First Nations Histories
| Abenaki | Acolapissa | Algonkin | Bayougoula | Beothuk |
| Catawba | Cherokee | Chickasaw | Chitimacha | Comanche |
| Delaware | Erie | Houma | Huron | Illinois | Iroquois |
| Kickapoo | Mahican | Mascouten | Massachusett | Mattabesic |
| Menominee | Metoac | Miami | Micmac | Mohegan | Montagnais |
| Narragansett | Nauset] Neutrals | Niantic] Nipissing |
| Nipmuc | Ojibwe | Ottawa | Pennacook | Pequot | Pocumtuc |
| Potawatomi | Sauk and Fox | Shawnee | Susquehannock |
| Tionontati | Tsalagi | Wampanoag | Wappinger | Wenro | | Winnebago |
With French contact limited to one brief meeting, very little is known for certain about the Erie except they were important, and they were there. The Dutch and Swedes also heard about them through their trade with the Susquehannock, but never actually met the Erie. All information about their social and political organization has come from early Jesuit accounts of what they had been told by the Huron.
...as darkness fell the interior was illuminated by enormous (15' high, two feet thick) cane torches. The Houma men were fairly tall, averaging about 5' 10" with breechcloths extending to the knee with a mantle of turkey feathers added for warmth or decoration. Women were bare to the waist with a short skirt. Both sexes wore their hair long and braided, and there was extensive use of body and face tattooing. The French also noticed that the older Houma men, including the chief, had flattened foreheads, but the practice seemed to be ending, since none of the younger men had their appearance altered in this manner. Agriculture provided most of the Houma diet, and the village was surrounded by fields in which they grew corn, beans, squash, melons and sunflowers. Hunting and fishing, using dugout rather than birchbark canoes, provided the remainder.
Americans often do not realize that Huron and Wyandot are the same people. Originally, more than a dozen Iroquoian-speaking tribes of southern Ontario referred to themselves as Wendat meaning "island people" or "dwellers on a peninsula." Rendered variously as: Guyandot, Guyandotte, Ouendat, Wyandot, and Wyandotte. The French, however, called members of a four-tribe confederacy Huron, a derogatory name derived from their word "hure" meaning rough or ruffian. This has persisted as their usual name in Canada.
The destruction of the Illini after contact is one of the great tragedies in North American history. By the time American settlement reached them during the early 1800s, the Illini were nearly extinct and replaced by other tribes. For the most part, the blame for this could not be placed on a war with the Europeans or the Illini refusal to adapt themselves to a changing situation. Actually, few tribes had adapted as much or attached themselves more closely to the French. This made it easy to place responsibility for the fate of the Illini on their native enemies, or perhaps even nature itself, and for this reason, their sad story became a favorite romanticized explanation of the Native American's "ride into the sunset" to prepare the way for the advance of "civilization." However, stripped of this embellishment, the story of the Illini's decline is a chilling indication of how the European presence, regardless of purpose or intention, unleashed destructive forces upon North America's native peoples which reached far beyond the immediate areas of their colonization.
"Simply put, the Iroquois were the most important native group in North American history....Other than clearing fields and building villages, the primary occupation of the men was warfare. Warriors wore their hair in a distinctive scalplock (Mohawk of course), although other styles became common later. While the men carefully removed all facial and body hair, women wore theirs long. Tattoos were common for both sexes. Torture and ritual cannibalism were some of the ugly traits of the Iroquois..."
By common tradition, the Kickapoo and Shawnee believe they were once a single tribe but separated after an argument over a bear's paw.
[The Kickapoo's] most distinctive characteristic has been a stubborn resistance to acculturization with the white man, and it is difficult to think of another group of Native Americans which has gone to such lengths to avoid this. The tendency of the Kickapoo to avoid direct contact has made it easy to dismiss them as unimportant. Although they never played a lead role, the Kickapoo, like a good character actor, were involved in so many things that their overall contribution was enormous. While reading their history, they seem to disappear at times into a story of another people, only to suddenly resurface in another place and time. Years after the leading tribes with the famous names were gone, the Kickapoo were still in the midst of the struggle to preserve native America.
When James Fenimore Cooper wrote "Last of the Mohicans" in 1826 he made the Mahican famous. Unfortunately, he also made them extinct in many minds and confused their name and history with the Mohegan from eastern Connecticut. This error has persisted, and most Americans today would be surprised to learn that the Mahican are very much alive and living in Wisconsin under an assumed name, Stockbridge Indians.
We have no idea what they called themselves. Mascouten apparently comes from a Fox word meaning "little prairie people." In its various forms: Mascoutin, Mathkoutench, Musketoon, Meadow Indians (George Rogers Clark's journal), and possibly Rasaouakoueton (Nicollet). Aside from Nicollet, the earliest mention of the Mascouten was by the French which used their Huron name, Assistaeronon (Assitaehronon, Assitagueronon, Attistae) which translates as Fire Nation (Nation of Fire).
Contact with Europeans probably occurred at an early date, perhaps as soon as John Cabot in 1497, but they were first mentioned specifically by Captain John Smith when he explored the coast of New England in 1614. Disaster struck immediately afterwards in the form of three separate epidemics that swept across New England between 1614 and 1617 destroying 3/4 of the original native population.
Mention is often made of the Wappinger and Mattabesic Confederations, but these organizations never really existed. In truth, the Mattabesic and Wappinger were not even tribes within the usual meaning of the word. What they really were was a collection of a dozen, or so, small tribes which spoke Algonquin, shared a common culture, and occupied a defined geographic area. The name of the Mattabesic comes from a single village that was on the Connecticut River near Middletown.
A most noteworthy characteristic of the Menominee was their amazing ability to survive as an independent tribe in the midst of large and powerful neighbors: Dakota, Ojibwe, and Winnebago. Their initial resistance to encroachment almost resulted in their destruction, but the Menominee adapted to the changed situation and maintained good relations with these tribes.
The Metoac had the misfortune to occupy Long Island which was regarded as the source of the best wampum in the Northeast. Each summer from the waters of Long Island Sound the Metoac harvested clam shells which, during the winter, were painstakingly fashioned into small beads they called "wampompeag" - shortened later by the English into the more familiar form "wampum." To the Dutch traders, it was siwan (sewan). The Metoac traded this to other tribes (most notably the Mahican) and prospered as a result.
Among other tribes in the region, the Miami had the reputation of being slow-spoken and polite but had an inclination towards fancy dress, especially their chiefs. Tattooing was common to both sexes, and like the neighboring Illinois, there were harsh penalties for female adulterers who were either killed or had their noses cut off.
Together with the Beothuk on Newfoundland, the Micmac were probably the first Native Americans to have regular contact with Europeans. This may have occurred as early as the 11th century with the early Viking settlements on the coast of North America, or perhaps with Basque fishermen who visited the Grand Banks before Columbus' voyage in 1492 but kept quiet about where they were catching all their fish. The first known contact was made in 1497 by John Cabot who took three Micmac with him when he returned to England. The Micmac may not have appreciated this, since Cabot disappeared in the same area during his second voyage a few years later.
Mohegan means wolf. So does Mahican, but these are the names of two distinct Algonquin tribes with different locations and histories. It is all too common for the Mohegan of the Thames River in eastern Connecticut to be confused with the Mahican from the middle Hudson Valley in New York (a distance of about a hundred miles). Even James Fenimore Cooper got confused when he wrote "Last of the Mohicans" in 1826. Since Cooper lived in Cooperstown, New York and the location of his tale was the upper Hudson Valley, it can presumed that he meant Mahican, but the spelling variation chosen (Mohican) and his use of Uncas' name really has muddled things.
Diet relied heavily on the hunting of moose and seal but with a heavy reliance on fishing for salmon and eel. Montagnais considered porcupine a delicacy. So much so, they were sometimes referred to as the "Porcupine Indians."