What was the lifestyle of Native Americans before White Settlers came?

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faeden33 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One interesting aspect of pre-European, Native American life is that most tribes (on the east coast anyway) did not understand the concept of ownership of land or of private property.  The Quinnipiac tribe of Connecticut did not realize that the white settlers wanted to exclude them from the land they “purchased” from the tribe.  In their culture, natives used land communally.  There were reports that when the colonists were gone to church for the day on Sunday, they would sometimes return and find Indians in their homes.  They saw that the white people were not using them at the time and felt that it was acceptable to use them while they were gone.

Some other things that Europeans brought to the Native Americans that they did not have before are horses, the wheel and small pox.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question is a little too broad to be able to answer in a brief space.  Mostly, the problem is that there were many different kinds of Indian lifestyles, depending on the place and the time.  The coastal Indians in Washington State, for example, had permanent villages, totem poles, etc while the Plains Indians were nomadic and had teepees.

Broadly, though, the only thing you can really say about all pre-contact societies is that they had no European technologies -- no guns, no cloth, no metal, etc.  Other than that, different places had very different ways of life.

mseverson | Student

There was enormous variance to the First American populations on the eve of the arrival of the Europeans. Notably there were great advances in mathematics specifically as it relates to calendric computations by the Maya and in farming in the hybridisation of varieties of crops that could grow in numerous ecosystems. It is recorded that there were 500 varieties of potatoes being cultivated in western South America and cotton was grown all over Mesoamerica and the southwestern United States.

Our culture teaches that the Indians of North and South America were little more than stone age people but history is written by the victors. It would have been interesting to have seen what might have been the change in history if Moctezuma had not so easily succumbed to Cortes. Or if the enormous libraries of codices burned by the priest had been preserved so we could begin the read the full measure of Mesoamerican wisdom.

parama9000 | Student

They lived on a collective piece of land together, without any concept of ownership, and had permanent villages.

hazie123 | Student

They lived in teepees because they were warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They were conical and therefore very stable in high winds. They were easy to move, and that suited their nomadic lifestyle.