Native Americans

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Native Americans near Quebec

Way of life before the colony

It is estimated that there where about 10 million Naïve Americans living in North America exact figures are impossible to ascertain.

When colonists began keeping records, the Native American populations had been drastically reduced by war, famine, forced labor, and epidemics of diseases introduced through contact with Europeans.

Evidence indicates that the first peoples to migrate into the Americas, coming from northeastern Siberia into Alaska, were carrying stone tools and other equipment typical of the middle and end of the Paleolithic period.

Before Europeans arrived, the native peoples lived by hunting and fishing, although a few supplemented their diet by cultivating corn, beans, squash, and (particularly among the Ojibwe) wild rice.

They also gathered strawberries, berries and nuts. In autumn, they split into small groups and moved up the streams to the forest. There they hunted beaver, caribou, moose and white-tailed deer.

The basic social structure was a village of a few hundred people related by a kinship. Villages were temporary and mobile. They moved to locations of greatest natural food supply, often breaking into smaller units or recombining as the circumstances required.

This custom resulted in a certain degree of cross-tribal mobility, especially in troubled times.

Villages were constructed of light wigwams for portability. In the winter more solid long houses were used, in which more than one clan could reside.

Food supplies were stored in more permanent, semi-subterranean buildings.

They developed a gender-oriented division of labor. The women farmed and the men fished and hunted.

Impact of European colonization

Chicken pox and measles, though common and rarely fatal among Europeans, often proved deadly to Native Americans.

Smallpox proved particularly deadly to Native American populations.

Epidemics often immediately followed European...