There are many groups of people in the world that have a rich and complex history to speak of. But perhaps none more so than Native Americans. These individuals and their tribes have suffered great loss throughout their history in North America both in terms of their land and history. These groups of people are often misunderstood and judged throughout North America, despite the fact we often don’t know much about them or what their ancestors have been through. Here are 12 interesting and amazing facts about Native Americans that you probably didn’t know, with number 8 being particularly interesting and terrible.
#12 The History of the Grand Teton National Park
This gorgeous National Park in Wyoming has a long and storied history among Native American people. A variety of different tribes have called the park home over the years and their settling there dates back over 11,000 years. This place was seen as a resort where people could hunt and gather in the warm summer months, to prep for the horribly cold and awful winters.
#11 The Death Penalty
Despite it not being their land, European settlers decided to apply their laws to the Native Americans in North America. This included the death penalty. The first execution of a Native American occurred in 1639 and since then, there have been nearly 500 executions carried out with the approval of the court system.
#10 The Trail of Tears
This is among the darkest times in U.S. History. The Trail of Tears refers to a massive forced removal of Native Americans from their land in the Southeastern United States. They were forced to walk and ride for days and days to their new homes all across the country, and thousands died of disease, starvation, and attacks along the way.
#9 The Story of Tecumseh
Tecumseh was a Native American leader who wasn’t going to sit idly by while the USA decimated his people. First, he opposed them in Tecumseh’s War and then in the War of 1812, the became an ally of the British. He is considered a hero among Native American and Canadian people for helping stop the USA from occupying even more land.
#8 Wounded Knee
This massacre took place on an Indian reservation in 1890 near Wounded Knee Creek. Soldiers went there to disarm the Lakota, but a small disagreement led to an unnecessary show of force by the military which led to around 300 deaths. The U.S. Government took a whopping 100 years to apologize for this massacre.
#7 Invention Of Sport
Lacrosse is a popular and noble sport now and has Native American culture to thank for its roots. The game originally had hundreds of players take the field and wagers of women and children were often common. While you may not have known that Native Americans created Lacrosse, you likely know they created the things in the next entry.
#6 Totem Poles
Totem Poles show up primarily in the Northwest of the USA and Western Canada. These poles are very detailed and present carvings that symbolize stories and legends for each tribe. These can often stand several feet tall and used to be popular, but now pole carving has ceased almost entirely.
#5 Variety of Burial Practices
Despite earth burials being popular among Native Americans, each tribe had a different protocol for what they did with the dead and their belongings. For example, some tribes would use trees of scaffolding to hold the dead, as they believed that would help them in their journey into the spirit world.
#4 Lone Wolf the Younger
Lone Wolf the Younger is a nickname given to someone who led a resistance movement against the USA when they attempted to open up more land to white settlers. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, but in the end, Lone the Wolf Younger lost, and 480,000 acres of land was taken from the Native American people.
#3 Many States Got Their Names From Native American Words
American Indian culture has much more to do with the current landscape of the USA than you might think. In fact, about half of the state names are dervied from American Indian words such as Arizona, Kentucky, Connecticut and more. The next entry is a sad reality that occurred hundreds of years ago.
#2 Severe Drop in Native American Population
When Christopher Columbus reached the “New World,” there were millions and millions of Native Americans there. But in the next few hundred years, this number would drop to well under half a million. Despite this fact, the USA still actually got something pretty important and influential from the Native American people.
#1 They Helped Bring Democracy to the United States
Observing the way that the Iroquois operated helped to form the cornerstone of American democracy as we know it. The Iroquois had a chief that who would rule as long as long as the tribe supported his choices. The Iroquois were a union of separate tribes, sort of like how the USA is a collection of states.
There you have it, 12 unbelievable facts about the history of Native Americans that you likely didn’t know about. Hopefully, knowledge of these things will help you be able to identify more with them and truly understand the massive struggles their people have gone through. While we all have hardships and roadblocks in our lives from time to time, these often will pale in comparison to what the Native Americans have had to go through throughout their history on the land. Even today, they are still a largely misunderstood people who experience a ton of racism on a day to day basis.