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The Native Americans: Fourteen Fun Facts

The Native American Peoples are a fascinating group and represent a very diverse number of different Nations. They each have their own cultures, languages, arts and crafts like Native American throws, and ways of living. Here are some interesting facts and pieces of trivia

  1. It is estimated that when Europeans first arrived in what is now the USA, there were 18-20 million Native Americans living there.
  2. The Algonquin were the first of the tribes to meet English explorers, and numerous English words are derived directly from Algonquian. Some of these include pecan (nut), chipmunk (red squirrel) and opossum (white dog).
  3. The early Anglo-European settlers considered The Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole to be “civilized” and a blanket term for these tribes was coined: “The Five Civilized Tribes”.
  4. Today, approximately 5.2 million US people living in the US identify as Native American and Alaskan Native. This comprises just 1.7% of the total US population.
  5. According to the 2010 US census, 41% of the Native Americans in the USA live in the Western US. The city with the highest Native American population, however, is New York City. This is followed by Los Angeles, Phoenix, Anchorage, and Albuquerque.
  6. The largest tribal group of US and Alaska Natives are the Cherokee, whose population numbers almost 820,000. The next most populous nations are the Navajo, Choctaw, Mexican Americans, Chippewa, Sioux, Apache, and Blackfoot.
  7. When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they brought animals including sheep and pigs. This was the first time the Native Americans had ever seen these animals.
  8. The name of the Giant Sequoia Tree was inspired by Cherokee leader Sequoyah. He invented a form of writing for the Cherokee.
  9. The Plains People (including the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Crow, Kiowa Apache, and Lakota) were famous for performing the Sun Dance at the summer solstice on June 21. To inspire a good buffalo hunt, the dance involved implanting skewers into the chest muscles. These were attached by rope to the cottonwood tree, which was considered sacred.
  10. The Native Americans of the East (including Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, Shawnee, and Seminole) performed the Green Corn Ceremony of harvest thanksgiving. The ceremony lasted a week.
  11. During World War One, thousands of Native Americans volunteered to serve in the US Armed Forces. This sacrifice was honoured by the Snyder Act of 1924, which granted US Citizenship to the Native Americans of the USA.
  12. Some US state names are directly from Native American language. For example, Utah is named for the Ute, “People of the Mountains”. Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw words for “Red People”.
  13. The “Three Sisters” refers to corn, beans and squash, which were cultivated together by the Iroquois. These crops were strongly associated with the Female Spirit.
  14. The famous Mohawk hairstyle, worn by the Mohawk Indians of the Iroquois Nation, was created by plucking the hair out at the roots.

Next time we’ll look at more fascinating facts about the United States’ Native Americans and their contributions to our national identity through Native American blankets and more.


US Census 2010