Year 8

Americas before the arrival of Europeans

I can describe what North America was like before the arrival of Europeans.

Year 8

Americas before the arrival of Europeans

I can describe what North America was like before the arrival of Europeans.

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Lesson details

Key learning points

  1. Indigenous peoples of North America were divided into different groups from small families to large empires
  2. Some North American tribes would be both farmers and hunter-gatherers like the Iroquois tribe
  3. Some well-known empires of North America included the Inuits in the North and Mayans and Aztecs in the South
  4. European travellers to North America started from the 900s with the Viking and Greenland explorers

Common misconception

All Native American were the same and part of a single society

There was a wide range of indigenous nations in the Americas, with many differences between their sizes, social structure and cultures


  • Indigenous - indigenous people are the original inhabitants of a specific area

  • Native Americans - Native Americans are members of any of the societies who originally inhabited North and South America and the Caribbean Islands

  • Empire - an empire is a group of countries or provinces ruled from the centre by a person or group of people

  • Nation - a nation is a community of people linked together by shared language, territory, ethnicity, or culture

  • Hunter-gatherers - hunter-gatherers are people who live off hunting, fishing, and harvesting wild food

Pupils may appreciate the differences between indigenous societies through further visual instruction. Images of housing can be quite useful to explore contrasts (i.e. Iroquois longhouses vs pueblos)
Teacher tip

Content guidance

  • Contains conflict or violence.


Adult supervision suggested.


This content is © Oak National Academy Limited (2024), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See Oak's terms & conditions (Collection 2).



6 Questions

Which of these continents are not physically connected to Europe?
Correct answer: North America
Correct answer: South America
What physical barrier separates Europe from the Americas?
The Alps mountain range
Correct answer: The Atlantic Ocean
The Antarctic Ocean
The Andes mountain range
True or false? In the fifteenth century, most Europeans believed the world was flat.
Correct answer: False
Order these events chronologically from least to most recent.
1 - Romans conquer Britain
2 - Normans conquer England
3 - Black Death spreads from Asia to Europe
4 - Columbus travels to America
5 - Britain's Empire reaches its maximum size
What is 'a group of countries all ruled over by one person or country' called?
Correct Answer: empire, Empire, empires, Empires, imperialism
If Europeans wanted to spread Christianity to more people, what type of motive does this suggest they had for sailing abroad?
Correct answer: religion

6 Questions

Why were Viking attempts to settle in North America abandoned?
Correct answer: Conflict with Native Americans
Lack of necessary resources
Lack of interest
Why can Native Americans be described as indigenous to the Americas?
Correct answer: They inhabited the Americas before Europeans arrived
They had visited the Americas before Europeans arrived
They started living in the Americas at the same time as Europeans
Which Native American empire ruled over more than five million people?
Correct answer: Aztec
What type of home did most Iroquois live in?
Correct Answer: Longhouses, Longhouse, longhouse, longhouses
What were the Three Sisters?
Correct answer: Name for corn, bean, and squash crops grown by the Iroquois
Name for the female leaders of Iroquois nations
Name for the members of the Iroquois League
Name for the elements of earth, wind and fire given by the Iroquois
What was happening to the Iroquois population before Europeans arrived in the Americas?
Correct Answer: Increasing, growing, getting bigger, expanding, rising

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