Tribal Independence Era Prior to 1491


Prior to 1491 and at the time of first contact with Europeans, tribal societies throughout the Americas and surrounding island nations were flourishing. Many of the tribal nations and, in some cases, empires developed sophisticated agricultural, navigational, medicinal, and technological advances that we continue to use and learn from to this day. There is oral history and documentation of possible contact with what seem to be Vikings as well as Chinese and Maori/New Zealander populations in the Americas, but with the arrival of Columbus and the Spanish quest for gold and slaves, the next 500 years would produce years of resistance to settler colonialism, land dispossession, slavery, and genocide. Despite settler colonialism, Native peoples in what is now known as the United States (including Alaska and Hawai’i) and surrounding Pacific Island and Caribbean U.S. territories have managed to survive and, in many cases, thrive, despite long-term threats to survival. Below are just a few examples from across the North American continent of the sophisticated empires and tribal nations that proliferated here, prior to the European colonial settler invasions.