By James A. Henretta, David Brody, Lynn Dumenil
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Extra info for America's History, Volume One: To 1877, Sixth Edition
The Indians also fell victim to tuberculosis and other deadly urban diseases. Still, Mississippian institutions and practices endured for centuries. When Spanish conquistador Hernán de Soto invaded the region in the 1540s, he found the Apalachee [apa-la-chee] and Timucua [tee-moo-kwa] Indians living in permanent settlements under the command of powerful chiefs. ” A century and a half later, French traders and priests found the Natchez people living in a society rigidly divided among hereditary chiefs, two groups of nobles and honored people, and a bottom class of peasants.
Subsequently, the peoples of the Western Hemisphere were largely cut off from the rest of the world for three hundred generations. For many centuries, the first Americans lived as hunter-gatherers, subsisting on the abundant wildlife and vegetation. Gradually, as the larger species of animals — mammoths, giant beaver, and horses — died out because of overhunting and climatic change, hunters became adept at killing more-elusive game — rabbits, deer, and elk. , some Native American peoples in the region near present-day Mexico had begun to farm.
During these busy months, men sheared the thick winter wool of their sheep, which the women washed and spun into yarn. In June, peasants cut the first crop of hay and stored it as winter fodder for their livestock. During the summer, life was more relaxed, and families had the time to repair their houses and barns. Fall brought the strenuous harvest, followed by solemn feasts of thanksgiving and riotous bouts of merrymaking. As winter approached, peasants slaughtered excess livestock and salted or smoked the meat.