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Native Americans

The first Americans that migrated southward from the Arctic Circle to the southern tip of South America

Bering strait crossing

Bridge that connected Siberia and Alaska, which is now submerged under the Bering Sea. It allowed waves of migrants from Asia to arrive in America

Sioux and Pawnee

Nomadic tribes that followed the buffalo herds


Tribe in the Southwest that lived in multistory buildings and developed intricate irrigation systems for farming

Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian

Mound-building cultures that evolved in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys and elsewhere


The largest Indian settlement that had nearly 30,000 inhabitants, found near present-day East St. Louis, Illinois


Northeast Indian settlement, in which a political confederacy, the League of the Iroquois was formed. This league withstood attacks from opposing Native Americans and Europeans during much of the 17th and 18th centuries


One of three complex civilizations, which between A.D. 300 and 800, built remarkable cities in the rain forests of the Yucatan Peninsula


One of three complex civilizations, which came centuries after the Mayas and lived in central Mexico


One of three complex civilizations, which lived in Peru and ruled over vast empires


Rebirth of classical learning and an outburst of artistic and scientific activity. One aspect of this rebirth was a gradual increase in scientific knowledge and technological change


Invented by the Chinese, this led to portable weapons and the development of hand-held firearms such as muskets


Adopted from the Chinese by Arab merchants, this led to major improvements in navigation and map-making

printing press

Invented in the 1450s, this aided the spread of knowledge across Europe


Spanish Muslims that came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years, before being driven out in 1492

Ferdinand and Isabella

The king of Aragon and the queen of Castille, who united their separate Christian kingdoms, and were successful in defeating the Moors of Granada, the only Moorish stronghold. Their unity was a sign of new leadership, hope, and power for European believers in the Roman Catholic faith

Protestant Reformation

The revolt in the early 1500s, when Christians in Germany, England, France, Holland, and other northern European countries revolted against the authority of the pope in Rome


This provided an economic motive for exploration, which grew out of a fierce competition among European kingdoms

Henry the Navigator

Portuguese explorer, who sponsored a voyage south along the West African coast, and succeeded in opening up a long sea route around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope in hopes of reaching Asia

Vasco da Gama

The Portuguese sea captain, who was the first European to reach India by the route found by Prince Henry


A country in which the majority of people share a common culture and common political loyalties toward a central government. In the 15th century, many of these were being established in Spain, Portugal, France, England, and the Netherlands

Christopher Columbus

The Italian-born explorer who sought the support of Isabella and Ferdinand to sail west from Europe. In doing so, he believed he had found a western route to Asia and this brought him a burst of glory in Spain.

New World

The geographical region that was found by Columbus, instead of a route to the riches of China and the Indies.

Amerigo Vespucci

An Italian sailor, whom American was named after

papal line of demarcation

Due to disputes over the owneship of newly discovered lands between Spain and Portugal, the Catholic monarchs of these countries turned to the pope of Rome. In 1493, the pope drew a vertical, north-south line on a world map, giving Spain all the lands of the west of the line and Portugal all lands to the east

Treaty of Tordesillas

(1494); The treaty signed by Spain and Portugal, which moved the papal line a few degrees to the west

Vasco Núñez de Balboa

Spanish explorer and conquistador, who journeyed across the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean

Ferdinand Magellan

Portuguese explorer who circumnavigated the world

Hernan Cortés

Spanish conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire in the early 16th century

Francisco Pizarro

Spanish conquistador who conquered the Incan empire in Peru


Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, and sent ships loaded with gold and silver back to Spain from the New World

encomienda system

System in which the king of Spain gave grants of land and Indians to individual Spaniards. These Indians had to farm or work in the mines. The fruits of their labors went to their Spanish masters, who in turn had to "care" for them

asiento system

When European's brutality and diseases reduced the Native American population, the Spanish brought slaves from West Africa under this system, which required the Spanish to pay a tax to their king on each slave they imported to the Americas

John Cabot

Italian sea captain who was under contract to England's King Henry VII. He explored the coast of Newfoundland in 1497

Sir Francis Drake

English sea captain who attacked Spanish ships, seized the gold and silver that they carried, and even attacked Spanish settlements on the coast of Peru

Sir Walter Raleigh

English adventurer, who attempted to establish a settlement at Roanoke Island off the North Carolina coast in 1587, although this venture failed

Giovanni de Verrazano

Italian navigator, whose voyage was sponsored by the French monarchy. Hoping to find a northwest passage leading through the Americas to Asia, he explored part of North America's eastern coast, including New York harbor

Jacques Cartier

French explorer, who explored the St. Lawrence River. His voyages (1534-1542) influenced French claims on American territory

Samuel de Champlain

French navigator who established the first permanent French settlement in America in 1608 at Quebec, a fortified village on the St. Lawrence River. He was later regarded as the "Father of New France" because of his strong leadership in establishing the colony

Lois Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette

French explorers who explored the upper Mississippi River in 1673

Robert de la Salle

French explorer who, in 1682, explored the Mississippi basin, which he named Louisiana (after the French king Louis XIV)

Henry Hudson

An experienced English seamen, hired by the Dutch government, to seek a northwest passage

joint-stock company

A practical method that the English used for financing the costly and risky enterprise of founding new colonies. These corporations pooled the savings of people of moderate means and supported trading ventures that seemed potentially profitable

Father Junípero Serra

A Mallorcan Franciscan friar who founded the mission chain in Alta California of the Las Californias Province in New Spain—present day California, United States.

Virginia Company

A joint-stock company chartered by England's King James I. This company established the first permanent colony in America at Jamestown in 1607


Founded by the Virginia Company, the first settlers of this colony suffered great hardships from Indian attacks, famine, and disease - and their own mistakes. The settlement's location in a swampy area along the James River resulted in outbreaks of dysentery and malaria. Many of the settlers were unaccustomed to physical work. Others were gold-seeking adventurers who refused to hunt or farm. Thus, food supplies dwindled, and the colonists nearly starved.

Captain John Smith

A leader of the Virginia Colony (based at Jamestown) between September 1608 and August 1609, and led an exploration along the rivers of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay. He is also remembered for his role in establishing the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown and his brief association with Pocahontas

John Rolfe and Pocahontas

Developed a new variety of tobacco, which became very popular in Europe and brought financial prosperity to the colony

royal colony

A colony under the control of a king or queen; e.g. Virginia


Religious reformers who wanted to "purify" the Church of England of Catholic influences


Due to harsh weather, the Pilgrims decided to establish a colony here rather than go on to Jamestown


One group of Puritans that rejected the idea of simply reforming the Church of England, and wanted to organized a completely separate church, one that was independent of royal control


Separatists Puritans who first migrated to Holland, then decided to settle in the new colony in america then operated by the Virginia Company of London


The ship that contained about 100 Pilgrims with almost half as Separatists, and the rest, people with economic motives

Mayflower Compact

The first governing document of Plymouth Colony, written by the Pilgrims, who crossed the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower. It was signed on November 11, 1620, by 41 of the ship's 101 passengers, while the Mayflower was anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor within the hook at the northern tip of Cape Cod.

Massachusetts Bay Colony

An English colony founded by the owners of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which had in 1624 established a short-lived settlement on Cape Ann. The second attempt, begun in 1628, was successful, with about 20,000 people migrating to New England in the 1630s. The population was strongly Puritan, and its governance was dominated by a small group of leaders who were strongly influenced by Puritan religious leaders.

John Winthrop

Leader of 1000 Puritans that sailed that sailed for the Massachusetts shore and founded Boston and several other towns

Great Migration

The migration of some 15,000 settlers to the Massachusetts Bay colony due to a civil war in England in the 1630s

Virginia House of Burgesses

The first representative assembly in America founded in 1619, 12 years since the founding of Jamestown.

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