APUSH study guides

🚀  Thematic Guides

🐎  Unit 4: 1800-1848

🌎  Unit 7: 1890-1945

🥶  Unit 8: 1945-1980

📲  Unit 9: 1980-Present

📋  Short Answer Questions (SAQ)

1.2 Native American Societies Before European Contact



⏱️  3 min read

written by

Will Pulgarin

will pulgarin

October 20, 2020

available on hyper typer

Native Societies Before Europeans


Native peoples in the Southwest began constructing these highly defensible cliff dwellings in 1190 CE and continued expanding and refurbishing them until 1260 CE before abandoning them around 1300 CE. Andreas F. Borchert, Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Palace. Wikimedia. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.

The marker of 1491 serves a division between the Native American world and the world that came after European exploration, colonization, and invasion. In 1491, both North and South America were inhabited by flourishing, and highly complex civilizations. In particular, North America was home to hundreds of tribes, cities and societies. First Nations Peoples in North America are often grouped by similarities in their adaptations to the environments (desert vs arctic vs woodland societies).

Indigenous societies to North America before Europeans were vastly more complex than College Board requires for the exam, which focuses on the major tribes and societies within 7 identified geographical areas and some basic components of their lifestyles. The intricacies missing from this curriculum are political, social, and cultural. What were the languages spoken and where were the regional trade centers? How were conflicts resolved among different societies and what were those conflicts? While some of these details are lost to history due to the events that unfold on this continent after contact with Europeans, there are many, many more histories that are still preserved by Indigenous People today, even if they are not covered in the APUSH curriculum.

The major groups and regions of First Nations Peoples to know for AP US History are:

Geographical Area

Arctic and Subarctic

Northwest Coast and California


Great Basin


Northeast (Eastern Woodlands)


Great Plains

Major Tribes

Eskimo and Cree

Tlingit, Chinook, Coos, & Chumash

Nez Perce


Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo

Iroquois, Mohawk

Cherokee, Seminole

Sioux, Cheyenne



Wooden houses; often sheltering several relating families

Bison-high teepees; rounded homes of wood

Cone-shaped huts built with wooden poles, covered with dried grasses and brush.

Built homes on the ledges of Mesa Verde

Mound builders for burial

Reed and bark huts. 


Food Supply

Hunting and fishing.

Whales and other sea mammals; salmon

Salmon (fish)

Rabbits, snakes, birds, nuts, and insects

Corn, beans, and squash

Deer; corn, beans, squash, tobacco

Tobacco, squash, melon s, cabbage, peas, and corn

Bison; wild edible plants and roots

Clothing & Tools

Waterproof clothing and blankets; Tools made from bone and teeth

Animal skin clothing; had spoons, masks, and totem pools

Deerskin clothing and robes of rabbit skin; Bows and arrows, spears, knives

Women wore strips of bark, sandals, and fur; baskets

Not stated

Clothing not stated; used forest to make tools, homes, fuel, and food

Clothing not stated; bows and arrows, blow guns, and traps

Bison fur; dogs were used to carry supplies.


Canada and Greenland

Canada, California, Washington, and Oregon

Oregon, California, Idaho, and Canada

Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Oregon

Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado

Stretched from New England to Gulf of Mexico

Texas to West Virginia, down to Florida

Mississippi River to Rocky Mountains, from Canada to Texas

continue learning

Slide 1 of 9

Join Our Community

Fiveable Community students are already meeting new friends, starting study groups, and sharing tons of opportunities for other high schoolers. Soon the Fiveable Community will be on a totally new platform where you can share, save, and organize your learning links and lead study groups among other students!🎉

Fiveable Logo

2550 north lake drive
suite 2
milwaukee, wi 53211

92% of Fiveable students earned a 3 or higher on their 2020 AP Exams.

*ap® and advanced placement® are registered trademarks of the college board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

© fiveable 2020 | all rights reserved.