How did the geography of North Carolina impact the way its Native American people lived?
The first inhabitants of the United States walked across the Beringia land bridge during the Ice Age. Some continued through North America to arrive in the North Carolina region. People have been populating the land known as North Carolina as early as 10,000 BCE (Before Common Era). Indigenous peoples of the Americas experienced four different periods before contact with Europeans: the Paleo-Indians, the Archaic period, the Woodland period, and the Mississippian period. The Mississippian peoples were present when Europeans first arrived in the 1500s CE (Common Era).
As indigenous peoples experienced different periods, so did their environment. It shifted from an ice age climate to one that we know today. As the environment changed, people interacted with and adapted to it. They hunted big game such as the mastodon and smaller game like the white-tailed deer. They gathered various vegetables, nuts, legumes, and fruits, and learned how to grow and harvest them. The geography of North Carolina deeply affected their lives.
Indigenous peoples have always interacted with their environment by adapting as it changes and altering it to fit their needs. They hold a cultural connection to the land. Some continue traditions today from around 4,000 years ago in which they rely on features of their land. As indigenous populations grew, so did their relationship with their environment. They used this relationship not only to survive but to support the movement of goods, people, and ideas.
Europeans began colonizing the land Native Americans had been living in since 10,000 BCE. Colonizers drastically changed the environment by impacting native populations through disease and warfare. They pushed native peoples out of their homes after realizing the value of native land for gold and agriculture.
The Tuscarora were a North Carolina indigenous people who fought against colonization in a series of conflicts called the Tuscarora Wars. Opposing groups killed many Tuscarora and forced many to move on to a reservation. In later years, wars between European countries created different Native American alliances. Another indigenous nation, the Cherokee, began to give up land in a series of treaties. Over the years, each treaty caused more land loss. Eventually, their treaties were no longer honored, and the U.S. government forced Cherokees to leave their homeland during an event called the Trail of Tears.
The Lumbee are the largest indigenous people’s tribe in North Carolina. Originating along the Lumbee River, they lived there for thousands of years, since about 12,000 BCE. Diseases, wars, and oppression harmed and decreased their population. The Catawba Indian Nation is now federally recognized as a South Carolina Native American group. They have been in the Carolinas for over 10,000 years, crossing between North and South Carolina boundaries. They lived predominantly in and around current-day Charlotte because of hunting, farming, and trade. The Catawba today make famous pottery in their ancestors’ traditional way.
Beringia – ancient landmass that once connected Alaska and Canada to Siberia
Ice Age – long period of colder temperatures of Earth’s surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of ice sheets and glaciers
Indigenous – originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native
Paleo-Indians – first peoples who entered and inhabited the Americas during the final glacial episodes
Archaic period – around 6,000 BCE; climate became drier and Ice Age mammals became extinct
Woodland period – pre-Columbian (prior to 1492) Native American occupations between 500 BCE and 1100 CE; increased use of agriculture and spread of pottery
Mississippian period – Native American civilization that flourished in what is now the Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern United States from approx. 800 CE to 1600 CE; known for building earthen platform mounds and other shaped mounds as well
Mastodon – large extinct elephant-like mammal
Legumes – large plant family that produces fruit in the form of pods splitting along both sides such as beans, peas, lentils and peanuts
Colonizing – sending a group of settlers to a place and establishing political control over it
Trail of Tears – forced removal of Native American nations from several states in the Southeast United states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida between 1831 and 1850. Native Americans were forced onto reservations in Oklahoma.
Create a rough draft timeline showing the evolution of Native American life prior to 1800 using the criteria below. You will then recreate your timeline digitally and add visual elements using a website called Sutori.
- Include the migration of Native Americans and when they first entered North Carolina and the different stages Native Americans went through from Paleo-Indian to Mississippian/Modern
- For each stage include:
- Technology (tools, weapons, pottery etc.)
- LIfestyle & Housing (nomadic, semi-nomadic, sedentary etc.)
- Type of food production (hunted/gathered/cultivated)
- Climate & environment at the time
- Cultural Elements (religion/burial practices, social hierarchy, government)
- All text is to be in your own words
- Include images/maps where available on your digital timeline
- Dates can be a range and do not have to be exact (for example, circa 4000 BCE or 500-600 CE)
- This does not have to focus on one specific nation in North Carolina. Instead, consider the shared aspects between different nations in the state.
- Include citations of your sources
- Spelling and grammar will be counted