Lesson summary: Native American societies before contact

Summary of key events and concepts in North America prior to European contact. 
Before Europeans arrived in North America, Native American groups developed into distinct and complex societies in response to the unique environments they inhabited.

Key terms

TermDefinition
Three sisters"Three sisters" refers to corn, squash, and beans. Farming all three plants together helped to establish more permanent and larger settlements.
Corn (Maize)A major crop in the Americas that contributed to the development of large and complex settlements for Native Americans.
IrrigationThe process of redirecting bodies of water through channels to supply farmland.
PueblosA tribe of Native Americans who settled in the present-day American Southwest.
MississippiansNative American peoples who lived in modern-day Missouri and Illinois.
AlgonquiansNative American peoples of the east coast who spoke related languages.
Hunter-gatherer A person who obtains most or all of their food by hunting, fishing, and foraging.

Native North America

Native societies in North America developed strong regional distinctions based on their environments.
Map depicting regions of North American native tribes.
Map depicting regional environments of native people in North America. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Core historical theme

Impact of environment on Native settlement patterns: Geographical and environmental factors shaped the development of Native American societies, including their migration and settlement patterns throughout the United States. Some Native societies created innovations in agriculture, like irrigation, to help sustain permanent settlements.

Review question

  • How did environment and geography determine migration and hunting patterns for pre-Columbian societies?
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