The Maya

The Maya

Mayan Pyramid, Coba, Mexico

Often considered to be the most sophisticated of the pre-Colombian American cultures, the Maya were well-known for innovative developments in written linguistics, architecture, mathematics and astronomy. Based in Central America, specifically in modern-day Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, The Maya Civilization lasted from the Pre-Classic Period around 1800 BC up until the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish reaching its peak in what is known as the Classic period from around 250-900 AD.

In contrast to other Mesoamerican civilizations, Mayan civilization survived the immediate colonization of the Spanish in what is known as the Classical period collapse, but it began to irreparably decline and ultimately withered away. In contrast to archaic Western civilizations, the Mayan race was spread over several Kingdoms, each ruled over by a leader called an ajaw. These kingdoms usually only consisted of a central city and the immediate surroundings. It was uncommon but not unheard of for certain kingdoms to be more powerful than others but no one dynasty ever exerted significant control over the wider populace.

Among the Maya’s most endearing accomplishments are their architectural structures. Most famous of which were their stepped pyramids such as El Castillo in Yucatan, Mexico. Other structures included palaces, religious temples and observatories, the latter of which reflecting the Maya’s keen interest in astronomy. Indeed, the Mayans were highly regarded for their skills in astronomy, making several accurate observations. A common trait of Mesoamerican societies, the Mayans were capable of keeping track of time through measuring the solar year, far more so than European cultures.

Like other Mesoamerican cultures, the Mayans’ religious beliefs were steeped in their belief of the cyclical nature of time. Similar to many ancient religions, they believed that the cosmos was comprised of three spiritual planes, the heavens, the earth and the underworld, the latter of which was known as Xibalba. They believed in a number of deities, including Itzamna, the god of the sky. Like other Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya did engage in human sacrifice in accordance to their religious beliefs, but not nearly to the same extent as other races such as the Aztecs. Although many aspects of their civilization remains shrouded in mystery, the Maya were nonetheless one of the most unique and innovative ancient cultures of the Americas.

More information:

Destination Guide: Mexico

Watch: Empire Builders: The Maya

Read: Lasting Impressions: Frederick Catherwood’s drawings of Maya Ruins

Read: The Looting of Mayan Ruins in Uaxactun

Read: The Magnificence of Mayan Structures

Main Image: Mayan Pyramid, Coba, Mexico. Pilot Productions ©

By Louis Cross

The American War Of Independence

The American War Of Independence

British Rule

The Stamp Act Protest, 1765 by Granger

The Stamp Act Protest, 1765 by Granger

The brutal and bloody eight-year struggle between the British Empire and the newly-declared United States of America, which comprised the American War of Independence represented a key turning point in world history, seeing the world’s most powerful entity lose an unprecedented amount of power and territory. Indeed, prior to the explosive conflict, tensions between the British and their American subjects were long-simmering. This had a number of underlying causes, the most notable of which was the heavy taxation incurred by the American colonies following the Seven-Year War with France, which had left Britain in financial debt.

Thus, the policy of tax imposition on British colonies was introduced in 1765 in the controversial Stamp Act. This was met with outrage by the American subjects, who had accumulated a great deal of wealth in the preceding years and perceived these new measures as unconstitutional, as they had no elective representatives in the British Parliament through which they were taxed. Indeed, these taxation issues would prove decisive in the intensifying conflict between the British and the Americans.

boston-massacre by Paul Revere

Boston Tea Party Massacre by Paul Revere

A pivotal development in the growing conflict between the British and the Americans, the Boston Tea Party was a protest against the heavy taxation recently imposed upon the colonies. Carried out by the Sons of Liberty, a secret society formed to protect the rights of the colonies, these activists boarded ships docked in Boston Harbour by the East India Company and destroyed the tea shipments by throwing them asunder. The Boston Tea Party is viewed as both a culmination of tensions between Britain and the Americas as well as a key catalyst for the American Revolution.

The British responded with punitive measures, crippling Boston’s economy through the Trade Act of 1774, which prevented trade from occurring within the region while also stripping Massachusetts of self-governing privileges. These, among others, were collectively known as the Coercive Acts, which were only met by increasing resistance from the colonies. This resistance grew increasingly sophisticated as the American Revolutionary War soon began.

US Declaration of Independence 1823, Stone Printing

US Declaration of Independence 1823, Stone Printing

Declaration Of Independence

Composed in the midst of the War of Independence with the British, the Declaration of Independence was a statement issued by the Continental Congress, a collection of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies, which comprised the United States of America. Officially adopted on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence announced the USA’s separation from the

British Empire and the beginnings of a new nation. Key figures in the composition of the Declaration of Independence were future American Presidents John Adams, who played a pivotal role in the drive for independence and Thomas Jefferson, who was selected by the committee to produce a draft of the Declaration. This would be amended by Adams and Benjamin Franklin, another future President. Printed and distributed to the general public, the document would go to resonate for hundreds of years after its inception, remaining a key feature of American cultural history.

Washington’s Role 

Walters Gilbert Stuart George Washington

Walters Gilbert Stuart George Washington

Known as the United States of America’s first President, George Washington played a pivotal role in the conflict between the British and the Americans, serving as the latter’s military and political leader, appointed the titles of General and Commander-in-chief.

Born into a wealthy colonial family of tobacco farmers, he quickly ascended the ranks of the British military during the French and Indian War. Due to his military experience, patriotic values and political abilities, he was a natural Act and particularly the Intolerable Acts of 1774.

Upon the creation of the Continental Army in 1775, Washington was appointed its leader. He devised the American Revolution’s basic strategy in collusion with the Congress, vowing never to surrender and to continue fighting, despite losing a number of battles. He also trained and organised the American army, creating a sense of structure within the newly-established military force. He also provided a representative face of the Revolution, an embodiment of the ideal of resistance against the British, arguably his most important function of all.

His political manoeuvring allowed a number of different, potentially
unwieldy forces, such as the continental army, the congress and allies such as the French, motivated and co-operative towards the same goal. Amongst his most notable military
accomplishments were the Siege of Boston in 1776 wherein he ousted the British, the crossing of
the Delaware River, and the small yet pivotal Battle of Trenton, which boosted the Revolutionaries’
wavering morale and renewed a sense of inspiration amongst the soldiers.

Key Battles

Over the eight year conflict, there were several military engagements, some of which carried more significance than others. Arguably the most notable were the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which signified the beginning of the conflict between the British and the Americans.

With the colonial assembly having formed a provisional government-the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, the British interpreted this as a state of rebellion and thus assembled 700 troops in Boston under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith. The Patriots however, having been informed of the British military’s movements, were prepared for this, and were able to plan an effective strategy to combat the British.

Despite initially being overwhelmed by the British, the Patriots managed to oust the British from North Bridge, causing them to retreat to the rest of the British forces. With a combined force of 1,700 men, they were forced into a tactical retreat as the Patriots prevented access to Charlestown and Boston, thus beginning the Siege of Boston.

Considered the beginning of outright military engagement between the two sides, the opening gunshot by the patriots was termed ‘The shot heard round the world’, indicative of the battle’s importance in the grand scheme of American, and even world history.

The Siege of Boston, which immediately followed the Battles of Lexington and Concord, was another key phase of conflict in the American War of Independence, lasting nearly an entire year from April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776.

With the British Army’s movements by land restricted entirely to the city of Boston, a siege broke out. Although the British seized Bunker Hill in June, they suffered heavy casualties with over 1,150 dead or wounded in comparison to the 400 American casualties. They were also unable to make an impact on the British military’s control of Boston. A key turning point of the conflict came in November, when Commander-in-Chief Washington dispatched former bookseller Henry Knox to transport heavy artillery into Boston from Fort Ticonderoga.

Over a few months, the Continental Army were able to fortify the Dorchester Heights region with canons, thereby severely constricting the supply lifeline to the British. With no choice left, the British retreated from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, marking a key and decisive American victory.

The Battle of Trenton in December 1776 was another key victory for the Colonial Americans despite being a small battle. With the British having exercised a period of military dominance previously, the Continental Army were forced into a state of retreat. With morale at an all-time low, Washington formulated a plan to cross the Delaware River, surrounding and overwhelming a garrison of Hessian soldiers, definitively defeating them.

Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron

Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron

Although there were less than 100 British casualties, the Battle of Trenton nonetheless proved to be a definitive turning point in the conflict, affording the Continental Army an inspirational morale boost, causing a huge influx of new recruits.

The Siege of Yorktown was another armed conflict of huge importance, signalling the end of the conflict as well as the height of co-operation between the Continental and French Armies. The last major land battle, it lasted nearly an entire month. With the French having arrived in Rhode Island in 1780, numbering 5,500, the two armies united near New York City in Summer 1781.

The British defence had weakened significantly in recent months as a result of American and French bombardments. The British, under the command of Lord Charles Cornwallis, found their situation spiralling further and further out of control, sustaining over 300 casualties. In addition, over 7,000 British soldiers were captured by the Americans and the French. Cornwallis was forced to surrender, the ceremony of which took place after two days of negotiation. While the conflict wasn’t entirely over, the siege of Yorktown signified the beginning of the end.


Signing of the preliminary Treaty of Paris, November 30, 1782

Signing of the preliminary Treaty of Paris, November 30, 1782


Following the Siege of Yorktown, American liberation was all but inevitable. While King George III pledged to continue the fight, the British Empire soon became preoccupied with conflict else whereas a number of Britain’s other colonies in the West Indies became threatened by French and Spanish forces. As a result, Parliament decided to call off all offensive operations in America and begin negotiations towards peace. While over 30,000 British soldiers remained in North America, in Savannah, New York City and Charleston, all land combat had ended. While naval conflict in the West Indies remained ongoing, peace gradually began to take form, culminating in the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Support for the war in Britain had fallen significantly since the Yorktown fiasco, with the House of Commons voting to cease all conflict once and for all in April 1782. After months of negotiations, the Treaty of Paris marked a formal end to conflict, with the United States attaining all North American territory between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains, which angered the First Nations and leading to further conflict in later years. Despite this, hostilities had, for the better part, ended, and the United States had formally been established.

Native Americans

Native Americans

Given their near-genocidal treatment at the hands of European colonialism, the current population of Native Americans in the United States remains staggeringly low at over 5 million, just over 1.6% of the country’s population. What few people realise is the sheer breadth of diversity amongst the Native Americans. There are over 500 tribes federally recognised by the United States government, each with their own distinct cultural and historical identities.

1. Tribes

While Native American tribes are often lumped together as a single mass entity, this assessment could not be further from the truth. There are 567 registered Native American tribes in the United States, each with its own unique culture and history.


Essa-queta, Plains Apache chief

Essa-queta, Plains Apache chief

One of the most historically significant Native American tribes, the Apache hail from the Southwestern region of the United States, having played a major role in the American-Indian wars of the 19th Century. In modern times, the Apache are based mainly in Arizona and New Mexico, where there are reservations, as well as communities in Oklahoma and Texas. The Apache Indians originally hailed from further North in modern-day Alaska and Canada before migrating southwards and eventually settling around the Rio Grande, although they were a generally nomadic tribe. They were known for their brilliant battle prowess, and the Apache regularly came into conflict with opposing forces, notably the Spaniards and the Americans. The Apache-Mexican Wars was a series of conflicts from the 17th to 20th Centuries, beginning with the Spanish. A series of brutal skirmishes occurred with the Apaches incurring significant losses. Peace was declared towards the end of the 18th Century, but this ended following Mexican independence in 1821. The new government began cutting off resources to the local Apache population, forcing them to resume their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and lead a number of raids. This caused the Mexicans to declare war on the Apache, grossly underestimating their military capabilities. It is difficult to estimate the casualties, but they were vast on both sides. In the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, the US absorbed much of Mexico’s territory and came into conflict with the Apaches in a series of conflicts known as the Apache Wars, spanning from 1849 to 1886. These were brutal and bloody conflicts which eventually saw the Apaches moved to reservations. Currently, the Apache population is estimated at just under 112,000. The tribe is noted for its many folk heroes such as Cochise, a major leader during the Apache Wars and the leader of an uprising against the American government.


Based around the Great Plains, the Comanche are currently mainly based in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. The Comanche Nation is based in the city of Lawton, Oklahoma. Since European contact, the population has decreased massively from 45,000 to just over 15,000. The Comanche are historically known as a tribe of fierce warriors who sustained themselves economically through the production and sale of Buffalo products. They were one of the first Indian tribes to master horsemanship following encounters with the Spanish. The Comanche were the major force during the Texas-Indian wars, and proved to be a formidable opponent to the United States army.


One of the most prominent tribes in Eastern North America, the Mohawk People are historically from upstate New York around the Hudson River as well as in parts of Ontario and Quebec in Canada amongst other locations. They were one of the five founding tribes of the Iroquois League, a confederation of tribes and were the first line of defence against European settlers, for which they earned the name the ‘Keepers of the Eastern Door.’


Originating in the American South, the Cherokee Indians hailed from modern-day states such as the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee, before migrating elsewhere. The tribe is currently entered mainly in Oklahoma although there are major populations in North Carolina and California as well. With over 300,000 verified tribal members, it is the largest tribe in the United States, with many more claiming Cherokee ancestry. The Cherokee were considered to be one of the most advanced Native American tribes prior to European colonisation, especially well-known for their agricultural capabilities.


One of the major Native American tribes centered around North Dakota, the Arikara are closely related to the Pawnee and share a similar language. They have a history of being semi-nomadic and were known for being adept farmers, particularly in the area of horticulture. They were also known for their construction of Earth Lodges, semi-subterranean homes dug from the earth.


Pawnee father and son, 1912

Pawnee father and son, 1912

A small population of around 3600 remains of the Pawnee people. Based in Oklahoma, the Pawnee hail from the modern-day states of Kansas and Nebraska. Formerly one of the most extensive and powerful Native American tribes, they controlled a vast territorial domain and were often at odds with rival tribes such as the Cheyenne, the Comanche and the Arapho. Similar to the Arikara, they lived in earth lodges and sustained themselves through a variety of different means including agriculture and trade. Despite their high stature, they suffered badly as a result of diseases brought by European settlers, which decimated their population along with famine and conflict. Despite this, their military capabilities were well realised by the US Army, who recruited many of their finest warriors as scouts.


Based in the Southeast of the United States, the Choctaw people are currently spread out across Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama an California. A coalescence of various tribes, the Choctaw were one of the first tribes encountered by Europeans and were labelled as one of the ‘Five Civilised Tribes’ in the 19th Century alongside the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Creek and the Seminole. They were also the first tribe victimised by the Indian Removal Act and forced to migrate due to the US attempts to exploit their resources. They were the first Native Americans to serve as code talkers during the First World War. Despite regular collaborations with the US government making the prospect of assimilation close to reality, the Choctaw have managed to maintain and preserve their distinct culture.


One of the largest Native American tribes, the Cree are mainly based in Canada in modern times although there is a diaspora in some parts of the United States, most notably Montana. Mainly centred in the region of Quebec, the Cree were historically known for their participation in the fur trade as well as their communal, egalitarian lifestyle. Due to their residence in the snowy tundra of Canada, they were known for their use of tools such as snowshoes and toboggans. Hunting remains an important cultural staple of Cree culture and they are well known for their prowess in this field.


One of the most notable Native American tribes of the Great Plains, the Cheyenne are mainly based in the modern-day states of Montana and Oklahoma, currently comprising a population of nearly 23,000. They are divided into two Nations-the Southern Cheyenne in Oklahoma and the Northern Cheyenne in Montana. They initially came into contact with Europeans in modern-day Minnesota although their exact point origin is unknown. The Cheyenne are well-known for their important role in the Indian Wars, notably victims of the horrific Sand Creek Massacre which saw 600 Cheyenne murdered by the Colorado Militia, led by the famous General Custer. Perhaps more famously was their involvement in the Battle of the Little Bighorn which saw an alliance of Northern Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapho tribes face off against Custer’s forces in modern-day Montana in an overwhelming Native American victory.


Navajo woman & child, circa 1880-1910

Navajo woman & child, circa 1880-1910

One of the largest Native American tribes, the Navajo are based in the Southwestern region of the United States with the Navajo Nation having bases across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. This is the second-largest tribe in the US as well as the largest reservation. Indeed, the Navajo Nation Reservation covers an area of 27,000 square miles, larger than ten of the fifty US states. The population currently numbers over 300,000. The Navajo are noted for their distinct and complex religious practices as well as their decentralised system of government. Much of the population retain a traditional lifestyle.

2. Indian Wars

Rather than referring to a specific conflict, the Indian Wars is a collective term pertaining to a number of inter-related military incursions between various Native American tribes and opposing forces. These conflicts were initially fought with European powers such as the British and Spanish Empires before successor states such as the United States, Canada and Mexico became involved. The period of conflict was intermittent, spanning from the beginning of colonisation in the 16th Century into the early 20th Century.

The Mohawk Trail

A major site in Native American history, the Mohawk Trail is a route in Northwestern Massachusetts which connected tribes from the Atlantic with those from Upstate New York. It was a major trade route between the various tribes, allowing them to exchange various goods such as meat and fur. Tensions broke out between two of the trail’s major tribes-the Mohawks and the Pocumtucks, a conflict exacerbated by Europeans, hoping it would weaken both sides and strengthen their own position. The Mohawks proved victorious, and as a result the trail is named after them. This historic trail was expanded significantly during the Indian Wars, becoming a major gateway between the major American city of Boston and the Eastern Native American towns. Currently, the Mohawk Trail is a major tourism site for the region, with many attracted to the lush scenery, hiking trails and sporting activities.

Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears

One of the darkest chapters in American history, the Trail of Tears refers to the policy of forced relocations enacted by the United States government under the directorship of President Andrew Jackson. The major consequence of 1830’s Indian Removal Act, the Native American Tribes of Southeastern United States were unceremoniously ejected from their homelands and forced to migrate to designated areas westwards. The tribes affected belonged to the ‘Five Civilised Tribes-the Cherokee, the Muscogee, the Seminole, the Chickasaw and the Choctaw. For a 20 year period between 1831 and 1850, these tribes were forced into leave their homes and faced considerable hardships in doing so. It is believed that nearly 125,000 individuals were exiled in total. The process was the brainchild of Jackson, a long-time advocate of the policy of Indian Removal. He spent the bulk of his political career pursuing this goal, his prejudiced views forming during his barbaric military campaigns against tribes. Although the law was intended to be implemented peacefully, Jackson and his government utilised violence to force Indian removal. The Choctaw were the first nation to be expelled, completely unprepared for such an arduous feat, many died on the journey as a result. The Seminole were the only tribe to put up a major resistance to the relocation program, with the ensuing conflict proving to be costly on both sides. A handful of Seminole retreated to the Everglades but most of the population was killed in the conflict. The Cherokee were the final of the tribes to be forcibly relocated with nearly half of the population dying during the relocation.

The Comanche-Mexico Wars

The Comanche were famous for their horsemanship. By George Catlin, 1835.

The Comanche were famous for their horsemanship. By George Catlin, 1835.

A major part of the greater Comanche Wars, the Comanche-Mexico Wars was a recurring series of conflicts lasting nearly 50 years between 1821 and 1850. The Comanche were considered to be amongst the most fierce and formidable warriors of all the Native American tribes, and had previously come into conflict with the Spanish military. Despite this, a period of peace had been declared. Following the Mexican declaration of independence in 1821, hostilities quickly resumed. The conflict was mainly defined by a series of Comanche raids during the 1840’s during which tensions reached their apex. These raids were deadly and grew increasingly bold as the conflict progressed. They were highly organised and saw hundreds of Mexicans killed. Following the Mexican-American Wars, Texas became absorbed by the United States and the raids continued unabated. The Comanche remained a major force to be reckoned with during the 1840’s but their influence waned as the US Army increased their military efforts, decimating the population and reducing their influence significantly.

Battle of the Little Bighorn

Better known as Custer’s Last Stand’, the Battle of the Little Bighorn is one of the most important battles in American history. A face off between a united front of Northern Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapho tribes and the United States Army, it was one of the greatest embarrassments in American military history. A major part of the Great Sioux War of 1876, the battle lasted two days and saw the American forces see an overwhelming defeat. The tribes were lead by iconic figures Crazy Horse and Chief Gall while the American forces were led by the infamous Colonel George Custer. Custer himself was killed along with 267 other American soldiers. Native American deaths, while difficult to quantify, were significantly lower. The battle and Custer’s efforts were initially lionised as an example of American military bravery while the reasons for Native American victory was based solely on their numerical advantage. Recent analyses have portrayed a more unflattering picture of Custer and his many costly errors. He was known to have ignored the warnings of his scouts and carried out poor reconnaissance missions, leaving him grossly unprepared for the incursion.

3. Great Chiefs: Structure of Native American Society

Native American tribal structures differed from one another, but retained certain common aspects. Social stratification in Native American culture was very much as important a concept as it was to European powers, and it remains so in modern times, albeit to a lesser degree. Native American societies were tribal, meaning they were structured like clans. These clans were chiefdoms, in which rulership is held by a singular figure. These figures are elected by their clans, who also hold the right to depose the chiefs or sachems (paramount chiefs) if they so wish. Their powers were fairly limited and few laws of note existed except for ones concerning piety. It was not essential for all Chiefs to be male, with a number of well-known Chiefs being women, most notably Wilma Mankiller.

4. The Buffalo and the Horse

Until European colonisation of the New World, buffalo were a significant animal amongst the Native Americans. They were a major source of meat and were subsequently hunted for thousands of years. There were two major species-the plains bison and the wood bison. Both were hunted for their meat and hides, which were used for clothing. Indeed, their adeptness at hunting soon created a wasteful surplus of meat and buffalo were sometimes hunted fir specific delicacies. The buffalo was an important symbolic animal in a number of Native American religions and there were a number of ceremonial hunts.

Following European colonisation, horses were introduced to the New World by the Spanish and these animals assumed a major role in Native American culture. Many tribes were quick to master the skills of horsemanship and quickly utilised them to help with the hunting of buffalo. Amongst Plains Indians, horses were especially important. In addition to its importance with major tasks such as buffalo hunting, horsemanship became a valuable symbol of social prestige. The Comanche were particularly well-known for their horsemanship abilities, their nomadic, pastoral lifestyle suiting this very effectively.

5. Spiritual Beliefs: Medicine Man, Peace Pipes

Bear Butte, in South Dakota, is a sacred site for over 30 Plains tribes.

Bear Butte, in South Dakota, is a sacred site for over 30 Plains tribes.

Native American spiritual beliefs differ slightly from tribe to tribe but there are a number of connecting aspects between them. Upon the arrival of European colonialsm, observers decreed them to be a non-religious people due to the significant differences to their own practices. This observation was completely untrue and the Native Americans are in fact one of the most spiritually rich and diverse peoples in the world. The religions vary from animistic-based around the belief of objects, animals and places possessing important spiritual essence, monotheistic-based around the worship of a single deity and polytheistic-the worship of multiple deities.

Major recurring practices include the use of sweat lodges. These are small, naturally-built huts in which a purification ceremony takes place. It focuses on prayer and healing and can be dangerous if not done properly. Practitioners are meant to ‘sweat’ out impurities while traditional songs and prayers are recited. Their purposes differ to suit the occasion.

Other practices of note include the Sun Dance, mainly practiced by indigenous peoples from the Plains. The ceremony varies from tribe to tribe but generally revolved around the recitals of songs, dances and prayers paired with physical endurance trials. It is normally a physically exhausting ordeal in which practitioners offer a sacrifice for the benefit of the tribe.

Ceremonial or Peace Pipes are an instrumental item used in a plethora of religious ceremonies. A smoking pipe, they are used for a number of different reasons, including the ratifying of treaties and the offering of prayers. These pipes differ in appearance and name across the different Indigenous tribes. Notable examples include Bluestone, Blue Pipestone and lay.

The majority if not all Indigenous tribes featured Medicine Men or Women as focal spiritual figures These differed in name and function throughout the country, but generally speaking, they served as the leaders of all spiritual and ceremonial matters in the tribe. Knowledge is passed down generation after generation.

Many Native American spiritual beliefs and practices are closely guarded from outsiders due to rampant and disrespectful cultural appropriation. Thus, many of the tribes’ beliefs and systems remain shrouded in a veil of mystery.

6. Home: Teepees, Clothes etc.

Domestic life of Native American tribes obviously varied throughout the country but one particularly iconic symbol is the Tipi, a dwelling unique to the tribes of the Plains. They are known for their distinct cone-shaped appearance, canvas material and smoke flaps. No longer in wide use, they nonetheless retain a ceremonial function. Like many symbols, they have been incorrectly used as a symbol for all Native American tribes, becoming a stereotypical image. Known as much for its practical importance as it is for its ceremonial importance, it suited the nomadic lifestyles of the Plains peoples, due to its easy assembly and durability to suit harsh climates.

An Oglala Lakota tipi, 1891

An Oglala Lakota tipi, 1891

Native American clothing is another aspect of Indigenous cultures that have been exploited by cultural appropriation. Many assume that all Native Americans wore the same style of clothes, but this is untrue and varied significantly throughout the country. The majority of tribes sources clothing from materials such as agave and in fewer cases cotton. This was particularly evident in the tribes of the Southwest due to the hot weather. Towards the east, due to the lack of cotton or agave plants, tribes sourced clothing materials from tree bark. In the north, near the Canadian border, animal skins were used extensively due to the harsher cold conditions. Hair styles were a major form of distinction between various tribes.

7. Reservations: Loss of Land

Following the Indian Act, Native American tribes from the Eastern United States were forcibly ejected from their homes and forced to migrate westwards in appalling, inhospitable conditions which caused significant loss of life amongst other severe problems. Reservations were created to house the migrating populations. These are legally designated lands designed to house Native Americans. They are exempt from state law and are alternatively governed by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. There are currently 326 Indian Reservations  in total. The land allotments vary in size-the largest is around the size of West Virginia, although most are nowhere near this size. Overall, Indian Reservations encompass an area of over 56 million acres. Of the total 2.5 million Native Americans living in the United States, only 1 million live in reservations, the others living in major cities such as Los Angeles or Phoenix.

The American Civil War

The American Civil War

A house divided against itself cannot stand. 
I believe this government cannot endure 
permanently half-slave and half-free.
— Abraham Lincoln, 1858

What Was The American Civil War?

A war fought in the United States between the North (Free States/Union/United States of America) and the South (Slave states/Confederacy/The Confederate States of America). There are multiple reasons for the start of the War, but the most notable outcome of the War was the abolition of slavery in the United States of America.

Slave states, states that legally had slaves, wanted to continue slavery so in a last effort to secure their right to slavery they seceded from the United States of America and created the Confederate States of America.

Why Did The American Civil War Start?

Slave states refused to accept the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. Lincoln was outspoken about the abolition of slavery, a concept, if carried out, that would crush the economy of the South.

Tensions between the North and the South continued to grow from a multitude of reasons including the North’s industrial capacity vs. the South’s agricultural ways, states’ rights vs. federal rights, and most notably the North’s push to abolish slavery vs. the South’s pursuit for the right to continue slavery.

The culmination of differences could no longer be appeased by laws passed in Congress. On December 20, 1860, after the Presidential Election of Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina was the first to secede from the Union followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

The seven states to secede created a national government, the Confederate States of America, by February 1861 located in Montgomery, Alabama (the capital would later move to Virginia) with Jefferson Davis as the President. The Union did not fully acknowledge the secession of the Confederates States of America because the act of secession was thought to be nearly illegal by the terms defined in the creation of the United States of America.

First Shots


Less than a week after South Carolina announced its secession from the Union, Major Robert Anderson left Fort Moultrie, located on the shores of Charleston, under the cover of night to Fort Sumter, an island in the harbour of Charleston, for better defence. South Carolina and the Confederacy demanded the abandonment of Fort Sumter by Anderson and his men. Any attempts by the Union to resupply the Fort were stopped.

President Lincoln, under great pressure to keep the country intact, sent a dispatch of troops to Fort Sumter for much needed supplies and additional troops to settle the matter. The first of the ships arrived April 11, 1861. The South considered the movement of troops and supplies as an act of provocation and retaliated.

On April 12, 1861 the first shots rang out in the harbour of Charleston, South Carolina as Confederate troops opened fire for over twenty-four hours in the direction of Fort Sumter.

What Happened Next?

Once the War officially started, President Lincoln ordered troops from the surrounding states to send militia to stop the Confederates in Charleston.  Followed by Lincoln’s order, four more states seceded from the Union: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Who Fought On What Side?

The chronology of states that succeeded and joined the Confederacy included: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

The states, border states, and territories that supported the Union included: California, Colorado (territory), Connecticut, Dakota (territory), Delaware (border), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky (border), Maine, Maryland (border), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri (border), Nebraska (territory), Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico (territory), New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah (territory), Vermont, Washington (territory), West Virginia (border), and Wisconsin.

Where Was The First Major Land Battle Of The War?

On July 21, 1861 the Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, was the first major land battle between the Union and the Confederacy. The Union expected the battle to be the first and only battle to occur during the War. Unexpected by the Union, the Confederacy won the battle because of unprepared Union troops and a strong Confederate military leader, Thomas Jackson, who earned his famous nickname Stonewall Jackson.

What Other Major Battles Occurred?

Battle of Antietam: On September 17, 1862 Unionists and Confederates experienced the bloodiest battle of the War. In a single day over 23,000 soldiers were killed in action. The battle marked the end of the Confederacy’s first invasion into the North led by General Robert E. Lee.

Battle of Gettysburg: July 1- 3, 1863 marked the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War with approximately 51,000 casualties. The battle is also known as the turning point in the War favouring the Union. The Confederacy’s strategy changed from offensive to defensive when General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion into the North failed.

Battle of Vicksburg: Only a day after the end of the battle of Gettysburg, on July 4, 1863 the Union captured the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi under the direction of General Ulysses S. Grant. The loss of Vicksburg divided the Confederacy along the Mississippi River.

Battle of Chattanooga: The Union victory on November 25, 1863 granted William T. Sherman the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea, which destroyed the Confederacy’s infrastructure from Atlanta, Georgia to Savannah, Georgia.

Battle of Appomattox: Two years after the major turning points in the War, Confederate Robert E. Lee surrendered to Unionist Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House.

Importance Of The American Civil War

The American Civil War remains the bloodiest war in American history with approximately 620,000 casualties. The casualty amount would not be equalled until the First World War, Second World War, and the Vietnam War casualties were totalled together.

The War also formally ended slavery in the United States of America by the Emancipation Proclamation the South’s surrender, and Reconstruction.

The Gettysburg Address

At Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 four months after the deadliest battle of the Civil War, President Lincoln gave a remarkable speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. President Lincoln referred to the human rights stated in the Declaration of Independence and the new focus of the Civil War to be a struggle for the preservation of those basic human rights. His speech would become known as one of the most famous speeches in American history.

President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863-Wikimedia-Commons-SmallFourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.