Native American Indians are the indigenous people of the North and South American region. All the hundreds of tribes are quite varied in their languages, foods, clothing, homes and crafts. However, there are several traits that they all hold in common.
An essential element in Native American genealogy is that the people kept their own value system. There are universal things they respect. They respect the Mother Earth, the water, sky and lands for what they provide to the Native Indian. Next, there is a respect for the Great Spirit, that power and force beyond their own existence. They respect their fellow man and woman; each offering unique strengths and abilities. Lastly, is the respect for one’s individual freedom and in turn taking full responsibility for one’s own actions or deeds.
Based on their geographical location, the hundreds of Indian tribes in the Americas have adapted to the land and used just what they needed and were not wasteful. If hunting or fishing and gathering was best, then that was their main food supply. Many others grew crops.
With the arrival of Europeans, first as explorers and traders and then as permanent settlers, the life for the Native Americans, roughly 15 to 18 million, changed dramatically over the years. The Europeans along the Atlantic eastern coast of North America either died from European diseases unknown by the Indians, died from battling the new settlers or eventually had to continually move westward to keep away from the Europeans.
There was fighting among various tribes because of displacement of tribes to new locations. In turn, there was less available plentiful lands for the many Native Indians to move to. There was also bands or entire tribes occasionally split or merged to form more viable groups in reaction to the pressures of climate, disease and warfare. The worst fatal diseases suffered by the Indians was smallpox, measles and chicken pox because they had no immunity.
The cultural features such as language, clothing and customs varied enormously from one tribe to another, yet, there are certain elements which are encountered frequently and shared by many tribes. The use of fire, gathering their needs from the land, organizing themselves into tribes with many sub-divisions, having a faith in a great spirit, use of tools, recreation in the form of sports, music created with drums, rattles and flutes and ceremonial dances.
Over the centuries, many Native Americans have assimilated into the European culture. Numerous intermarriages took place. In examining Native American genealogy, many individuals today can qualify as a Native American by having at least one-quarter Indian descent and be recognized by a tribe as a member.