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Tennessee's First People


Tennessee's First People
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.34

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    spears, treaty, friendship, settled, kings, chief, attack, turmoil, separate, bows, however, member, among, longer, march, government
     content words:    American Indians, Native Americans, These Indians, Woodland Indians, In West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee, Appalachian Mountains, Christopher Columbus, Tennessee River Valley


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Tennessee's First People
By Jan Nixon
  

1     About 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, what is today known as Tennessee, was a land of huge forests, tall mountains, and wide plains. Sometime during this period, the American Indians visited this land. American Indians are also called Native Americans. The word native means "one of the first people to live in a land." The men hunted for food with spears and later used bows and arrows. The women searched for plants to eat. They knew the difference between what was good to eat and what was dangerous. These Indians were called nomads. Nomads are people who are always moving from place to place, looking for new food and new land. When the Indians learned how to plant seeds and grow their own food, many were no longer nomads. They became farmers.
 
2     The first group of Indians that settled in the Tennessee area was called the Woodland Indians. They came to Tennessee about 3,000 years ago and were the first farmers in Tennessee. They planted corn, beans, and squash. They also hunted and fished. Later, other Indian farmers settled in Tennessee to stay. By the 1500s, many different Indian groups lived in Tennessee. In West Tennessee, the Chickasaws and the Choctaws settled for hunting purposes. The Creeks and Shawnees hunted in Middle Tennessee. The Cherokees settled in East Tennessee. More than 20,000 Cherokees lived in the Appalachian Mountains.
 
3     The Indian world changed in 1492. The Europeans, including Christopher Columbus, came to America. They were searching for gold and claiming land for the European kings. The Spanish also knew there was gold in the area of Tennessee. In 1540, the King of Spain sent Hernando de Soto and his men to march north from Florida to the Tennessee River Valley to search for gold. When Hernando de Soto approached the Cherokee chief, he asked where the gold was. The chief replied, "We have no gold." The Spanish explorers, frustrated because they found no gold, killed or captured the Indians and burned their villages. Even though they did not find gold, they claimed this American land for the European countries.

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