Ch 1: First Contacts in the Americas

About This Chapter

Watch online history video lessons and take self-assessment quizzes to learn about Mesoamerican civilizations, the Spanish encomienda system, the Columbian exchange and more.

First Contacts in the Americas - Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives

Use the lessons in this chapter to learn about the earliest inhabitants of South and Central America as well as tribes residing in what would become the continental U.S. Explore the devastating effects of European colonization on these populations and assess the impact of Columbus' discovery on trade between the Old World and the New. This chapter is designed to teach you:

  • Theories explaining origins of the Americas' first people
  • Characteristics of Mesoamerican and pre-Columbian civilizations
  • Structure of the encomienda system in the Spanish colonies
  • Effects of European contact with indigenous populations in the Americas

Video Objective
Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas Examines the Bering Land Bridge, Atlantic and Oceana theories used to explain how the first people arrived in the Americas.
Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes Outlines the history and characteristics of early Mexican and Central American civilizations, including the Olmec, Maya and Aztecs. Briefly describes how Cortes brought their rule to an end.
The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America Discusses the origins and accomplishments of the Inca civilization. Depicts the kidnapping and murder of Pachacutec at the hands of Pizarro and the Spanish army.
Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans Provides an overview of the tribes inhabiting the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest and Great Plains.
Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans Explains how European explorers' introduction of metal tools, disease and slavery affected native inhabitants of the Americas.
New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies Explains the differences between explorers and conquistadors like Columbus, Vespucci and Coronado. Outlines the Spanish encomienda system used to organize labor and manage captors in the New World.
The Columbian Exchange Surveys the trade of goods, people and land initiated by Columbus' exploits in the Americas.

7 Lessons in Chapter 1: First Contacts in the Americas
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas

1. Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas

Because the first humans and civilizations got their start in Africa and the Middle East, historians and anthropologists have had to figure out how Native Americans got to the Americas. In this lesson we look at the three prevailing theories of the earliest migration to the New World.

Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes

2. Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes

This lesson focuses on the early cultures of Mesoamerica. The Olmec, Maya, and Aztecs developed great civilizations in Mesoamerica over millennia. Then, after all of this development and the building of a great empire, the Aztec were quickly defeated by Hernando Cortes.

The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America

3. The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America

The Incan Empire was an amazing empire of the early Americas. Their accomplishments rival those of many other great empires, but they were defeated by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in only a few years.

Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans

4. Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans

Watch this video for an overview of the cultural groups of Native Americans as they lived at the time of first contact with Europeans. Some of these groupings, like the tribes of the plains, changed so much due to the addition of European influences, such as horses, that there is only conjecture as to how exactly they lived before European contact.

Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans

5. Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans

The earliest explorers in the Western Hemisphere left a legacy that would shape the development of the Americas permanently. No matter what they came looking for, Europeans left behind death, horses, and metal.

New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies

6. New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies

Who are the most well-known explorers and conquistadors of the New World? In this lesson, we'll look at some of the most infamous explorers. We'll discover the difference between explorers and conquistadors, and then learn about the encomienda system.

The Columbian Exchange

7. The Columbian Exchange

The Columbian Exchange is a term used to denote the world-changing exchange of agricultural goods, slave labor, diseases, and ideas between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres that occurred after the year 1492 CE.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
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Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
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