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Life In An Indian Home


Mary Jerome

Junior High Division


Most daily activities of an Indian family centered aroundproviding the main necessities of life: food, clothing, and shelter. Themen and women usually had separate tasks. The men provided the food andthe women prepared it and did most of the work around the home. In certainregions, hunting was the main source of food.

The Indians used almost anything for a source of food.Some tribes, including those that roamed the plains of the United States,and the woodlands area of Canada, lived chiefly on meat. The Pueblo andother farming groups lived chiefly on corn, bean, and squash. Potatoes werean important crop of the Inca's. Almost all the Indian groups ate wild plants,berries, roots, and nuts. They also gathered salt and collected maple sapwherever they could.

Indians who ate mostly meat cooked it by roasting, broilingand boiling.

Most Indians hunted some fish food. But they hunted somebirds on their land only for their feathers and they prized some animalssuch as beavers for their fur.

The most important game animals of North and South Dakotaincluded deer, rabbits, and other small game birds, such as, the geese andherons, sea mammals, such as seals, sea lion whales.

Bears, buffalo, caribou, elk and moose lived only in NorthAmerica.

Indians hunted with the same kind of weapons they usedin war. Many bows and arrows, spears, and clubs had special features forhunting. For example, some Indians used unsharpened arrows to shoot birdsin trees, these arrows stunned the bird so they would fall to the ground.

Now, since I have told you some of the things about howthey made a living and hunting, I'd like to tell you something about theirshelter, recreation and trade.

Some tribes of the Northwest coast of North America andof the South America tropics often wore no clothing at all. In many tribes,a man wore only a breech of cloth. Women wore simply aprons or skirts. Indiansbuilt many kinds of homes. They lived in different building materials.

Indians who only stayed in one place usually built largermore permanent homes. Many Indians built a pole framework and covered itwith leaves or bark.

Some North American tribes made earth lodges. They builttheir houses in pits and roofed the structure with sod.

In other areas, the Indians covered their tepees with skinsof different animals or with tree bark.

Almost all Indians played games. The women played as muchas the men, but they usually played separately and had different games.Children played almost all of the games their parents played and enjoyed.Most games probably had some religious meaning at one time.

The Indians played such a game similar to basketball. Theplayer tried to bounce a large hard rubber ball through a high verticalring with their head, arms, or legs. Scoring was so different that the gameended when either team scored.

Many Indians enjoyed shooting arrows as a sport. They woulduse many different targets including pieces of bark, woven grass or an arrowstuck in a tree. Northern Indians enjoyed a game called "Snow Snake"in which each player would try to slide a dart of a spear farthest on snowand ice.

Guessing games were popular in North America. In the handgame, one or more players on a team held a marked stick in their hand. Theplayers on the other side tried to guess where a certain stick was.

Trading was an important Indian's activity. The Indianslearned much from one to another as they exchanged goods and shared ideasand experience. Indians traded tobacco wherever it could be grown. Saltwas widely traded in agricultural areas.

The Indians had no system of money as we know it. For themost part, they traded goods. In some areas, they needed certain objectsas we use money.

Trade between Indians and the white man was important inNorth America. The settlers needed most everything the Indians had, theIndians mostly needed guns, horses, and tools. Both used beaver's peltsand buffalo hides as items of trade on the northern plains.


Gardener, Eva, St.Vincent, MN, Interviewed, January 5,1975

Jerome, Leonard, Hallock, MN, Interviewed, January 12,1975

World Book Encyclopedia, Vol 10, pp. 108-139

January 12,1975

World Book Encyclopedia, Vol 10, pp. 108-139