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Early America. Beginnings - 1800. The Native Americans. Europeans arrive in Western hemisphere in 1490s – land already home to hundreds of Native American peoples Some groups had complex societies (great cities, large-scale farming, elaborate record keeping)

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Early america
Early America

Beginnings - 1800

The native americans
The Native Americans

  • Europeans arrive in Western hemisphere in 1490s – land already home to hundreds of Native American peoples

  • Some groups had complex societies (great cities, large-scale farming, elaborate record keeping)

    • Other groups lived in portable dwellings and passed on knowledge through oral tradition

European contact
European Contact

  • 1400 – growth of trade between Europe and Asia and advances in shipbuilding and navigation lead to European exploration

  • Christopher Columbus – first of four voyages from Spain to the Americas in 1492

  • Leads to exploration, conquest, and eventual settlement

  • Good news / bad news…?

The cycle of life
The Cycle of Life

  • Saw animals, plants, and forces of nature as part of a great sacred cycle of life – must be treated with deep respect

  • Pocahontas...

  • Sought contact with spirits believed to inhabit all living things

Owning the land
Owning the Land

  • No one person could OWN land – belonged in common to ALL

  • This concept countered that of the Europeans.

    • What did the Europeans believe about land ownership?

    • What conflicts did these opposing views cause?

A legacy of stories
A Legacy of Stories

  • Oral traditions amongst Native Americans began about 40 thousand years ago as humans crossed from Asia to Alaska

  • Unique cultures and languages developed as populations migrated

    • Led to thousands of languages and cultures, each with their own stories and mythology

    • Stories varied and evolved over time, and myth and reality often merged

Creation myths
Creation Myths

  • A myth is an anonymous, traditional story that explains a natural phenomenon, an aspect of human behavior, or a mystery of the universe.

  • A creation myth tells how the world and human beings came to exist.

  • Origin myths tell how natural phenomena, such as the stars, moon, and mountains, came to be or why a society has certain beliefs and customs.


  • An archetype is a symbol, story pattern, or character type that is found in the literature of many cultures.

    • Example – children born of the same parents but who have opposite qualities

    • Can you think of any examples of common archetypes? (Think heroes and villains, good vs. evil, etc.)


  • The trickster in Native American literature is another archetype. They frequently appear as animals (coyotes, ravens, a mink, etc.) that speak and display other human traits and has two sides to its personality.

  • Rebels who defy authority and cause trouble

  • Clever and creative figures who can also reveal wisdom

The function of myths
The Function of Myths

  • Emphasize a strong spiritual bond between the Creator, humanity, and the entire natural world

  • Many Native American cultures believed that each family group descended from a specific animal or other natural object, called the totem.

Exit slip
Exit Slip

  • In your opinion, what is the most vital role of mythology in a culture?

  • How do Native American myths express a dual view of reality?

  • What archetype do the myths of many cultures throughout the entire world have in common?

    Choose 2 of 3…