School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic A. Individuals and Societies Change Over Time

Indicator 2. Compare Native American societies in Maryland before and after European colonization

Objective a. Identify the development of indigenous societies from the Pale-Indians to the Woodland Indians


The first people came to the area that is now Maryland about 13,000 to 10,000 years ago, when North America was covered with glaciers. Experts believe that the ancestors of these Paleo-Indians had crossed over from Asia to Alaska via a land bridge and gradually spread across the continent of North America. The area was covered by grasslands with a few coniferous trees, and the climate was very cold. The Chesapeake Bay did not exist at this time; it was still just the Susquehanna River valley. Maryland's Paleo-Indians were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers who moved from place to place gathering berries, nuts, leaves, and plant roots for food. They also hunted the big game that lived in the area, including woolly mammoths, great bison, caribou, and white-tailed deer. They lived in tent-like structures covered by animal hides that could be easily assembled and disassembled and used tools made of stone and bone. In all, only a few hundred Indians lived in Maryland during this period.

About 10,000 years ago, the glaciers melted and the climate warmed as the Ice Age ended. Rising sea levels created the Chesapeake Bay, and deciduous forests replaced the grasslands. At this time, most of the big game animals became extinct, although experts debate whether the primary cause was climatic change or overhunting. As a result, the Archaic Indians relied on smaller animals — especially deer — for food and clothing. Indians also gathered fish and shellfish from the Chesapeake Bay, and nuts played a larger role in their diets. Archaic Indians continued to travel from place to place.

The Woodland Period began about 1000 B.C. Although the Woodland Indians still hunted and gathered some of their food, they introduced the concept of agriculture. Cultivated corn, beans, and squash were staples of their diets. This innovation allowed them to settle in one place for extended periods, living in wigwams and longhouses made of saplings, bark, and grasses. Villages, comprising 10 to 30 wigwams, were usually established along rivers and streams, which provided water for drinking, cooking, and bathing, attracted animals for hunting, and made transportation easier. Maryland's Woodland Indians found most of the necessities of life in nature. In addition to using a deer's meat for food, for example, they also used its hide for clothing, its tendons for thread, and its bones for needles and fishing hooks. They made dugout canoes from logs and baskets from reeds and grasses. They made knives, arrows, and other tools from hard stones.

As the population swelled to 8,000-10,000 people by the late Woodland Period, Indian villages began to organize themselves into a number of different tribes, which in turn organized into loose federations dominated by the largest tribe. By the time of European contact, about 40 different Indian tribes existed in what became Maryland. On the Eastern Shore, the largest tribe was the Nanticoke, while on the Western Shore, the largest tribe was the Piscataway. Shawnee Indians lived in Western Maryland at various times. All of these tribes spoke languages from the Algonquin family. At the head of the Chesapeake Bay in Northern Maryland lived the Susquehannock tribe, who were part of the Iroquois language group (although not the Iroquois nation). The tribes regularly traded among each other, and occasionally warred with each other. The Susquehannocks were known as especially fierce warriors who often conducted raids on the Piscataway and Nanticoke.

Resources for Objective 5.A.2.a: