The First Americans

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 10858

Do you live in an old neighborhood? What are the houses like? Any tipis or igloos? Who lived there before you? Thousands of years ago Native Americans did! Learn and write about them and build models!


United States

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • Have you ever wondered who were the first people to live in the Americas?
  • Where did they come from and how did they get here?

Thousands of people lived in the Americas, hundreds of years before the European settlers ever arrived. Today, let's take a look at who those people were.

Thousands of years ago, there was an ice age.

This time period was marked by a cold global climate that covered the world in glaciers. Since much of the world's water was frozen, land that was once covered by water began to appear.

One theory is that this created a land bridge between North America and Asia. Using the land bridge, people and animals from Asia crossed over to North America in search of new sources of food. These were the first people to live in North America.

Over the years, these people would spread out across the Americas, creating new tribal groups. Today, we refer to these tribal groups as Native Americans.

Some of the tribes that lived in North America were:

  • Inuit

The Inuit lived in an area called the Artic, in what is considered present-day Alaska and northern Canada. The Artic was a frozen tundra, which means the temperature was below freezing for the majority of the year, and it was too cold to grow crops.

Hunting was the Inuit peoples' main source of living supplies. The Inuit used the fur of the animals they hunted to make warm clothes, and the meat and organs were used for food.

Inuit dug holes in the snow and ice to use as homes. The word igloo comes from the Inuit word for home.

To learn more about the Inuit way of life, visit Native Americans: Inuit Peoples from Ducksters™ Educational Site.


  • Kwakiutl

The Kwakiutl lived in what is now the Northwest United States. They lived on a diet of fish caught from the Pacific Ocean, and gathered nuts and berries.

The Kwakiutls were fortunate to live in a mild climate, meaning it was cool in the summer, cold in the winter, and often rainy.

Totem poles come from the Kwakiutl tribe because they believed these carved wooden statues were enchanted with animal spirits that would protect their tribe and family.

totem poles

Watch this Inside the Collections: Pacific Northwest Coast Peoples video clip to see Kwakiutl artifacts:

  • Lakota

The Lakota lived in the central desert region of the United States known as the Great Plains.

The Lakota were a nomadic tribe, meaning they had no permanent home. The tribe members moved constantly as they chased their food source, the buffalo. The Lakota lived in tipis because these non-permanent homes were easy to assemble and move.

Visit the American Indian Tribal Directory page entitled Lakota Indians to learn more about this tribe.


  • Pueblo

Pueblo Indians lived in the southwest United States, in what is present-day New Mexico and Arizona. The desert region was extremely hot, but the Pueblos developed an irrigation system to grow corn, squash, and beans.

They lived in homes called adobes, named after the red clay used to construct them. The adobe clay kept the inside of the homes cool even though the outside temperature was sweltering.

Find out more about the Pueblos at Native Americans: Pueblo Tribe from Ducksters™ Educational Site.

adobe houses

  • Iroquois

The Iroquois are also referred to as the Eastern Woodland Indians because they resided in the Northeast United States, which is heavily wooded. The Iroquois hunted deer and bears, fished in the rivers and Atlantic Ocean, and gathered nuts and berries.

They built large, rectangular homes out of out branches, sticks, and bark. These large homes were called longhouses and would often hold several families. Visit Native Americans: Iroquois Tribe, from Ducksters™ Educational Site, to learn more about the Iroquois.


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