History of Nevada: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

This lesson will teach you about the state of Nevada. You will learn about its early inhabitants, how it became a U.S. territory and state, and its popular attractions and places.

Native Americans and Early Explorers

The first people to live in Nevada were Native Americans. The tribes that lived there were the Walapai, Shoshone, Paiute, and Washoe. The European explorer Francisco Garces was the first non-Native American to find the area in 1776, and he claimed it for Spain. In 1821 the area became a territory of Mexico. Then in 1848 it became a territory of the United States after the U.S. won the Mexican-American War.

U.S. Territory and Statehood

In 1851 Americans began arriving in the Nevada area, many of them on their way to California. There was no government or authorities present, so there were sometimes fights between different religious groups, particularly the Mormons. In 1861 the United States Congress officially made the area the Nevada Territory. On October 31, 1864, Nevada became the 36th state to join the United States. They sent their state constitution all the way to Washington, D.C. by telegraph! They wanted to get it there quickly so that they would be able to vote in the November presidential election.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas


Gambling became legal in Nevada in 1931, and then became very popular in the 1950s. Gambling is when people bet money on things such as card games, video machines, or sporting events. Many tourists traveled to the area to gamble. Throughout the 1960s-1990s, more people moved to Nevada than any other state in the United States. Many people were moving to the area for the gambling cities of Las Vegas and Reno. Today, Las Vegas is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit, and it includes casinos (where people gamble) as well as a variety of shows for people to attend.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Lake Tahoe

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