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Native Americans
Native Americans of the Southwest Cultural Area (Grades 4 to 6)



Native Americans of the Southwest Cultural Area (Grades 4 to 6)
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.9

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    affecting, ancestral, framework, invasion, kachina, lifestyles, nomadic, painters, rushes, seasonal, silverwork, somewhat, tabletop, extensive, priest, society
     content words:    Native Americans, New Mexico, Basket Makers, Cliff Dwellers, Pueblo Indians, Rio Grande, Great Houses, Snake Dance, Water God, Elder Brother


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Native Americans of the Southwest Cultural Area
By Jennifer Kenny
  

1     The Southwest cultural area of the Native Americans is what are now considered Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Utah. This is a land of majesty and contrast with both mountains and deserts. There is scorching heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Around 10,000 years ago, prehistoric people lived in this area. There was enough rain at the time for mammoths and bison so the people hunted them. Then it became much drier.
 
2     4,500 years ago, the people became farmers. 2,100 years ago, Hohokam, the ancestors of the Pima, learned how to dig extensive irrigation ditches for crops. Some canals extended miles.
 
3     2,100 years ago the Anasazi, or ancestral Pueblo people, were also here. They were referred to as Basket Makers. They hunted with a spear thrower and gathered wild foods but they were known for their fine baskets made from rushes, straw, and other materials. They lived in large pit houses, dwellings with sunken floors topped by timber frameworks covered with mud.
 
4     By about A.D. 700, the Basket Makers had evolved into the early Pueblo culture. They started to build their famous pueblo dwellings during the next 200 years. Sometimes they were built on cliffs, hence the term Cliff Dwellers. By the year 900, their culture dominated the Southwest. Pueblo dwellings were rectangular, multistoried apartment buildings made of terraced stone and adobe. The flat roof of one level was the floor and front yard of another. Ladders connected the different levels and allowed people to enter the rooms through holes in the roof. Hopi and Zuni used stones to cement the walls. The Pueblo Indians along the Rio Grande used adobe bricks. The largest pueblos were called Great Houses and could hold 1,000 people! The Pueblo culture built large planned towns connected by roads and irrigation systems.
 
5     The Pueblo Indians also built a pit house (probably evolving from the Basket Makers) called a kiva, which served as a ceremonial chamber or clubhouse of the men. It was located in a central place in the pueblo.
 
6     The Pueblo cultures of the Hopi and Zuni had some unique lifestyles. They grew corn, beans, squash, cotton, and tobacco. They killed rabbits with wooden throwing sticks. In the fall and winter, a mile-round circle of hunters would keep moving in until they could throw the sticks at the rabbits. They traded cotton textiles and corn in exchange for buffalo meat from the nomadic tribes. The men wove cotton textiles and cultivated the fields. The women made fine polychrome pottery.
 
7     The Hopi (which means "peaceful ones") and Zuni were guided by kachinas, spirit beings that enter men's bodies wearing masks and performing dances. The children had kachina dolls, not as toys, but to teach the children about the roles of the kachinas.
 
8     The Hopi settled in the numerous mesas in the area. A mesa is a plateau or tabletop. They built homes of stones. Dirt paths connected the mesas years ago. Today roads help a person reach them.
 
9     The Hopi and other Pueblo people believed snakes brought rain. They held a Snake Dance. For four days, the men hunted snakes each day in a different direction. When the ceremony began, the snakes were brought to a priest in the center of all the people. A male dancer would take a snake and put it between his teeth. When the dance was done, the snakes were let go at the edge of a mesa. The snakes would go off in four directions asking the Water God to bring rain.

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