Explore the History of Native Americans,
Africans, and Europeans Before 1878



The New World is considered to be the Americas and the Carribean Islands. It was called the new world because it had never been explored before by people of the Old World, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The first people in the new world were known as Paleo-Indians, paleo means "old." The paleo-Indians entered the new world by crossing the Isthmus Beringia, from africa and Asia. Sadly, the paleo-Indians were wiped out by the time 8000 B.C., and they had no system of writing to identify them when they were gone. Also by 8000 B.C., today's Native Americans or Indians, came along.



Types of Native Americans


North America Woodland Cultures
  • Eastern Woodlands- Algonkian & Iroquois
    similar cultures but traditional enemies; very complex cultures

  • Mississippi Woodlands- Choctaw, Cherokee, Caddo
    Cahokia- the first city in today's U.S.; located near St. Louis

  • Plains- Commanche, Sioux, Inchas
    Commanches migrated from the Great Basin
    3 types of Sioux: Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota
  • Arctic- Eskimos

  • Northwest- Coastal
    originated and popularized the totem pole

  • Northwest- Plateau
    "samon" people
    more materialistic than the other tribes

  • California
    lived mostly off the land and natural resources
    unwar-like, laid back

    Great Basin (Desert)
  • Southwest- Navajo & Apache
    Navajo- sedentary: stayed in one place
    Apache- war-like and nomadic

  • Pueblo- Zuni & Hopi



    ·farming- Native Americans grew 80 kinds of food such as corn, squash, tomatoes,
    potatoes, chocolate, greens, peanuts, avocado, tobacco, grains,peppers, and maple syrup.
    The Aztec women made 40 types of tamales for eating and trading.

    ·hunting/fishing- They used spears and bows & arrows to catch their prey.

    The Europeans did not understand why the women were farmers; they rejected that idea of the Native Americans.


    The Native Americans believed in more than one God. The Europeans rejected their religion, because the Europeans believed in one god-monotheism. The shaman was the religious leader/healer for the Native Americans. The older women of the tribe were usaully the shaman or strongly considered first. The Dakota Sioux Indians practiced a religious ritual called the Sun Dance. A man is hung in a upright vertical position, by hooks attached to ropes in his chest, from a tree or pole. The male was to endure the pain for as long as possible, and to embrace the pain with a laugh or smile.
    (4)     (5)     This ceremony was performed to prove the four male virtues:
    (1) Bravery (2) Generosity (3) Strength and (4) Intergrity. The Europeans later outlawed the Sun Dance because they thought it was too grewsome.

    Tribe Life

    There were no justice systems like jails, courts, laws, etc. Instead the troublemaker was ostrasized, or kicked out of the tribe. Tribes were very important to the Native Americans. It was their source of family and unity. No one was really an individual in the tribe; it was like one big family. People made decisions based on what was best for the village, and not based upon what was good for themselves. A type of motto that they had was, " Think for yourself, but act for the community"

    Role of Women in the Family


    Male dominance was blurred in Native American culture. Most of the time families were matrilineal: every aspect of family defined by the woman's family line. The women were able to choose their own husbands, as opposed to arranged marriages. That allowance enabled the women to marry for love intsead of money or land. Native Americans were also open about experimenting with sex before marriage. They did not condone adultery, sex with outher people while married, but as long as you were single it was accepted. This also aided in finding a compatible mate. A Native American woman was eligible for marriage when she began menstruating. This was special because it meant that she was ready to have children. The women were isolated from the rest of the tribe during menstruation. They were given their own tent/hut to live in for the duration so that they had some time to themselves. More than one woman was assigned to the same place if they were menstruating at the same time. The Native Americans also practiced polygny: a man having more than one wife; and polyandry: a woman having more than one husband. Since family was so important to them, there was sometime a need for extra help in supporting the family.

    Vulnerability to Europeans

    A major downfall of the Native Americans was vulnerabilty to the Europeans. To Europeans, land defined how powerful and/or prosperous you were. The Natives didn't paticularly care about how much land they owned, they just used used the resources to the best of their abilities; this left them open for manipulation of their land by the Europeans. The Europeans' good ability to trade goods for the land they wanted; the Natives also wanted the whiskey, guns, and technology such as the wheel and iron tools, that the Europeans possessed. Another great misfortune was the disease brought to America from Europe. The Native Americans were not immune to diseases such as measle and smallpox, which resulted in eighty percent of Indians dead within the first one-hundred years of the European arrival.



    Africa was basically divided into two main regions: North Africa and Sub-Sahara.

    North Africa had a long history of contact with the Europeans.

    · Egypt in 3200 B.C. was one of the oldest and wealthiest civilizations in the world. Until 2500 B.C., the Sahara Desert was green and fertile. When the Sahara began to grow very hot and sandy, the people who lived there migrated both North and South to seek a new place to live. The immigration from the Sahara added a great deal to the population.
    · In 950 B.C. the Berbers, an African people, controlled "Upper"Egypt, and in 600 B.C. the Ethiopians, another African people, took control of "Lower"Egypt.
    · In 650 A.D. Moslems conquered Egypt, and totally changed religion and language. The new religion was Islamic and the new language was Arabic. The bedoins:missionairies were nomadic people who spread the Islamic religion throughout Africa.

    Sub-Sahara: South of the Sahara Desert

  • Pigmies
    average height four feet, nine inches
    came from the Congo rain forest
    known for "drum language"
    weavers and carvers

  • Bushmen- Khoi-Khoi & San Hottentott
    small; nomadic
    known for cavewall paintings
  • Hamitic- Zulu, Watusi, and Masai
    tall, thin, lean
  • Sudanic- Ibo, Ashanté, Mandingo, Yoruba

    Kingdoms and Cultures

    There were two major tribes kingdoms in Africa, Ghana and Mali.

    Ghana Kingdom- This kingdom covered the Sahara Desert to the Atlantic Ocean. It reached its peak around the Eleventh Century.
    known for art, architecture, and trading
    they traded gold, salt, timber, ivory, slaves
    salt was most valuable because it preserved the meat; there were no refrigerators
    · In 1052 A.D. the Berbers attacked Ghana, and the kingdom declined.

    Mali Kingdom- This kingdom took over when the Ghana Kingdom declined. It reached its peak around the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century.
    known for trade and agriculture
    Mansa Musa- the ruler of Mali 1312-1337 A.D.

    Common Traits Among Kingdoms

  • divine king
    appointed by God
  • complicated government
    (legal and political systems) laws, courts, etc.
  • village chiefs
  • relative equality for men & women in work and religion
    they practiced polygny
  • family also very important
    they generally had very large families
  • kinship: who your family is, defines who you are

    Economics and Religion

    · Trade made the Kingdom. It was the main source income. The African men made the goods, and the women marketed them.

    · African religion was quite similar to the Native Americans'. They were close to nature and believed in many gods. A diviner was a spiritual leader and healer in West African religion.



    The existance of slavery was old in Europe, Africa, and Asia. It was not until 1600s, with the arrival of Europeans in the New World, that slavery had a racial connotation. They were used as chattel slaves- they were property of another person. Outside the New World slaves were wageless labor; they worked off their debts or for food if they were poor, and then they were set free. Most of the slaves for the New World came from the Western Coast of the Sub-Sahara region.


    · The Europeans were very fond of exploration for various reasons.
    ·new information for making maps
    ·conquering new land
    ·spreading their culture and religion
    Europeans were war-like, and self-sufficient. They figured they could get what they wanted for themselves, and if not then they would take it. And if anyone/people stood in their way, they would try their best to do away with that person/people.

    Midieval Period/Dark Ages- forced exploration for Europeans. They wanted to get away from Europe's depression and disease. The 100 Years War was a turning point for Europe. Warfare changed; the use of cannons began. There was also the Spanish Inquisition: the destruction of non-Christians who did not want to conform to Christianity. Europeans were grave about religion. They didn't like anyone to speak out against their Christian religion, but they also rejected all other religions.

    In the Fourteenth Century, the Bubonic Plague was a terrible disease, spread by fleas, that killed approximately one-third of Europe's population. This was said to be one of the worst plagues of all time.

    The Renaissance

    ·The Renaissance or "rebirth" of Europe brought about vast changes. It first made it possible for exploration again; people finally came out of their slump of the Dark Ages.
    ·Stable monarchies became of the Renaissance. King and queen rule was again popular. There was capitalism: making a profit, and that helped out the kingdoms' economies.

    ·Scholarship and artistic development also blossomed during this period. Education became abundant, and scholars were now questioning things; thus came the emergence of Science in Europe. Painting, music, drama, and dance were also more closely studied now too, bearing a brood of Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century abstract painters and artists.

    ·Technology began to advance slowly. Men began building ships which led to better and longer explorations. The printing press was soon invented. This invention allowed access to knowledge; books, newspapers, etc. were made in plenty for everyone's use.

    Family Life

    ·The men were farmers, herders, and had industrial jobs. Women  (11)  spent the majority of their time at home, unless they were needed to help harvest the crops.

    ·Women married fairly young, as did the Native Americans and Africans. They had arranged marriages, by the age of twelve, and lost all rights and property once married.

    ·In the European Society women were very obsessed with physical beauty. They wore the low-cut cleavage dresses with the corsets to make their figures look more pleasurable. High heels were invented to keep their long, flowing gowns off of the ground. With this obsession increasing, the number of children decreased. European men and women generally did not have more than two or three children.  


    Although all three cultures are very alike in some ways, especially the native Americans and the Africans, their cultures were very different. Maybe that's why people clashed so much in the "New World". Or maybe it was because the Europeans thought they were superior to everyone. One of their mottos was: "Live life intensely."


  • All text was paraphrased from lectures by Wanda Jones, Instructor - El Centro College Dallas, Tx.
  • Photos 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 borrowed from: The American Past by Joseph Conlin
  • Image 4 borrowed from http://www.obscurities.com/tsd/OKeePa.gif
  • Image 5 borrowed from http://www.bodyplay.com/bodyplay/issues/images/09-2.jpg
  • Image 6 borrowed from http://www.imt.net/~dgphoto/89.jpg