Pre-Columbian Native Americans, Essay Example

The Native American tribes of North America all had distinctive features that set them apart from each other. In particular, the Southwest Native Americans differed from the Southeast Native Americans. This paper will delve into the central features of both these set of groups to bring out a clear and distinctive difference.

The Southwest Native Americans

The Native Americans from the southwest all come from the states of New Mexico, Arizona, the northern part of Mexico and the southern part of Colorado. These areas are most desert with cactus as the main vegetation. The major tribes that form the Southwest Native American group are;

  • Apache
  • Hopi
  • Kiowa Apache
  • Kiowa
  • Pueblo
  • Zuni
  • Lipan
  • Navajo
  • Jemez
  • Havasupai
  • Maricopa
  • Yuma
  • Yavapai
  • Comanche
  • Mohave
  • Ute
  • Walapai
  • Soshoni
  • Tewa
  • Paiputr
  • Sobaipuri
  • Pima
  • Panamint
  • Pecos
  • Papago

Most of the tribes from the Southwest were farmers and had a village setting. Despite this most of the tribes had their own distinct language, religion and customs. Despite the searing temperatures and their harsh environment, the south-western tribe managed to live harmoniously in the land and learned the virtue of effective and efficient resource utilization.

It is important to understand that most of the southwest tribe, notably the Pueblo, begun as a nomadic people. With time, they settled and took on farming, settling in villages set high up in the mountains, on cliffs or Desert Mountains. This is the reason for the name “cliff dwellers” that was given to them by the Spanish.


Most of the southwest tribes lived in shelters made of semi-circular masonry. This masonry was similar to the pottery of the southwest. The houses were built on mountain sides, cliffs and large shallow caves. These houses had many doors that led to the neighbours. There were also doors and openings at the ceiling connecting one family to the one living above them.

The structures were primarily made of stone with huge pine timbers acting as reinforcement. These structures were strategically constructed to represent certain cosmological features. Thus every structure had a religious motive in its architecture.


Most of the agricultural produce of the southwest tribes were;

  • Indian corn
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Peppers
  • Wheat


Due to the scorching heat of the desert area, the southwest tribes did most of their work early in the morning and late in the evening. All of the children and women contributed in the work. Most of the farming was done on the morning, between 4 and 5 am, mainly by men and by day, they engaged in weaving.


Their main means of transportation was by foot. This was because horses or canoes were not available in the desert due to the geographic setting.

Art, clothing and tools

Clothing, pottery and basketry were just some of the artistic skills of the great native tribes of the southwest. Their art mainly involved the use of signs and symbols as a representation of the tribes’ dreams, beliefs, visions and ideas.

The Southeast Native Americans

The southeast Native American tribes lived mainly in the states of Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. The main tribes that formed this group included;

  • Creek
  • Cherokee
  • Chickasaw
  • Seminole

Most of these tribes were primarily hunters and gatherers.


Most of the tribes of the southeast had round shelter. They were primarily made of logas and sticks with grass covering acting as the roof. At the top of the roof, there was a hole that let in sunlight during the day and moonlight at night. Some tribes had a slightly different architectural design, with storey frame houses. These structures were covered with bark while others preferred the thatched roof.


Most of their diet was meat based with several variations for vegetables and other meals. Their food involved:

  • Cornpones
  • Corn bread
  • Tomatoes
  • Hominy grits
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Bear meat
  • Possum meat
  • Turkey
  • Other available meats


Most of the tribes in this group wore brightly coloured clothing. During the summer, the women would primarily be naked from the waist up while during the winter, the whole tribe would be dressed in wool and moss. Later on, the long skirt became popular with the tribes of this group.


Most of the tribes were primarily hunters and gatherers. This work was predominantly done by the men with the young boys receiving training as a rite of passage. The women would take care of house chores and raise the children.

In conclusion, each of these groups had their own unique lifestyle that sets them apart. Their beautiful culture and customs, though different, made the Native American Tribes distinct.