A STORY OF AMERICAN INDIANS
What do we know about native Americans? I would like to tell you a story of American Indians.
Indians have lived in America a very, very long time, but how long, nobody can be quite sure.
Scientists think that at one time nobody at all lived in North or South America, but there were people in Asia. They lived in small groups, and they roamed about always looking for more and better food. Some of those people roamed as far as the eastern tip of Siberia, which is near the western tip of Alaska. There is water between these two tips now, but some scientists think that long ago there may have been land between Siberia and Alaska.
Perhaps the first pioneers to America just walked across From Asia; or they may have come in small boats.
Bу the time the Spaniards discovered America more than 450 years ago, these new people had settled down in different places in America and had found different ways of living. The Spaniards gave all these people the name of «Indians». That name was a mistake, because when the Spaniards first came to America, they thought that they have found the Indies. But the Indies were islands on the other side of the world.
There were very many kinds of American Indians. It is very difficult to speak about all of them. I would like to tell you about a few of the many different Indian tribes in America.
A tribe is a group of families who are all related to each other. Often Indians in one tribe did not have a special name for their tribe. But they had names for other tribes, and we use them today when we talk about Indians.
The members of each tribe lived and worked together, and each tribe had its own way of living. The Indians spoke many different languages. Often one tribe could not understand the language of its neighbour. So the two tribes used a language of signs that Indians had invented. This sign language was not exactly the same everywhere, but as a rule Indians used it when they met.
Many of the Indians, whom the white people met when they landed in America, lived in woods. They knew where to find food, and how to make fire and cook food, and they made knives of stone. They could kill deer and other animals with spears, or bows and arrows, or traps. They could make houses, and they had comfortable clothes.
Other Indians lived on the wide plains and on the sea-coasts and in the deserts. They all knew how to make a living where they were, and they could do many things better than the white pioneers. They could send messages very fast by smoke signals. Some Indians could run a hundred miles in one day. Their clothes made of deerskin were so comfortable, that the white men soon copied them.
The Indians had no alphabet, they could neither read nor write, but they could draw very well. They made their drawings on stones or bark.
After the white men came, one Indian chief named Sequoya decided that his people needed an alphabet. He saw how strong it made the white men to learn from words that were written down. So Sequoya invented a special alphabet for the language which his people spoke, and he taught them how to read and write.
The first white men in America often traded with the Indians for furs, and they taught the Indians how to shoot with guns so that there would be more furs to buy. But guns can be used not only in hunting but in war too. And later on, when the white men wanted to take away the Indians', land for farms, the Indians fought courageously with their guns because they wanted to keep their hunting-grounds for themselves. But there were more white men than Indians, and the white men had more guns, so they won the wars. They turned the Indians' hunting-grounds into farms and cities. They even killed most of the buffaloes on which many Indians depended for food. There were many greedy white hunters who only wanted the hides.
But while the white men were winning the wars and Liking the land, they also learned from the Indians how to live in that country.
Let's see how some of the Indians lived.
THE SENECA TRIBE
The Seneca tribe lived in big forests. The Seneca people like the other Indians had rather strange names, such as Running Rabbit, Man-Who-Likes-Berries, Tall Feather and so on. One, boy was called Fleet Foot because he was a good runner. Before that, his name was Handsome Baby. As he grew older, he might change names several times if people thought the new name-suited him better.
The Seneca men were famous hunters and warriors. The Seneca children practiced shooting with their small bows and arrows when they were quite small, until one day they were allowed to go hunting in the woods near home.
-99060129540All Indian hunters and warriors were taught from the time they were small boys to face danger bravely and never to show fear. They practiced swimming, running, wrestling and even doing without food.
Indian hunters had hunting rules. One of them said that no one could kill an animal for himself. Everybody had to hunt together for the whole tribe.
Before the men started out hunting, they washed themselves very clean. They did it because wild animals have a very keen sense of smell, and when they smell people, they immediately run away. In the woods the Indian hunters hid near a path that deer had made. They had to be very quiet and patient when they were waiting for a deer to come. Deer were very important for the tribe. Sometimes each member of the tribe ate four pounds of meat in one day. But the Senecas used deer for many things besides food. They made clothes out of the hide and arrow-heads out of the antlers.
The Seneca women worked hard. They baked bread and cooked meat over the open fire. They sewed clothes. For winter they made blankets for everybody to wear. The blankets were often made of strips of rabbit skin, and they were very warm.
In summertime everybody was busy outdoors. But when winter came, they all stayed in their houses and worked around the fire which burned on the floor in the centre of the room.
Seneca houses were made of strips of tree bark fastened to strong posts and beams.
The roofs had holes in the middle to let the smoke out. As they worked by the fire, the old people told stories. Some of the stories were true. Others were made-up stories or fairy-tales, but the Indians usually believed these too. The stories were their way of trying to explain things about the world which they didn't understand.
THE DACOTA INDIANS
The Dacota Indians lived on the grassy plains where the State of South Dacota is situated now. They were famous hunters. They hunted buffaloes that wandered in herds over the plains. When they killed buffaloes, there was enough meat to last the tribe for a long time.
In order to keep the meat from spoiling, they cut it into thin strips, dried it in the sun and smoked it over their fires. Later, they often pounded the jerked meat until it almost became powder. Then they mixed it with dried berries to make a food called pemmican. Hunters took pemmican on long trips because it was light to carry and they could eat it without stopping to cook it.
Buffalo skins were cut and used for warm clothes in winter.
The Dacotas moved about so much, looking for buffaloes in summer, that they could not grow corn or beans as the Senecas did.
3282315335280The clothes of the Dacotas looked very beautiful. They had special head-dresses which they kept for important occasions. These head-dresses were decorated with eagle feathers. Each feather in the head-dress stood for a brave deed that its owner had done. In their beautiful war clothes, the Dacotas danced their war dances.
The Dacotas became great fighters after the white men came. (By the way, the Dacotas called the white men Crooked Feet because of the way they walked.)
The Dacotas learned from the white men how to use horses and guns. Some white men even encouraged the Indians to fight each other and paid them for bringing scalps. These white men thought that it would be easier for them to take the Indians' lands if the Indians killed each other.
THE МАKАН INDIANS
The Makah Indians lived in the north-west where the State of Washington is situated now.
2901315414655The people of this tribe were richer than any of the other Indian tribes in the country. They lived by fishing, and they caught so many fish that they could trade some of the fish with hunting tribes who had furs and other things. They fished with spears and nets, and they caught mainly salmon. As soon as the men caught the salmon, the women cleaned out the insides with knives made of mussel shells. Then they hung the fish over the fires to smoke. The heat and smoke dried the salmon and kept it from spoiling.
The Makah believed that animals and people were the same. They thought that the fish they caught were their guests. They put the salmon bones back into the water or along the river bank. They thought the salmon could then go back to their own homes after visiting the Makah. They also believed that fish let themselves get caught because they wanted to help the Makah.
Almost all the other Indians were much poorer than the Makah and they helped one another, because very often there was not enough food for everybody.
THE ZUNI INDIANS
The Zuni Indians lived in the desert country where the State of New Mexico is situated now. They lived in villages called pueblos. The houses in a pueblo were built one on top of the other. The flat roof of one house was a yard for the house above it. The people climbed up ladders and entered their homes through holes in the roof.
There were some rooms in the pueblo where nobody lived. They called these special rooms kivas. The men went there to have serious talks or to hold ceremonies. They hoped these ceremonies would bring rain to their dry desert country.
The Zuni began their day with working in the fields. Like most Indians, they always worked first and ate afterwards because at that time one could not cook breakfast in a few minutes.
The Zuni usually baked water bread which was as thin as paper. The bread was blue because it was made of blue corn. The Zuni planted corn in deep holes which they dug with sticks. When the corn ripened, the boys had to run around the field all day shouting at crows that wanted to eat the corn.
Whatever the Zuni did, they did together. Whole families worked together in the fields and shared all the food.
There are still many Indians in different parts of the United States. Many of them keep their old customs. The Zuni, for example, still live in pueblos, but now they have doors to their houses, instead of holes in the roofs.
There are about two hundred tribes (400,000 Indians) in the United States now. But when the white men first came to America, there were more than 800,000 Indians in the country.
The Indians' homes today are mostly on the land where the white men decided the Indians must live. These places are called reservations. Many of the tribes were driven far from their homes, and soldiers were sent to make them settle down in reservations.
In the old days, when white men were moving into the country, they sometimes made friendly treaties with the Indians, who allowed them to have land to live on. But soon the white men broke the treaties and took more and more land, until they had all the land they wanted. So the only land left for the Indians was that which the white men did not want at the time. That was where reservations for the Indians were made. A few tribes, like the Zuni, already lived in desert country, and their reservations were set up there. But many tribes were driven out of the rich woodlands to treeless country.
In most reservations people can live only by farming. But many tribes had never done any farming before. So most Indians in the reservations are very poor.
For a long time there was a law which did not allow the Indians to leave the reservations. There is no such law now, but most Indians still don't leave their reservations, because it is very hard for an Indian to get work.
There are few schools and doctors in the reservations. Most Indians cannot get any education.
Many Indians, of course, don't want to live away from their tribes. All of them are proud of being Indians. They know that they have taught the white men many things.
Do you know how many things the white men learned about from the Indians? About very many things indeed and among them are potatoes, corn, tomatoes, cocoa, vanilla.
Many American cities, rivers and states have Indian names. They are Chicago, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Michigan and many others.