Glossary of Native American History
Terminology | Kinship Terminology
| Political Organization
Religious Terminology | Forms
one of the earth's periodic ice ages, water froze into glaciers,
reducing sea levels 200 to 300 feet, exposing a subcontinent
known as Beringia. This subcontinent connected Asia and
North America and formed a migration route for hunters and
animals searching for food.
sophisticated form of toolmaking that appeared about 12,000
form of social organization that appeared among the Indian
peoples east of the Mississippi beginning in the seventh
century, characterized by permanent villages and towns,
political and economic stratification, specialized crafts,
and extensive trade.
Indian peoples, including the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian
cultures, who built large earthen monuments to serve as
burial sites and as sites for temples and religious ceremonies.
group of persons tracing descent from a common ancestor.
or more lineages claiming descent from a common ancestor.
of two basic complementary tribal subdivisions. Among some
people, the members of one moiety were responsible for burying
the dead of the other moiety.
organization whose members were not related. Among the Plains
Indians, associations were often organized according to
form of political organization customarily found among hunter-gatherers.
Bands usually have no permanent leaders; decisions are based
on building consensus. Leadership tends to be situational,
arising for short periods of time.
than a band, tribal organization is customarily associated
with agriculture and more permanent settlements. Kinship
is generally the central organizing principle. Leaders are
usually chosen by consensus and rule by consensus.
larger than a tribe, chiefdoms show the beginning of social
stratification and the emergence of a distinct ruling class.
Customarily, the chiefs must redistribute the resources
they control. Chiefdoms are often engaged in some kinds
of extensive trade.
union of a number of distinct tribes or chiefdoms.
bands, tribes, and chiefdoms, states have a true class structure
and a distinct ruling class. It is a more extensive system
of political control, often involving rule over subjugated
religious system associated with farming communities, which
was characterized by rituals associated with changing seasons.
Unlike the Hunting Tradition, which had individual shamans,
the Agrarian Tradition had organized priesthood and cult
messianic religious ritual originating among the Paiute,
which later spread to the Plains, and was supposed to bring
the return of the spirits of the dead.
religious system of beliefs that emphasized the ties between
hunters and the animal world.
Pueblo Indian ceremonial structure that is usually round
and partly underground.
ceremonial feast held by Indians of the Northwest Pacific
Coast marked by the host's lavish distribution of gifts.
individual with a special relationship with the spirit world.
White often called shamans "medicine men" because
they were responsible for curing the sick.
system of religious ritual that shared many customs and
symbols with Mexican Indian religions.
religious ceremony among the Plains Indians to mark the
renewal of nature.
object, such as an animal or plant, that serves as the emblem
for a lineage or clan. The totem often serves as a symbolic
representation of a guardian spirit or an ancestor.
carved or painted pillar erected by Indians of the Northwest
Pacific Coast to mark an important event, such as a religious
ceremony or acquisition of a title or the death of a relative.
rite in which a young persons or young adults go to an isolated
place to seek, in a vision, a protective spirit.
earth lodge found among the Navajo, consisting of a frame
built of poles or logs covered with dirt.
rectangular structure found among the Iroquois. Some longhouses
were 100 feet long and housed ten or more families.
insulated structure built in a pit several feet deep and
covered with sod, dirt, or other materials.
of housing found in the Pacific Northwest.
apartment building built out of adobe (sun-dried bricks)
found in Arizona and New Mexico.
structure built on a pole framework. On the Plains, it was
covered with buffalo skins. Elsewhere, it was covered with
animal skins or tree bark.
of shelter found among the Apaches and Paiutes constructed
of brush and matting.
dome-shaped structure found in the eastern woodlands that
was built on a pole framework and covered with leaves and