Native American Tribes of the Southeast

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13136

Their ancestors built communities around large mounds long before Europeans came. Cruelly forced to leave their lands, they later helped to win World War I! Learn more about these fascinating people.


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever heard the term code talker?

Code talkers were American soldiers who used their Native American languages to send coded messages during World War I. Their work was vital in winning the war for the Allies.

Some members of the Choctaw Nation, a tribe of the southeastern region, served in this position.

Watch this video to learn more.

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The Native Americans of the Southeast thrived in the warm climate of this region, hunting, and fishing for many years before settling down to farming and community life.

As you learn about the Southeast tribes, note the following facts.

  • ◊ the types of homes in which they lived
  • ◊ the food they grew
  • ◊ the unique skills they developed
  • ◊ the natural resources available to them
  • ◊ the language they spoke
  • ◊ the aspects of their culture

Mississippian culture

Some of the earliest Native Americans to live in North America are called the Mississippian culture by historians because they settled down in areas all along the Mississippi River, from the Great Lakes south to Louisiana, before spreading east to North Carolina and west to Oklahoma.

map of Mississippian cultures

Watch the video below to see the great temple mounds they built and learn how they grew their crops and built their communities. As you watch, consider the following questions.

  • What was the purpose of the mounds?
  • What happened in the flat places between the mounds?
  • What was the main theme of their art?

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The Mississippian people were the ancestors of the more well-known tribes of the Southeast. They were often called the Five Civilized Tribes because many adopted Christianity and European customs.

These tribes all spoke similar languages called Muskogean. Listen to the video below.

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The Cherokee Nation settled in the Appalachian Mountains. As you watch the next video to learn about these native people, listen for the answers to these questions.

  • What was the Cherokee's tie to the land?
  • How did they get their food?
  • Were they civilized or warlike?
  • Who had control of the corn crop?
  • Why did they go to war?
  • How could someone be adopted into a Cherokee clan?

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Creek (Muscogee)

The Creek Nation, also known as the Muscogee tibe, were skilled farmers who grew crops like corn, beans, and squash. They lived in villages and built houses made of wood and mud called wattle and daub houses.

The tribe had a strong social structure and a rich culture. They practiced ceremonies, music, and storytelling. 


Learn how the Seminole Tribe of Florida fought to keep their land in the video below.

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Listen to how the Chickasaw began and how they found their homeland in this next video.

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You just heard how the Choctaw found their homeland, and you learned about the Choctaw Code Talkers at the beginning of this lesson.

Now, watch the following video to learn more about this tribe.

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Trail of Tears

In several of the above videos, you heard mention of the Trail of Tears and the Indian Removal Act.

Under this act, the U.S. government demanded that the native tribes of the southeastern U.S. leave their lands and walk over 800 miles to Oklahoma to live in new Indian Camps there. Thousands of people died along the way.

Watch the video below to learn about this most shameful event in U.S. History.

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Now that you've been introduced to the Mississippian culture and the Five Civilized Tribes. move on to the Got It? section to discover more about the lives and culture of these nations. You'll complete a graphic organizer and create a Native American village!

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