As many as a thousand years ago in the Southwest, the Hopi and Zuni Indians of North
America were building with adobe—sun-baked brick plastered with mud. Their homes looked
remarkably like modern apartment houses. Some were four stories high and contained quarters
for perhaps a thousand people, along with storerooms for grain and other goods. These
buildings were usually put up against cliffs, both to make construction easier and for defense
against enemies. They were really villages in themselves, as later Spanish explorers must have
realized, since they called them pueblos, which is Spanish for towns.
The people of the pueblos raised what are called the three sisters—corn, beans, and
squash. They made excellent pottery and wove marvelous baskets, some so fine that they could
hold water. The Southwest has always been a dry country where water is scarce. The Hopi and
Zuni brought water from streams to their fields and gardens through irrigation ditches. Water
was so important that it played a major role in their religion. The way of life of less-settled groups was simpler. Small tribes such as the Shoshone and
Ute wandered the dry and mountainous lands between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific
Ocean. They gathered seeds and hunted small animals such as rabbits and snakes. In the Far
North the ancestors of today’s Inuit hunted seals, walruses, and the great whales. They lived
right on the frozen seas in shelters called igloos built of blocks of packed snow. When summer
came, they fished for salmon and hunted the lordly caribou. The Cheyenne, Pawnee, and Sioux tribes, known as the Plains Indians, lived on the
grasslands between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. They hunted bison,
commonly called the buffalo. Its meat was the chief food of these tribes, and its hide was used
to make their clothing and the covering of their tents and tepees.
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