Native American societies before contact | Period 1: 1491-1607 | AP US History | Khan Academy

Native American societies before contact | Period 1: 1491-1607 | AP US History | Khan Academy

– [Instructor] Often when we think about the beginning of American history, we think 1776, with the
Declaration of Independence, or maybe 1492, when Columbus
arrived in the Americas. But the history of America really begins about 15,000 years ago, when people first arrived in the Americas. In this video, I want to
provide a very brief overview of native societies before contact to give you an idea of just how diverse and complex these societies were, as native groups adapted to and interacted with their environments. Now there’s recently
been a scholarly debate about how people first arrived. We know that maybe 12,000 years ago, during an ice age, the
sea level was lower, and so a spit of land in between the Americas and Asia was exposed, over which people may have traveled. But recent archeological evidence suggests that people were perhaps
already in the Americas at the time of this ice age, so it’s possible that they may have come earlier in boats. Now however it was that they arrived, they spread north and south and east throughout the Americas so that by the time that Europeans
arrived in the late 1400s there were perhaps 50 million people. That’s kind of a mid-range
number for the estimates, that historians have made, living in the Americas. And of those, four to six million were living in North America. So how did these societies develop? Well, a really big moment
was around 5000 BCE, when people in Mexico domesticated corn, maize, as it’s also known. And domesticating maize meant that people who had originally been
hunters, gatherers, following herds of animals could partake in settled agriculture. So they could develop
villages, complex societies. This isn’t to say that they
stopped hunting or gathering, but they began staying in one place. So let’s zoom in a little
bit and take a look at some of the major
societies in these regions. Native American societies developed around their natural environments, using the resources that
were available to them. For example, the Southwest,
Plains and Great Basin were quite dry. A lot of desert. And so societies in these regions adapted to the dry
climate in several ways. For example, Native American groups that lived on the Great Plains continued their hunting
and gathering way of life. Hunting bison, and following the herds of animals in teepees, which were dwellings that were easy to set up and then take down. People in the Southwest, like
the Ancestral Puebloan people, dealt with this dry environment by creating very complex
irrigation projects so that they could water their maize crops using what little moisture there was. The Puebloans lived in
large cave complexes as agriculture allowed them
to grow their population. In the Northwest,
fishing in the Pacific Ocean gave Native Americans a
plentiful source of food, while farming allowed the Mississippian peoples to develop large
settlements, like Cahokia, near modern day St.
Louis, which, at its peak, may have had as many as 25,000-40,000 residents. The Mississippians and other
East Coast native peoples relied a lot on what’s known
as three-sister farming, in which people would plant
corn, beans and squash together, which was mutually beneficial
to all three plants, as the corn served as a trellis for the beans, and the squash protected the root system of the corn. All three together create
a very nutritious diet, which allowed for a relatively
high population density on the East Coast. So by the time that
Europeans began to arrive in the late 1400s and 1500s, native societies had been
evolving for over 14,000 years. But the introduction of
European people, pathogens, plants, and animals would introduce an unprecedented amount
of change in the Americas.


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    Natives? Siberians are not native they are Asians…their homeland still exists by definition that makes them colonists.

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    David Wynn

    Let's stop playing games with history. The fact is that from the beginning the Americas, North and South, was ALL Native American People. The Native Americans were here first and then peacefully embraced other cultures, including Africans from the East, on boats. It was not until Europeans arrived that pathogens (bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease) and capitalism was introduces and altered the course of the Americas forever.

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    matthew mann

    Amerindians were already advanced in many ways by themselves excluding gun powder, explosives, And steel weaponry

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    Lee Ross

    Funny that the map you show of North America is a land Columbus never set foot in.

    Not sure Caribbean islands are considered to be the "Americas" by anyone.

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    JiM Beamer

    Less than 2 million Indians at the time of Columbus did not occupy all of North America …. they occupied less than %10 of the land mass.

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    a glass of milk

    Very cool but I'm sure no one thought the history of North America started with Columbus or the USA

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    50 million is a gross over estimate, not at all mid range.There is not enough evidence to support claims of even 15 million, a far more accurate estimate is around 5 million; I think she is missing a decimal point and i'm not kidding. Lost a lot of respect for Khan Academy with this video.

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    I'm sorry but "America" didn't exist 15,000 years ago…. nor did the first inhabitants call it "America", so there is no way "America" existed then….It was called "Turtle Island."… And it was way before 15,000 years ago…If you are going to talk about us please get the "facts" straight.

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    David MacD

    What is European? Is it Y-dna R1 and mt-dna H? The dominant haplotypes in Europe.
    These two represent Europe but they are invaders from central Asia. They brought their germs to Europe 4000 years before they brought the same to the Americas. Both suffered 90% attrition rates during the R1 invasions.
    It would be more correct to say, " A tribe of diseased central Asians swept thru Europe and continued on to America. They were mutants that were not affected by the diseases they carried and spread. A legacy of their caucasus neanderthal descent.

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    Rob Hill

    Quick question. If perhaps they came over on boats, did they have knowledge of cultivation before or after they set sail? How long did it take them to domesticate maize? And what did they take with them to eat on the boat ride?

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    Jerson Velasquez-Ascencio

    You totally forgot about the native groups in southern and northern North America, Corn also originated in Mexico which was extremely used as a source of food to the native Meso-Americans and originated their.

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    Autochthonous Being

    I have a random comment regard the original melonated Americans, common sense would tell us that there was no shampoos and chemicals around the 1400s – 1600s in Americas so the natives would not have long straight shiny hair, in fact the hair would be matted , locked, curly, braided.

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    Hoda Haddad

    Hey you look an informative person could you give me a source that which tribe of native Americans are eldest?! Really appreciate

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    The first humans to walk the Earth.
    I wonder how Northern and South America would be if the ice covering the land bridge of the Barring Straight had never melted. Preventing the Clovis people and other hunter gatherers from entering into the Americas from North America. And the only people the original inhabitants of the Americas, my ancestors would have remained undisturbed, as they were hundreds of thousands of years. Truth is the Autochthon Indigenous Aborigines, also known as Copper or Negros people, Xi ( Olmecs ) of the Amerrique.

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