When looking at developed societies in the New World prior to the European arrival, textbooks tend to focus, perhaps understandably, on Central and South America and, namely, the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan civilizations. Over time, there developed a myth of European superiority; however, at the time of the Spanish conquests, these civilizations were seen as highly impressive in many regards and in recent years historians have done well to accentuate those aspects of Central and South American societies (centralized states, impressive infrastructure, monumental architecture, organized trade, technological advances, etc.).
Meanwhile, relatively little attention has been paid to North America and the assumption of backwardness persists. The indigenous peoples of North America are often assumed to have lacked empires and to have been tribal and semi-nomadic or nomadic.
Why is that the case?
First, by the time of European contact, the North American societies appear to have already been in...
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