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Native American History 

Learn about Native American cultures in the United States, including the Shoshone and Paiute on the West Coast; the Pueblo, Hopi, and Zuni of the Southwest; the Sioux, Crow, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and Comanche of the Plains; the Mound Builders of the Mississippi River Valley; the Iroquois, Algonquin, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca in the Northeast; and the Cherokee, Creek Choctaw, and Seminole of the Southeast.

Depending on the region, Indians could be primarily hunter-gatherers, farmers, or a combination of the two. Tribes were frequently at war with each other, although several Northeast tribes joined together to form the Iroquois Confederacy, often characterized as one of the world’s oldest participatory democracies.

Researchers estimate that there were 15 million to 20 million American Indians in the territory that would become the United States at the time of first contact with European explorers in the 15th century. The Europeans’ mission was to explore the new area, enrich themselves and their countries with its resources, and convert the native population to Christianity. Bringing with them superior weapons and diseases to which the Native American population had no defense, the European explorers wreaked havoc on the American Indian population.

The negative impact of white settlers continued after the land became the country of the United States. At first concentrated on the East Coast, white Americans desired to settle the open land to the west and viewed the American Indians as obstacles to expansion. U.S. government and military policy throughout the 19th century was to force American Indians farther west either through treaty or by force. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 signed by U.S. President Andrew Jackson resulted in one of the most shameful acts of forced removal: the infamous Trail of Tears that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 4,000 Cherokees due to the hardship of travel over the winter and inadequate supplies.

Some Indians resisted by force, either by allying with Europeans in conflicts with the United States or by taking on the U.S. military directly in skirmishes known as the Indian Wars. By the 1870s, military resistance had been defeated, and Native Americans were largely confined to reservations west of the Mississippi River. Separated from their homelands and under pressure to assimilate with white American society, Indians on reservations struggled to preserve their culture and create a productive society. Reservation life was marked by poverty and social ills like alcoholism. Some Native children were taken from their families to live at boarding schools where they were taught to abandon their Native identities and adopt white Christian culture.

In the 1960s, Native Americans joined the larger civil rights movement in demanding their right to self-determination through protests and even occupations, such as when activists took over Alcatraz Island (1969–1971). While that standoff ended peacefully, others, such as the Wounded Knee incident on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1973, ended in violence. The American Indian Movement (AIM) was a powerful force for activism and resistance.

The U.S. government responded by passing the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 and Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975—the latter recognizing the right and need of American Indians to self-determination. Tribes began to administer their own affairs, including establishing their own educational institutions and building their economies through resource management and, frequently, casino gambling. In the 21st century, tribes began to file suits against the U.S. government for its long past of mismanagement of tribal resources and breach of treaties. By 2012, the U.S. government had reached settlements with tribes totaling more than $1 billion.

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Native American History Resources

Gale provides scholarly resources to advance the study of Native Americans including primary source archives and eBooks.

Primary Source Archives

Gale Primary Sources contains archives and collections that provide researchers with firsthand content that can be used to examine and analyze the evolution of Indians over time. 

Gale eBooks

Gale offers a variety of eBooks covering a wide range of topics on Indian affairs, including their homes, settlers, ceremonies, celebrations, and much more. Users can add  Gale eBooks to a customized collection and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download content.

  • Documents of American Indian Removal: Eyewitness to History, 1st Edition

    Documents of American Indian Removal: Eyewitness to History, 1st Edition

    ABC-CLIO | 2019 | ISBN-13: 9781440854200

    The Indian Removal Act transformed the Native North American continent and precipitated the development of a national identity based on a narrative of vanishing American Indians. This volume is a probing look into a chapter in American history that, while difficult, cannot be ignored. Sweeping in its coverage of history, it includes deeply personal accounts of American Indian removal from which readers may discern the degree to which the new national identity of the United States was influenced by bigotry and dependence on the corporate economy.

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  • Native American Cultures: Native American Ceremonies and Celebrations: From Potlatches to Powwows, 1st Edition

    Native American Cultures: Native American Ceremonies and Celebrations: From Potlatches to Powwows, 1st Edition

    Gareth Stevens Publishing | 2018 | ISBN-13: 9781538208915

    Native American celebrations are packed with symbolic gestures and intriguing details. A kind of party called a potlatch, staged by native peoples of the Pacific Northwest, was marked by guests receiving gifts, not giving them, and were sometimes put on to get back at an enemy. This appealing volume about a high-interest aspect of native cultures highlights several celebrations and ceremonies important to Native Americans across North America. Thought-provoking fact boxes, historical images, and modern-day customs will engage readers of all levels.

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  • Native American Cultures: Native American Homes: From Longhouses to Wigwams, 1st Edition

    Native American Cultures: Native American Homes: From Longhouses to Wigwams, 1st Edition

    Gareth Stevens Publishing | 2018 | ISBN-13: 9781538212769

    Most native peoples live in modern homes today, but years ago, they lived in vastly different dwellings. These inventive buildings were constructed of available natural resources, such as wood, grass, and adobe bricks, without the use of machinery we rely on today. Readers will appreciate the vivid photographs that accompany the interesting text and surprising fact boxes in this indispensable volume, beneficial to any elementary social studies classroom.

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  • Native Americans Set 4: Ojibwe, 1st Edition

    Native Americans Set 4: Ojibwe, 1st Edition

    Big Buddy Books | 2019 | ISBN-13: 9781532154935

    This title introduces readers to the Ojibwe people. Text covers traditional ways of life, including social structure, homes, food, art, clothing, and more. Also discussed is contact with Europeans and American settlers, as well as how the people keep their culture alive today. Table of contents, map, fun facts, timeline, glossary, and index are included. Aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards.

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  • Opponents in American History: Native Americans and European Settlers, 1st Edition

    Opponents in American History: Native Americans and European Settlers, 1st Edition

    Powerkids Press | 2019 | ISBN-13: 9781538344088

    The United States of America was born of cooperation and conflict. On one side were the Native Americans, represented by dozens of different tribes from coast to coast. On the other were the European settlers, who flocked to the New World seeking freedom or fortune. What began as a sometimes friendly and cooperative relationship soon led to bitter and bloody conflicts as the young and fragile nation sought its identity. This book explores the complex history and the turbulent relations between native people and the new settlers in North America.

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