Glossary and Terms

Native American Glossary and Terms

  • Shaman—In native societies, a shaman (or medicine man) was believed to have magic powers to cure sickness
  • Teepee– A cone- or tent-shaped dwelling covered with animal hides. These were common on the Great Plains
  • Longhouses—Houses built to be a home for numerous families. They were often 200 feet long, with a central hallway and compartments along either side. A common room was at one end of the house.
  • Pueblo –These were flat, rectangular homes made from sun-dried adobe bricks. These were common in the Southwest
  • Grass houses—These homes were large, dome-shaped houses that involved building a wooden frame which was thatched with grass
  • Wattle and daub houses—These homes were more permanent that most native homes. A wood frame was built, and covered with a clay.
  • Cliff dwellings—These homes were constructed by the Anasazi in Arizona. They were built onto the sides of cliffs or under the rims of canyons.
  • Great Spirit—Many native religions believed in a creator, who was often referred to as the Great Spirit.
  • Black Hills—a region in South Dakota that is sacred to the Lakota Sioux
  • Ghost Dance—A ritual that spread through the Lakota people in the late 1800s. It was believed that people who performed the Ghost Dance became invincible
  • Totem pole—Very tall sculptures, usually carved from a single tree. These were carved by tribes in the Pacific Northwest, and usually included numerous faces.  They could be over 100 feet tall.
  • Wampum—Small shells or beads that were used to show authority, to record treaties, or as money
  • Wigwam—These homes were round and tent-like, and usually covered with animal hides
  • Five Civilized Tribes—located in the southeastern United States, these were the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole
  • Indian Territory—When the United States began removing the Southeastern Indians, they sent them to Oklahoma, which was considered too desolate for white settlers.
  • Trail of Tears—An 800-mile long forced march of the Southeastern Indians to Oklahoma