crossed into the Cherokee territory. Then French and English traders from the north and east started to appear making trade prominent for the Southeast Indians. The Cherokees were allies with the British in the French and Indian War. The Cherokee helped the British in the conflicts that took place, but only supported them for five of the seven years, after a dispute over a group of wild horses and scalps that had been claimed for bounty. For 2 years the British were in a war with the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokee finally surrendered, they were required to release a huge piece of land that was next to British settlements. After many difficult periods, the Cherokee knew that they were experienced in agriculture and rebuilt their lives based on this fundamental skill. The tribes of the Southeast were able to grow massive crops due to the land conditions. This also benefited them, because large crops meant sizable communities. They grew many of the foods that are familiar with Thanksgiving dinners; corn, sweet potatoes, squash, and beans. The tribes of the Southeast did not move often so there homes were constructed were of two shapes, mostly poles tied with vines and covered in mud or animal hide. They hunted and fished every species of animal that inhabited the area. The Cherokee were the only tribe of the Southeast that spoke the language of Iroquoian. The Cherokee tribe watched and learned from the Americans for years, which is why they are so similar to the Americans. The Cherokee even established a government like the United States. Unfortunately neither they nor any other tribe of the Southeast were treated like Americans, an Indian Removal Act was put into place and the American settlers began taking over the Indians lands forcing them west of the rivers. The Trail of tears is one of the worse events in history for the Native American Indians. The event was when soldiers forced the natives to move west while the settlers over took their land. Many Indians died on the travel west due to starvation, disease, and weather conditions. It would be countless years later before the Native people would see any reconciliation for what the lands and treatment that they endured.
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All in all, I have found that Native Americans were equals in the struggles that they faced. Each region faced different challenges with weather, but all were able to adapt to those conditions. Just like American today, languages are slightly different from the Far East to the Great West and everywhere in between. The clothing these tribes wore was similar in many ways, because a large majority of their clothing was made from animal hide. Hides were also used in the making of the lodging that the natives inhabited. Many Native American Indians still have land conservations and continue to live as they did in the early years of American civilization though it will never be as it once was for these people.
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