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Native American Timeline 

In lots of textbooks, the history of Native Americans starts with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1491.

This is because, previously, scientists and scholars had the racist belief that life went unchanged for Native Americans for centuries before Europeans arrived.

Portrait of A Man Said To Be Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus

Sometimes, the study of history is seen as being about changes happening in the past. For this reason, Native Americans were seen to have had ‘no history’.

This is untrue and unfair. There is lots of evidence to show (of course) that Native Americans have a long past that goes back millennia. Lots of changes happened over time and these are shown in this timeline.

There are so many events from the pre-Columbus  era, we will just give a short overview here.


1000 BCE- 800 CE

Northwest Territories

The Norton Tradition. This is a name given to a community discovered by archaeologists. These people lived in the Western Arctic along the Alaskan shore.

They used flake-stone tools and clever technologies like oil burning lamps. They were a marine-based culture which meant they used the resources of the sea and the land. They hunted caribou, mammals and salmon.

Related: Alaska State History

1000 BCE

The arrival of Athapaskan-speaking people. Athapaskan is a family of languages. They lived all over North America: in Alaska, on the Pacific Coast (west) and in the south.

Athapaskan People

1000 BCE- 100 CE

The Adena Culture of the Ohio River Valley. These people were made up of lots of different groups that lived in this region and shared burial mounds. Archaeologists have found fine stone pipes made by these peoples.

Criel Mound

500 – 1 BCE

Early Ancestral Pueblo culture in American Southwest.

Cliff Palace Mesa Verde National Park

500 BCE- 1000 CE

Plains Woodland Period on the Great Plains.

300 BCE

Mogollon people arrive in southeast Arizona and New Mexico.

200 BCE- 500 CE

Hopewell Tradition. This is a name given for hundreds of different societies throughout the East and around the Great Lakes Region.

Crab Orchard Culture Map

500 BCE- 700 CE

Old Bering Sea Culture in western Arctic.

Winged Object Harpoon Counterweight

50 BC- 800 AD

Ipiutak Culture in the western Arctic.

100-1000 CE

Weeden Island culture of Florida. These people produced wood carvings that are well preserved.

Weeden Island Culture Center

200-1450 CE

Hohokam cultures in Arizona and North Mexico

The Great House At The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

400 CE

Cultivation of Corn beings in Southerneastern and Northeastern Woodlands.

700 CE

Early Pueblo culture. Pueblo was a Spanish word used to describe people with permanent housing.

Pueblo Bonito The Largest Of The Chacoan Great Houses

755 CE-890 CE

Blythe Geoglyphs sculpted by ancestors of the Quechan and Mojave in the Colorado Desert, California. These are giant figures carved into the ground.

1000 CE

First discovery of the Americas by a European, Leif Erikson. Discovery and colonisation of an area of North America by the Norse (Vikings). They called this area far north (‘Vinland’).

1000-1200 CE

Acoma Pueblo and Old Oraibi established.

1000-1750 CE

Fort Ancient Culture in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.

Fort Ancient Monongahela Cultures

1000-1780 CE

Plains Village period across North Dakota and Texas.

1070 CE

Great Serpent Mound built. This is a National Historical Site.

1100 CE

Peak of Hohokam Culture.

Mesa Grande Temple Mound Is Located In The Mesa Grande Cultural Park

1100 CE

Scandinavians (Norse) settled in Vinland.

900-1150 CE

Pueblo II Era in American Southwest

1000-1200 CE

Acoma Pueblo and Old Oraibi societies established.

1142 CE

League of the Iroquois is established. This is a collaboration between lots of groups. Their history is recorded with shells called Wampum.

Battle Between Iroquois And Algonquian Tribes

Quahog And Whelk Wampum

1150-1350 CE

Pueblo III Era in the American Southwest.

1150 CE

The Innuit peoples are in Arctic Alaska.

1150 CE

Cahokia is the largest city in North America in the 12th Century.

Cahokia Aerial

1250 CE

Pensacola culture in Florida.

1250 CE

Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwellings in North America, is thriving.

Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Palace

1300 CE

Cliff Palace is abandoned because of severe droughts.

1200-1400 CE

Middle Mississippian culture in the Eastern Woodlands thrives.

14th Century

Athapaskan-speaking people migrate from Canada to the American Southwest.

1492 CE

Christopher Columbus sails to India and finds America.

1513 CE

A man called Juan Ponce de Leon explores Florida. He takes 8 Americans as captives when he makes contact with them.

Spanish Engraving Of Juan Ponce De León

1539 CE

Hernando de Soto kills 100 Native American warriors.

1680 CE

Pueblo peoples take back their homelands from the Spanish.

1754 CE

The French and Indian War begins. It ends in 1763.

1764 CE

Rebellion in the Ohio River Valle from Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa.

1810 CE

Tecumseh , the leader of the Shawnee of Ohio, starts the confederation of Native American Tribes to stop the United States.

1811 CE

Shawnee defeated by William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe.

Battle Of Tippecanoe

1812 CE

Native Americans ally with the British against the United States.

1817 CE

The Seminole War

1824 CE

The establishment of the Office of Indian Affairs by the U.S.

1830 CE 

The Indian Removal Act.

1835 CE

The Second Seminole War.

1838 CE

The Cherokee forced out of their homes and to march north in the Trail of Tears.

1855 CE

The Third Seminole War.

1862 CE

The Homestead Act allows settlers onto Native American land in the Midwest.

1874 CE

The Red River War

Map Of The Great Plains

1876 CE 

The Battle of Little Big Horn is won by Sitting Bull and his army. The U.S. under George Custer are defeated.

1890 CE

Sitting Bull is killed because he is thought to encourage the Ghost Dance.

1890 CE

The Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota. The U.S. massacre over 300 Native Americans, including women and children.

1907 CE

Charles Curtis is the first Native American senator.

1924 CE

Indian Citizenship Act.


1944 CE 

The National Congress of American Indians is formed.

1960s CE 

Civil Rights and Red Power Movement era. This is a fight for Native American justice.

1965 CE

The Voting Rights Act.

1968 CE

The American Indian Movement (AIM) is started.

1968 CE

The Indian Civil Rights Act.

Native Americans

Three Native American Women In Warm Springs Indian Reservation Wasco County Oregon 1902

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