Thursday, January 24, 2013

Basic Territorial Distribution of Tribes

EDITOR'S NOTE: The history of the Americas did not begin in 1492. By the time Christopher Columbus arrived in what he thought was a group of islands off the coast of India, the land from what is now Alaska,  south to the tip of the South American continent, was already inhabited --- and had been for at least 10,000 years.

{{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

For some time, anthropologists have concluded that Native Americans are of Asiatic or Mongoloid descent, having arrived on the continents across a land bridge from Asia. There are also some anthropologists and archaeologists that believe mankind developed in the Americans and then used the land bridge to populate the rest of the world. For the purpose of this web site, we will focus on the fact that the Americas were populated before Lief Erikson or Columbus arrived and leave the "who came first" question to others.

Note: Many maps listed in this article are linked to the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia Libraries who maintain full copyright to the images. The URL for each map has been incorporated into this document under the guidelines of the Hargrett Library, to whom we are grateful for providing these educational tools.

When explorers realized a "New World" had been found, there were more than 600 tribes spread through the area now designated the continental United States. Communication between tribes was difficult or, in some cases, impossible because more than 300 distinctly different languages were in use. The population at the time of "discovery" is extremely underestimated at around one million, with most of the natives living along or near the eastern seaboard.

    The "New World" - 1665 - The New World as drawn in 1665. The border images, which include cities, towns, and inhabitants provide a glimpse of the natives during that period.

    North America - 1710 - This map was prepared in 1710 by the Royal Society of London. On all these maps, areas occupied by native tribes can be identified.

The so-called Woodland Tribes populated the area from coastal Maine and northeastern Canada to Florida and the gulf coast of modern-day Texas. The eastern, or Woodland, tribes included what are called the Five Civilized Tribes: Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole; and the Iroquois confederacy which includes Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, and Seneca. The latter group was later joined by the Tuscarora.

    Northern Colonies in 1710 - Prepared for King George to show British lands including New Foundland, New Scotland, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Carolina. Also depicts a portion of the Louisiana area.

    Southern Colonies in 1755 - Map of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland with part of New Jersey; from a London magazine published in July 1755.

    Southeastern U.S. area - 1625 - A map of Spanish Florida in 1625, covering an area up to the Virginia colony area.

Plains and Prairies

The tribes living in the area of the plains and prairies of North America included the Comanche and Sioux of movie fame. But scores of other tribes also lived in the area encompassing the central or, Midwest, of the continent from above the Canadian border and south into Mexico.The most recognizable tribe names include: Assiniboin, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow, Cree; the Lakota, Dakota, Gros Ventre, Hidatsa, Santee, and eastern division Souix; Osage, Otoe, and Pawnee as well as the Kiowa and Lipan Apache. Some tribes in this group are now only remembered by the place names given to geographical areas such as Omaha, Iowa, Kansa(s), and Missouri.

    United States - 1783 - The "United States of North America" in 1783, including the territories of France and Spain. Designates areas occupied by the Souix tribes and the Chippewa as well as other tribes.
The Southwest

The Navaho, Apache, and Yaqui tribes migrated over the years to the Southwest where they occupied territory among the Pima, Hopi, Papago, and Pueblo Indians. Some of the oldest known remains of civilization on the continent can be found in this area.

    Unites States - 1783 - The "Unites States of North America" in 1783, including the territories of France and Spain. Includes the southwestern area of the continent.

The Northwest/Plateau

In the Northwest, (also called the Plateau region) mountains, lakes and passes bear the names of native tribes such as Chinook, Cowichan, Flathead, Klamath, Nez Perce, Shasta, Tillamook, and Tlingit, among others. A ceremony called Potlatch by Native Americans of the area evolved into the present-day "pot luck."

    United States - 1854 - Prepared as part of planned transportation routes, this 1854 map points out areas occupied by the native tribes and nations.

The Westcoast/Great Basin Area

Despite Balboa's discovery of the Pacific Ocean, the coastal region of California, (extending into present-day Colorado, Utah and northern parts of Arizona) was home to the Bannock, Jicarilla Apache, Mohave, Nez Perce, Paiute, Ute, Shoshone, Yuma and at least 25 other tribes before the Spanish arrived on the scene. (See map of "United States - 1854" under "The Northwest").