The First Americans
What do you know about the people who
settled in the lands we now call North and
South America?
Historical Timeline
20,000 years ago the first settlers came to
North America from Asia by crossing the
narrow plain that once connected Siberia and
Alaska. This plain
was known as the
Bering Strait
Land Bridge
As the people migrated from Alaska to North
and South America they developed different
lifestyles depending on the resources and the
climates that they found. These people, the
first Americans, would be known as Native
Most survived
by hunting and
gathering and
were nomadic.
As they settled,
some groups
known as tribes)
began to grow
their own food.
By the time Columbus arrived in the New
World there were:
◦ 1 million Native Americans in what is now Canada
and the US.
◦ 5 million Native Americans living Mexico and
Central America
◦ 20 million Native Americans living in South America
◦ 3 million Native Americans living in the islands of
the Caribbean Sea
Native American Empires of Mexico and South America
On the back of your note sheet, please record
three bits of information that you already
know about the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas.
You may bullet your response.
Mid 1100’s – 1520’s
250 - 900
Mid 1200’s – 1540’s
Earliest Native American civilization
Located in southern Mexico and Guatemala
(Yucatan Peninsula)
Made discoveries in science, astronomy
(study of the stars) and mathematics.
Developed the use of zero (0), calculated the
solar calendar and accurately predicted
Created unique sculptures, paintings, built
pyramids, temples and canals
Were Polytheistic
Powerful people who created an empire about
700 years ago in central Mexico
Built stone works, pyramids and temples
Used pictographs (writing with pictures)
Created and used a calendar
Built canals and used terrace farming
Were Polytheistic, sacrificed people to satisfy
the gods.
Think About It! How do you think European explorers will react to some
of the Aztecs religious practices? What do you think will be the result?
Cortes arrived in Mexico in 1519, saw the
Aztec Empire as a good source of riches (gold
and silver)
Was accepted by the Aztec King Moctezuma
as a GOD
Cortes, along with a small army of 500+, will
take Moctezuma prisoner and seize control of
Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital.
Moctezuma will be killed by Cortes and
disease and warfare will bring an end to the
Formed a large empire in the Andes
Mountains in South America
Built bridges and roads to connect their
Built canals and terraces to improve farming
No writing system, kept records by tying
knots on strings. System called khipu
Spanish explorer Pizarro lands in Inca
territory in the 1530’s with approx. 400 men.
He unites the enemies of the Incas and
attacks and captures the Inca capital of Cuzco
and kills the Inca leaders.
By 1534, the Inca Empire is conquered.
Think about it!
◦ Identify three things that you know about Native
Americans who lived in what is now present day
Canada and the United States.
A great variety of Native American cultures
existed in the lands of what would become
the United States.
Over 500 different languages were spoken
They grew plants like corn, tobacco and
Each group developed their own rituals and
Lived in villages of several hundred people
Grew corn, beans and squash (the 3 sisters)
The Iroquois (located in NY and Pennsylvania)
formed a confederation of six nations
(Iroquois, Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga,
Oneida, Cayuga, and Tuscarora (1722)
Many lived in structures called longhouses
Located east of Rockies, west of Mississippi R.
 Area was lightly populated until horses were
introduced to North America by the Spanish
 Horses will allow Plains Indians to be nomadic,
following their main food source the buffalo
 Plains Indians used every bit of the buffalo
including the meat, skins, internal organs, brains
and bones.
 Lived in teepees which were easy
to break down and move
Built adobe (sun-dried brick) buildings into
the side of cliffs
Irrigated land and grew corn, beans and
Included groups like the Navajo and Apache
Groups living in this region fished for salmon
and gathered plants to eat.
They carved fancy masks and totem poles
Eastern Woodlands

Unit 2 Foundations of America