Free Printable Worksheets for Learning About Native Americans
Native Americans are the Indigenous people of the United States who lived there well before European explorers and settlers arrived.
Indigenous peoples lived in every part of the land that is now the United States, including Alaska (Inuit) and Hawaii (kanaka maoli). They lived in groups that we now refer to as tribes. Different tribes populated the various regions of the United States.
Each tribe had a different language and culture. Some were nomadic, moving from place to place, usually following their food source. Others were hunters or hunter-gatherers, while others were farmers, cultivating much of their own food.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, he thought he had sailed around the world and reached the country of India. So, he called the native people Indians, a misnomer that stuck for hundreds of years.
Indigenous peoples are an integral and often overlooked part of United States history. Without the help of Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, it's unlikely that the Plymouth pilgrims would have survived their first winter in America. The Thanksgiving holiday is a direct result of Squanto's assistance in teaching the pilgrims how to fish and grow crops.
Without the help of Sacajawea, a Lemhi Shoshone Indigenous woman, it's doubtful that famous explorers Lewis and Clark would ever have made it to the Pacific Ocean during their Corps of Discovery expedition.
In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, forcing thousands of Indigenous peoples to leave their homes and move to land west of the Mississippi River. The Cherokee tribe was greatly affected in the Southern states when the U.S. Army forced them to relocate to Oklahoma in 1838. Of its 15,000 members at the time, nearly 4,000 died on what became known as the "Trail of Tears" during this forced relocation.
The lands that the U.S. government set aside for Indigenous peoples are called Indian reservations. There are currently over 300 Indian reservations in the United States where approximately 30% of the U.S. Indigenous population lives.
Use the following free printables to begin to learn more about Indigenous history and culture.
Print the pdf: Indigenous Peoples Word Search
Use this word search puzzle as a starting point to help students discover some of the terms important to Indigenous culture. For example, Indigenous farmers developed many of the techniques important for growing crops centuries ago. These techniques were later adopted by U.S. pioneers who settled the land on their westward expansion.
Print the pdf: Indigenous Peoples' Material Culture Vocabulary Words
This vocabulary worksheet contains many terms for everyday items and crafts that are common today but originated thousands of years ago. For example, most of what we know today about canoe and kayak design comes from the native tribes still in existence in North America and around the world. And, while we might think of the toboggan as an essential piece of snow gear, the term comes from the Algonquian word "odabaggan."
Print the pdf: Indigenous Peoples Crossword Puzzle
Use this crossword puzzle to allow students to explore terms like pictographs. Some Indigenous groups "painted" pictographs on rock surfaces using a variety of pigment materials, such as ochre, gypsum, and charcoal. These pictographs were also made with organic materials like the sap of plants and even blood.
Print the pdf: Indigenous Culture Challenge
Students can test their vocabulary word knowledge on Indigenous cultural topics using this multiple-choice worksheet. Use the printable as a starting point to discuss the Anasazi, the ancestral Pueblo people. Thousands of years ago, these early Indigenous people developed an entire Puebloan culture in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest.
Print the pdf: Indigenous Alphabet Activity
This alphabet activity gives students a chance to properly order and write Indigenous words, such as the wigwam, which Merriam-Webster notes is: "a hut of the American Indians of the Great Lakes region and eastward having typically an arched framework of poles overlaid with bark, mats, or hides."
Extend the activity by discussing the fact that another term of wigwam is "rough hut," as Merriam-Webster explains. Have students look up the terms "rough" and "hut" in the dictionary and discuss the words, explaining that the terms together form a synonym for the word wigwam.
Print the pdf: Indigenous Culture Draw and Write
Young students can draw a picture related to Indigenous culture and write a sentence or short paragraph about the subject. This is a great time to incorporate multiple literacies by allowing students to use the internet to research some of the terms they have learned. Show students of low reading level how to select the "images" option on most search engines to view photos of the terms.
Updated by Kris Bales
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