The Native American Indians are studied in the Autumn Term of Year 8. We focus on two main culture areas: The North West Coast Indians such as the Kwakiutl and Haida, and the Indians of the Plains such as the Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne.
The Native Peoples of North America have a history rich in legend and culture, which still survives today despite the actions of the US Government.
On this page you will find links to sites to help you with your research. You can visit Virtual Museums and see primary artifacts, as well as sites created by experts on the topic.
A good place to start is First Americans a site created by US students.
The Indians of the Plains are possibly the most well-known of all the culture areas because of the Hollywood movies. However not many people know that before the European invaders introduced the horse to North America, the Plains peoples lived in a settled, agricultural lifestyle.
Their nomadic lifestyle meant that they lived in temporary homes called tepees. You can read short history of the Sioux nation, the most well-known of the Plains tribes, and visit other nations such as the Old Crow, the Pawnee, the Comanche and the Northern Cree.
The Luxton Museum of the Plains is a great place to see artifacts. You can learn some Cree Hand Signals or see the games that they played, like lacrosse.
The Sundance is an often misunderstood ritual, as seen in the film ‘A Man Called Horse’. Read an eyewitness account of the ceremony.
In 1876 the United States government declared war on the Lakota Sioux to gain control of the Black Hills area where gold was found. At the Battle of Little Bighorn, the combined forces of the Indians led by Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Gall defeated the US Cavalry led by General George Custer. For years, the US Government called this a massacre, or ‘Custer’s Last Stand’, instead of a fair battle.
You can compare two paintings and see what you think.
One thing is for certain, the American army got its vengeance at the Massacre at Wounded Knee, where the hopes of freedom for the Plains Indians were cruelly destroyed forever.
The struggle for civil rights continues with the campaign to free Leonard Peltier the leader of the American Indian Movement.
North West Coast
My favourite site is Haida – Spirits of the Sea, a lovely looking site from Canada. This site is a colourful insight into the life of the ‘Fishing Indians’. Next, take a virtual tour of Haida and Tsimshian life at The Grand Hall and see what the houses were like.
There are more artifacts to see at the Canadian Museum of Civilisation such as weapons, clothes and canoes. You can see more Bone Snow Knives at the Royal Ontario Museum.
But the most famous things about the North West Indians are the Totem Poles.
Read a story about The First Totem Pole then do some research into their history. See a photo of a real Tlingit Totem. Once you have done that, read the History of the NW Indians to become a real expert!