The most common image modern Americans have of Native Americans is that of the Plains Indian. Reinforced by mainstream media sources such as television and movies our students' ideas about what Native American life typically seem to involve hunting buffalo and living in teepees. One of the main goals of this unit is to highlight for students the fact that not all Native Americans lived like this. By showing students that media can confuse the reality of situations, they hopefully will become more media literate. Native land uses in these areas while not the same as those of Natives in New England mimicked the imprint left on the land. In the Great Plains prairie of North America lived many different cultures. They were for the most part nomadic hunter gatherers whose lives were tied to the migrating cycles of the buffalo. These various tribes such as the Sioux lived in small communities that left little imprint on the land. There is evidence though that these hunter gatherers maybe have driven some large mammal species to extinction by over hunting. Large moose and mastodon species in the area all seem to have gone extinct around the time of arrival of these Native people. While the disappearance of these animals must have had ecological consequences, this is only highlighted to further show that Native Americans were not ecological angels. The effects they had upon the land were simply less intrusive than those of Europeans.
In the Southwestern United States Native Americans faced a very different set of circumstances than those in New England or the Great Plains. For the most part these Native Americans encountered Spanish as opposed to English and later Americans settlers. More importantly though was the ecological differences of these areas. The desert environment in the Southwest necessitated different land uses than in these other areas. There are few large game animals in the deserts of the Southwest so hunting played a small role in feeding these people. Tribes such as the Hopi and Navajo who lived in this area relied heavily on irrigation to feed their populations which lived in Small communities. By bringing water to areas that would have otherwise had very little Native Americans in this part of the country forced many changes upon the land, and created artificial oasis that attracted many different species.