Introduction – Native American Indian Culture
There are hundreds of Native American Indian tribes located throughout America. Although there a significant cultural differences between most of these tribes there are also cultural aspects, such as customs, clothing, and language shared by many of them. In this section of Native American Indian Facts we list many of the cultural aspects of Native Americans as a whole while referencing but not focusing on specific tribes. On this page you will find links to detail pages on many aspects of Native American culture. This information, which includes what the role of American Indian women was, where the Indians obtained horses, and how they sometimes settled disputes without fighting, is written for both kids and adults.
Interesting Native American Indian Culture Facts
- The general lifestyle of American Indian tribes can be broadly categorized into two groups; Sedentary farmers and nomadic. Sedentary farmers, such as the Hopi, stayed in one place and grew food to survive. Their houses were permeant structures. Tribes such as the Navajo were nomadic; frequently moving often to follow herds of buffalo or other animals they hunted. Their houses were easily taken apart and easy to transport.
- In most tribes it was the men who were the warriors however women also participated in war. One famous woman warrior was Tashenamani (Moving Robe) who led an attack in the famous 1876 Battle of Greasy Grass, also known as Custer’s Last Stand or the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was killed.
- In almost all Indian tribes men were responsible for hunting.
- In most regions of America Native American women were historically solely responsible for growing and harvesting crops. In certain regions men would assist in certain aspects of farming; for example in the southwest men would till the soil in preparation for planting.
- Native American women played important roles in most Native American tribes; they farmed, cooked, made shelters, made tools, made weapons, and sometimes participated in hunting and warfare.
- Most Native American Indian cultures farmed. The most common crop was maize; other important crops grown by numerous tribes around America were beans and squash.
- Many Native American tribes developed ball sports and often these sports were used to settle disputes as an alternative to going to war. Native American Stickball, which is similar to lacrosse, is one of the oldest team sports in North America.
- In most cases Native American men were responsible for negotiating with other Indian tribes and with European settlers and traders.
- Numerous Native American tribes painted their faces and bodies for battle. They painted themselves with symbols they believed would provide protection and special powers in battle. For example some tribes painted a zig-zag line on their forehead which symbolizes lightning and was believed to give the warrior speed and strength.
- Many tribes traditionally used herbs such as tobacco and sage in ceremonies. Tobacco was often used as an offering to the spirits.
- Horses became very important to Native American culture; they were used extensively for hunting and transporting objects such as shelters. Horses were not indigenous to America; Indians acquired them when the early Spanish explorers brought them over with them on their early expeditions.