Daily Life in Olden Times
Native Americans for Kids
Come meet the early people of the Americas in olden times. Learn what people invented to make themselves happy and comfortable.
Start Here: 40,000 years ago .. The last great ice sheet still covers much of the north. But the ice is melting. You are a hunter with your family, tracking animals for food and for hides to make warm clothing. You carry a stone-tipped spear. On foot, you follow wild herds through the cold and fog. You cross a bridge of ice. On the other side, you find a new land. You do not know that it is a new land. You only know that there are no human enemies to stop you. You keep pushing south, following the herds. You find paradise - elk, deer, bison, wild vegetables, wild fruits - and forests, with so many trees - and squirrels and rabbits. Fish leap from the streams.
For many hundreds of years, people wandered into the great northwest. They wandered in all directions across Canada and the United States and north to the Arctic region. These early people were not only skilled farmers, they were also clever builders, engineers, and weavers. They made artistic pottery without a pottery wheel. They loved games of skill. They created stories and poetry. Although they spoke many different languages and had many different customs, they had at least one thing in common - they were all immigrants.
Native Americans are not actually natives. They are immigrants, like everyone else in this country. They were the first immigrants. Some scientists say the first people arrived in the United States over forty thousand years ago from Asia, crossing the frozen sea. Some say twenty thousand years ago. It is safe to say that Native American culture is really old, as old as that of Ancient China.
Welcome to Native Americans in Olden Times. Read fabulous myths! Play really fun games. Meet mischievous magical beings. Explore the daily life of those who lived in the Americas a long time ago. Get ready to be amazed!
Northeast Woodland Native Americans
Iroquois Nation - What was the job of the False Face Society? Who were the Three Sisters? What were the Snow Snake Games? Who was Hiawatha? What was the League of Nations? What was wampum? Read the story of Wise Owl. Welcome to the Iroquois Nation in Olden Times.
Ojibwa/Chippewa - Why did the Ojibwa hide pebbles in moccasins? What is a Charcoal Sad Face? How do you play Butterfly Hide and Seek? What is a Dream Catcher? Who was The Invisible Warrior? Welcome to the Ojibwa / Chippewa Native Americans in Olden Times.
Cherokee Nation - Why did the Cherokee Native Americans have a red chief and a white chief? What is a Booger Ceremony? What techniques were invented by the Cherokee that made them successful in battle? Where is the Darkening Land? What is the Trail of Tears?
Seminole - What is the job of an animal spirit helper? Why did the Seminole people hang baby cradles from the rafters of their homes? What is a comfortable? Why were beads so important? Welcome to the Florida Everglade Seminole Native Americans in Olden Times.
Plains People - Why did the Plains people prefer tipis to houses? Name 72 things the Plains people made from buffalo. Why were horses called dogs? What were pictographs? Can you decode an ancient message? Why do the elders still speak of Clever Coyote with gratitude?
Sioux Nation - What could boys do when they reached their 10th birthday? What engagement present did the family of the bride receive? Why weren't kids given names when they were born? What did star quilts represent? What was the Seven Council Fires?
Anasazi/Pueblo/Hopi - Why did the Pueblo dig a hole in the middle of a secret underground room? Who were the giant Natackas? What are kachinas? How did the Pueblo get their name? Who were the Old Ones? What happened at a naming ceremony?
Apache - Why do Apache kids hunt for blue stones? What is a Wickiup? Who were the Devil Dancers? Learn how to play Apache toe and toss games. Read an Apache myth about Child of Water and Little Blue Rock. Welcome to the Southwest Apache Native Americans in Olden Times.
Navajo - When a young couple ate from the same basket, why did all their relatives lecture them? What is a Ketoh? Why did the Navajo make Sand Paintings and then destroy them before dark? What is a Blessingways? Welcome to the Southwest Navajo Native Americans in Olden Times.
Northwest Pacific Coastal - What made the Puget Sound Native Americans "rich" in ancient times? Why were woven mats so important? How did totem poles get started? What could you buy with 5,000 blankets? What's a potlatch all about? Find out How Raven Stole Crow's Potlatch.
Nez Perce and the Plateau People - Why did the People of the Plateau tie their babies to a board? Why did small children have to feed everyone in the village except themselves? What was a fishing station? What did the Plateau People believe was far more important than riches? What was the job of a Shaman? Come meet the clever, creative people who lived (mostly) in peace with their neighbors on the plateau between two huge mountain ranges, the Rockies and the Cascades.
California Native Americans - Why was the bear doctor feared? What was the purpose of the Big Head Dance? Why did certain medicine men hunt rattlesnakes? Why did the Chumash need a ladder to get into bed? Come meet the people who lived in California in Olden Times.
Far North - What trick did the Kutchin people use on their enemies? How did these early people stop ghosts from entering their homes? What magical powers did the Inuit think their Shamas had? What is the purpose of a finger mask? Welcome to Alaska Natives and the people of the Arctic and Far North in Olden Times.
Central & South American Native Americans
The Inca Empire - The Incas never invented the wheel. They never invented a system of writing. They had no use for money. Yet, high in the rugged Andes Mountains of South America, the Incas built thousands of miles of well-paved roads, kept accurate records, and enjoyed vast wealth. Everyone in the empire was well fed and no one was homeless. Meet the Children of the Sun.
The Maya Empire - The Maya lived on the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America. During their stay, they build pyramids, temples, stelas, and ball courts. 1,500 years later, they abandoned their cities, leaving only a few people behind. While they were there, they did incredible things! Explore Daily Life in the Maya Empire, read the adventures of The Hero Twins, and Meet the People of the Corn.
The Aztecs - Why did the Aztecs search for 200 years to find The Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus? What did conquered people have to pay in tribute? Why did the Aztecs build floating gardens? Read the story Journey of a Princess to discover how the Aztecs treated some very honored guests. Welcome to ancient Mexico.
Our special thanks to:
- Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, WA, for our private tour, and an opportunity to learn a great deal about the early people in the Pacific Northwest. Thank you!
- Our thanks to Dr. Adams. Dr. Adams has been a consultant to the Sioux, Winnebago, Fox, and other tribes in the Midwest on community development. He also participated in a federal project for communication and values differences among cultures, resulting in a website, a multicultural toolkit.
- Our thanks to the many Native American people across the U.S. who do not wish their names to be listed but who generously shared information with us in our research for this unit. You know who you are. Thank you very much. We are most grateful for your help.
Books we used:
American's Fascinating Indian Heritage, Reader's Digest, 1978
Native Americans of Yesterday by Marion E. Gridley, sponsored by the Indian Council Fire, 1940
Native Americans of the Americans, National Geographic Society, 1958
Indian Reservations, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Dept of the Interior, 1950
Questions on Indian Culture, by Dr. Ruth Underhill, University of Denver, Bureau of Indian Affairs, pamphlet, 1953
Dakota and Ojibwa People, Minnesota Historical Society, 1985
Regions Far and Near for a Changing World, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, 1995
Seminole Music by Frances Densmore