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Native Americans, also known as American Indians, First Americans, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the
Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific countries), or autochthonous peoples, are culturally distinct e ...
of the United States; sometimes including
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
and
territories of the United States Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many ...
, and other times limited to the mainland. There are 574 federally recognized tribes living within the US, about half of which are associated with
Indian reservation An Indian reservation is an area of land tenure In systems, land tenure is the legal in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to "hold" the land. It determines who can use land, for how long and under what conditions. Te ...

Indian reservation
s. "Native Americans" (as defined by the
United States Census The United States Census (plural censuses or census) is a census A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, and acquiring and recording information about the members of a given Statistical population, population. This term is used ...
) are Indigenous tribes that are originally from the
contiguous United States The contiguous United States or officially the conterminous United States, also known as the Lower 48, consists of the 48 adjoining U.S. states and the District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption ...
, along with
Alaska Natives Alaska Natives or Alaskan Natives are indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific c ...
. Indigenous peoples of the United States who are not American Indian or Alaska Native include
Native Hawaiians Native Hawaiians, or simply Hawaiians ( haw, kānaka ʻōiwi, , and ), are the of the . The traditional name of the Hawaiian people is ''Kānaka Maoli''. Hawaii was settled at least 800 years ago with the voyage of Polynesians from the . Th ...
,
Samoans Samoans or Samoan people ( sm, tagata Sāmoa) are the Indigenous peoples of Oceania, indigenous Polynesians, Polynesian people of the Samoan Islands, an archipelago in Polynesia, who speak the Samoan language. The group's home islands are politic ...
, and
Chamorros The Chamorro people (; also CHamoru) are the indigenous people Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a particul ...
. The US Census groups these peoples as " Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander". The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much earlier, from Asia via
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
. A vast variety of peoples, societies and cultures subsequently developed.
European colonization of the Americas Although the Norse had explored and colonized northeastern North America c. 1000 CE, the later and more well-known wave of European colonization of the Americas took place in the Americas The Americas (also collectively called Americ ...
, which began in 1492, resulted in a precipitous decline in Native American population because of new diseases,
wars War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, g ...
,
ethnic cleansing Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial, and religious groups from a given area, with the intent of making a region ethnically homogeneous Homogeneity and heterogeneity are concepts often used in the Science, science ...
, and
enslavement Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for another person (a slaver), while treated as property. Slavery typically involves the enslaved person being made ...
. After its formation, the United States, as part of its policy of
settler colonialism Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that seeks to replace the original population of the colonized territory with a new society of settlers. As with all forms of colonialism, it is based on exogenous domination, typically organized or su ...
, continued to wage war and perpetrated massacres against many Native American peoples, removed them from their ancestral lands, and subjected them to one-sided treaties and to discriminatory government policies, later focused on forced assimilation, into the 20th century. Since the 1960s, Native American self-determination movements have resulted in changes to the lives of Native Americans, though there are still many contemporary issues faced by Native Americans. Today, there are over five million Native Americans in the United States, 78% of whom live outside reservations:
California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States. With over 39.3million residents across a total area of approximately , it is the List of states and territories of the United States by population, most populous and the List of ...

California
,
Arizona Arizona ( ; nv, Hoozdo Hahoodzo ; ood, Alĭ ṣonak) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ...

Arizona
and
Oklahoma Oklahoma () is a U.S. state, state in the South Central United States, South Central region of the United States, bordered by the state of Texas on the south and west, Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, New ...
have the largest populations of Native Americans in the United States. Most Native Americans live in small towns or
rural area A rural landscape in Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000.">South_Karelia.html" ;"title="Lappeenranta, South Karelia">Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000. In general, a rural area or a countryside is a geographic ...

rural area
s. When the United States was created, established Native American tribes were generally considered semi-independent nations, as they generally lived in communities separate from
white White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue). It is the color of snow, chalk, and milk, and is the opposite of black. White objects fully diffuse reflection, reflect and scattering, scatter all the visible spectrum, visible wa ...
settlers A settler is a person who has migrated to an area and established a permanent residence there, often to colonize the area. A settler who migrates to an area previously uninhabited or sparsely inhabited may be described as a pioneer. Settle ...
. The federal government signed treaties at a government-to-government level until the Indian Appropriations Act of 1871 ended recognition of independent native nations, and started treating them as "domestic dependent nations" subject to federal law. This law did preserve the rights and privileges agreed to under the treaties, including a large degree of
tribal sovereignty 300px, Map of the contiguous United States with reservation lands excluded as of 2003 Tribal sovereignty in the United States is the concept of the inherent authority of indigenous tribes to govern themselves within the borders of the Uni ...
. For this reason, many Native American reservations are still independent of state law and the actions of tribal citizens on these reservations are subject only to tribal courts and federal law. The
Indian Citizenship Act The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, (, enacted June 2, 1924) was an Act of the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make la ...
of 1924 granted U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States who had not yet obtained it. This emptied the "Indians not taxed" category established by the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first ...

United States Constitution
, allowed natives to vote in state and federal elections, and extended the Fourteenth Amendment protections granted to people "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. However, some states continued to deny
Native Americans voting rights
Native Americans voting rights
for several decades.
Bill of Rights A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental ...

Bill of Rights
protections do not apply to tribal governments, except for those mandated by the
Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 The Civil Rights Act of 1968 () is a landmark law in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North ...
.


Background

Beginning toward the end of the 15th century, the migration of Europeans to the Americas led to centuries of population, cultural, and agricultural transfer and adjustment between
Old Old or OLD may refer to: Places *Old, Baranya Old () is a village in Baranya (county), Baranya county, Hungary. Populated places in Baranya County {{Baranya-geo-stub ..., Hungary *Old, Northamptonshire Old (previously Wold and befor ...
and
New World The "New World" is a term for the majority of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The re ...
societies, a process known as the
Columbian exchange#REDIRECT Columbian exchange native plants. Clockwise, from top left: 1. Citrus (Rutaceae); 2. Apple An apple is an edible fruit produced by an apple tree (''Malus domestica''). Apple fruit tree, trees are agriculture, cultivated worldwid ...
. As most Native American groups had previously preserved their histories by means of
oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication Human communication, or anthroposemiotics, is the field dedicated to understanding how human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of prima ...
s and artwork, the first written accounts of the contact were provided by Europeans.Calloway, Colin G
"Native Americans First View Whites from the Shore"
''American Heritage'', Spring 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2011
Ethnographers Ethnography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 ...

Ethnographers
commonly classify the
Indigenous peoples of North America The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the inhabitants of the Americas before the arrival of the European colonization of the Americas, European settlers in the 15th century, and the ethnic groups who now identify themselves with those peopl ...
into ten geographical regions with shared
cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling diff ...

cultural
traits, called cultural areas. Some scholars combine the Plateau and Great Basin regions into the Intermontane West, some separate Prairie peoples from Great Plains peoples, while some separate Great Lakes tribes from the Northeastern Woodlands. The ten cultural areas are: *
Arctic The Arctic ( or ) is a polar regions of Earth, polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Danish Realm, ...
, including
Aleut The Aleuts (; russian: Алеуты, Aleuty), who are usually known in the Aleut language The Aleuts (; russian: Алеуты, Aleuty), who are usually known in the by the s Unangan (eastern dialect), Unangas (western dialect),
,
Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, ...
, and
Yupik peoples The Yupik (plural: Yupiit) (; russian: Юпикские народы) are a group of indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autoch ...
*
Subarctic The sub-Arctic zone is a region in the Northern Hemisphere immediately south of the true Arctic and covering much of Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, An ...
* Northeastern Woodlands * Southeastern Woodlands *
Great Plains The Great Plains (french: Grandes Plaines), sometimes simply "the Plains", is a broad expanse of flatland ''Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions'' is a satire, satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott, first publi ...
*
Great Basin The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be described as the ...
*
Northwest Plateau The Pacific Northwest (PNW), sometimes referred to as Cascadia, is a geographic region in western North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can ...
* Northwest Coast *
California California is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...
*
Southwest The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibrium, rounded by its own gravity ...
(
Oasisamerica Oasisamerica is a term that was coined by Paul Kirchhoff (who also coined that of Mesoamerica) and published in a 1954 article, and is used by some scholars, primarily Mexican anthropologists, for the broad cultural area defining pre-Columbian ...

Oasisamerica
) At the time of the first contact, the Indigenous cultures were quite different from those of the proto-industrial and mostly
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koi ...

Christian
immigrants. Some Northeastern and Southwestern cultures, in particular, were
matrilineal Matrilineality is the tracing of kinship through the female line. It may also correlate with a social system in which each person is identified with their matriline – their mother's Lineage (anthropology), lineage – and which can inv ...
and operated on a more collective basis than that with which Europeans were familiar. The majority of Indigenous American tribes treated their hunting grounds and agricultural lands as being for the use of their entire tribe. At that time, Europeans had cultures that had developed concepts of individual
property rights The right to property, or the right to own property (cf. ownership Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be any asset, including an object, land or real estate, intellectual property, or until th ...
with respect to land that were extremely different. The differences in cultures between the established Native Americans and immigrant Europeans, and the shifting alliances among different nations during periods of warfare caused extensive political tension, ethnic violence, and social disruption. Even before the European settlement of what is now the United States, Native Americans suffered high fatality rates from contact with European diseases that were new to them, and therefore to which they had not yet acquired
immunity Immunity may refer to: Medicine * Immunity (medical), resistance of an organism to infection or disease * Immunity (journal), ''Immunity'' (journal), a scientific journal published by Cell Press Biology * Immune system Engineering * Radiofrequ ...
; the diseases were endemic to the Spanish and other Europeans, and were spread by direct contact-probably primarily contact with domesticated pigs that had been brought over by European expeditions and had then escaped. Smallpox epidemics are thought to have caused the greatest loss of life for Indigenous populations. As William M. Denevan, a noted author and Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in "The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492": "The decline of native American populations was rapid and severe, probably the greatest demographic disaster ever. Old World diseases were the primary killer. In many regions, particularly the tropical lowlands, populations fell by 90 percent or more in the first century after the contact."William M. Denevan, "The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492"
posted at Northern Arizona University, published in Sept. 1992, ''Annals of the Association of American Geographers''
Estimates of the size of the pre-Columbian population of the area that today is the United States vary considerably. They range from William M. Denevan's estimate of 3.8 million- in his 1992 work, ''The Native Population of the Americas in 1492''-to Henry F. Dobyns's 18 million in his 1983 work,''Their Number Become Thinned''. Because Henry F. Dobyns’ is by far the highest single-point estimate among professional academic researchers, it has been criticized as "politically motivated". Dobyns' most vehement critic is perhaps David Henige, a bibliographer of African literature at the University of Wisconsin, whose ''Numbers From Nowhere'' (1998) has been jocularly described as "a landmark in the literature of demographic fulmination". Henige writes of Dobyns' work, "Suspect in 1966, it is no less suspect nowadays … If anything, it is worse." After the
thirteen British colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America founded in the 17th and 18th centuries which ...
revolted against
Great Britain Great Britain is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll (), ...

Great Britain
and established the United States,
President President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American soldier, statesman, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. Natio ...

George Washington
and
Secretary of War The secretary of war was a member of the U.S. president The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foak ...
Henry Knox Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 – October 25, 1806) was an American military officer who was a senior general of the Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the Thirteen Colonies and the Revolutionary-era United States. It was fo ...

Henry Knox
conceived the idea of "civilizing" Native Americans in preparation for their assimilation as U.S. citizens. Assimilation (whether it was voluntary, as it was with the
Choctaw The Choctaw (in the Choctaw language The Choctaw language (Choctaw: ), spoken by the Choctaw, an Indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands, is part of the Muskogean languages, Muskogean language family. Chickasaw language, Chickasaw (C ...

Choctaw
, or forced), was consistently maintained as a matter of policy by a number of consecutive American administrations. During the 19th century, the ideology known as
manifest destiny Manifest destiny was a widely held cultural belief in the 19th century in the United States, 19th-century United States that American settlers were destined to expand across North America. There are three basic themes to manifest destiny: * T ...

manifest destiny
became integral to the American nationalist movement. Westward expansion of European-American populations after the American Revolution resulted in increasing pressure on Native Americans and their lands, warfare, and rising tensions. In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the
Indian Removal Act The Indian Removal Act was signed into law on May 28, 1830, by United States President Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American lawyer, soldier, and statesman who served as the seventh preside ...
, authorizing the government to relocate Native Americans from their homelands within established states to lands west of the
Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and b ...

Mississippi River
, in order to accommodate continued European-American expansion. This resulted in what amounted to the
ethnic cleansing Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial, and religious groups from a given area, with the intent of making a region ethnically homogeneous Homogeneity and heterogeneity are concepts often used in the Science, science ...
of many tribes and brutal forced marches that came to be known as the Trail of Tears. Contemporary Native Americans have a unique relationship with the United States because they may be members of nations, tribes, or bands that have
sovereignty Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. Sovereignty entails hierarchy within the state, as well as external autonomy for states. In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or institution that has the ultimate a ...
and
treaty rights In Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States the term treaty rights specifically refers to rights for indigenous peoples enumerated in treaties with settler societies that arose from European colonization. Who is indigenous is unde ...
upon which federal Indian law and a federal Indian trust relationship are based.U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs
Native American Faculty and Staff Association News. University of California, Davis. Accessed October 25, 2011.
Cultural activism since the late 1960s has increased the participation of Indigenous peoples in American politics. It has also led to expanded efforts to teach and preserve Indigenous languages for younger generations, and to establish a more robust cultural infrastructure: Native Americans have founded independent newspapers and online media outlets, including
First Nations Experience First Nations Experience (FNX) is a non-profit television network in San Bernardino, California, owned by the San Bernardino Community College District. The network, created by Executive Director Charles Fox, is broadcast from the KVCR-TV studio ...
, the first Native American television channel;"FNX: First Nations Experience Television"
Native American Faculty and Staff Association News. University of California, Davis. Accessed October 25, 2011.
established
Native American studies Native American studies (also known as American Indian, Indigenous American, Indigenous peoples, Aboriginal, Native, or First Nations studies) is an interdisciplinary academic field that examines the history, culture, politics, issues, spiritual, ...
programs, tribal schools
universities A university () is an of (or ) and which awards s in several . Universities typically offer both and programs in different schools or faculties of learning. The word ''university'' is derived from the ''universitas magistrorum et scholari ...
, museums and language programs. Literature is at the growing forefront of American Indian studies in many genres, with the notable exception of fiction—some traditional American Indians experience fictional narratives as insulting when they conflict with traditional oral tribal narratives. The terms used to refer to Native Americans have at times been controversial. The ways Native Americans refer to themselves vary by region and generation, with many older Native Americans self-identifying as "Indians" or "American Indians", while younger Native Americans often identify as "Indigenous" or "Aboriginal". The term "Native American" has not traditionally included
Native Hawaiians Native Hawaiians, or simply Hawaiians ( haw, kānaka ʻōiwi, , and ), are the of the . The traditional name of the Hawaiian people is ''Kānaka Maoli''. Hawaii was settled at least 800 years ago with the voyage of Polynesians from the . Th ...
or certain
Alaskan Natives Alaska Natives or Alaskan Natives are Indigenous peoples of the Americas, indigenous peoples of Alaska, United States and include: Iñupiat, Yupik peoples, Yupik, Aleut people, Aleut, Eyak people, Eyak, Tlingit people, Tlingit, Haida people, Hai ...
, such as
Aleut The Aleuts (; russian: Алеуты, Aleuty), who are usually known in the Aleut language The Aleuts (; russian: Алеуты, Aleuty), who are usually known in the by the s Unangan (eastern dialect), Unangas (western dialect),
,
Yup'ik The Yup'ik or Yupiaq (sg & pl) and Yupiit or Yupiat (pl), also Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Central Yup'ik, Alaskan Yup'ik (Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, own name ''Yup'ik'' sg ''Yupiik'' dual ''Yupiit'' pl; russian: Юпики централ ...
, or
Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, ...
peoples. By comparison, the
Indigenous peoples of Canada Indigenous Canadians (also known as Aboriginal Canadians or First Peoples) are the indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct et ...
are generally known as
First Nations The First Nations (french: Premières Nations ) are groups of Canadian indigenous peoples, who are classified as distinct from the Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally s ...
.


History


Settlement of the Americas

It is not definitively known how or when the Native Americans first settled the Americas and the present-day United States. The prevailing theory proposes that people migrated from
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

Eurasia
across
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
, a
land bridge In biogeography Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A sp ...
that connected
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region, constituting all of North Asia, from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. It has been a part of R ...

Siberia
to present-day
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...

Alaska
during the Last Glacial Period, and then spread southward throughout the Americas over subsequent generations. Genetic evidence suggests at least three waves of migrants arrived from
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...

East Asia
, with the first occurring at least 15,000 years ago. These migrations may have begun as early as 30,000 years ago and continued to about 10,000 years ago, when the land bridge became submerged by the
rising sea level Tide gauge measurements show that the current global sea level rise began at the start of the 20th century. Between 1900 and 2017, the globally averaged sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average level ...
at the onset of the current
interglacial An interglacial period (or alternatively interglacial, interglaciation) is a geological interval of warmer global average temperature lasting thousands of years that separates consecutive glacial period A glacial period (alternatively glacial or ...
period.


Pre-Columbian era

The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the
American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...

American
continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
period to European colonization during the
early modern period The early modern period of modern history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, and since the History of writing, adve ...
. While technically referring to the era before
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or ) * la, Christophorus Columbus. (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was an Italian ...

Christopher Columbus
' 1492 arrival on the continent, in practice the term usually includes the history of Indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades, or even centuries, after Columbus' initial landing. Native American cultures are not normally included in characterizations of advanced Stone Age cultures as "
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is t ...
", which is a category that more often includes only the cultures in Eurasia, Africa, and other regions. The archaeological periods used are the classifications of archaeological periods and cultures established in
Gordon Willey Gordon Randolph Willey (7 March 1913 – 28 April 2002) was an American archaeologist who was described by colleagues as the "dean" of New World archaeology.Sabloff 2004, p.406 Willey performed fieldwork at excavations in South America, Central A ...
and Philip Phillips' 1958 book ''Method and Theory in American Archaeology''. They divided the archaeological record in the Americas into
five phases Tablet in the Chinese_and_ Temple_of_Heaven_of_Beijing,_written_in_Chinese_language">Chinese_and_Manchu_language">Manchu,_dedicated_to_the_Wufang_Shangdi.html" ;"title="Manchu_language.html" ;"title="Chinese_language.html" ;"title="Beijing.h ...
.


Lithic stage

Numerous
Paleoindian Paleo-Indians, Paleoindians or Paleo-Americans, were the first peoples who entered, and subsequently inhabited, the Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North and South Americ ...
cultures occupied North America, with some arrayed around the
Great Plains The Great Plains (french: Grandes Plaines), sometimes simply "the Plains", is a broad expanse of flatland ''Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions'' is a satire, satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott, first publi ...
and
Great Lakes The Great Lakes also called the Great Lakes of North America or the Laurentian Great Lakes, is a series of large interconnected freshwater lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land ...

Great Lakes
of the modern United States and
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, ...

Canada
, as well as adjacent areas to the West and Southwest. According to the oral histories of many of the Indigenous peoples, they have been living on this continent since their genesis, described by a wide range of traditional
creation stories A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) is a symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, Object (philosophy), object, or wikt:relationship, relationship. Symbols allow people to g ...
. Other tribes have stories that recount migrations across long tracts of land and a great river believed to be the
Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and b ...

Mississippi River
. Genetic and linguistic data connect the Indigenous people of this continent with ancient northeast Asians. Archeological and linguistic data has enabled scholars to discover some of the migrations within the Americas. Archeological evidence at the Gault site near Austin, Texas, demonstrates that
pre-Clovis The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology ...
peoples settled in Texas some 16,000–20,000 years ago. Evidence of pre-Clovis cultures have also been found in the
Paisley Caves The Paisley Caves complex is a system of four cave A cave or cavern is a natural void in the ground Ground may refer to: * Soil, a mixture of clay, sand and organic matter present on the surface of the Earth * Ground (electricity), the refere ...
in south-central Oregon and butchered in a
sinkhole A sinkhole is a depression or hole in the ground caused by some form of collapse of the surface layer. The term is sometimes used to refer to doline, enclosed depressions that are locally also known as vrtače and shakeholes, and to openings ...

sinkhole
near Tallahassee, Florida. More convincingly but also controversially, another pre-Clovis has been discovered at
Monte Verde Monte Verde is an archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric or recorded history, historic or contemporary), and which has been, or may ...

Monte Verde
, Chile. The
Clovis culture The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology ...
, a
megafauna In terrestrial zoology Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that studies the animal kingdom, including the anatomy, structure, embryology, evolutio ...

megafauna
hunting culture, is primarily identified by the use of fluted
spear A spear is a pole weapon A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking pow ...

spear
points. Artifacts from this culture were first excavated in 1932 near
Clovis, New Mexico Clovis is the county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration within a pa ...
. The Clovis culture ranged over much of North America and appeared in South America. The culture is identified by the distinctive
Clovis pointImage:Clovis Point.jpg, 300px, A Clovis projectile point created using bifacial percussion flaking (that is, each face is flaked on both edges alternatively with a percussor)Image courtesy of the Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources. Clovis points a ...

Clovis point
, a flaked flint spear-point with a notched flute, by which it was inserted into a shaft. The dating of Clovis materials has been by association with animal bones and by the use of
carbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for Chronological dating, determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of carbon-14, radiocarbon, a radioactive Isotopes ...
methods. Recent reexaminations of Clovis materials using improved carbon-dating methods produced results of 11,050 and 10,800 radiocarbon years B.P. (roughly 9100 to 8850 BCE). The
Folsom Tradition The Folsom Complex was a Paleo-Indian archaeological culture that occupied much of central North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also b ...
was characterized by the use of
Folsom point Folsom points are a distinct form of knapped stone projectile points In North American archaeological terminology, a projectile point is an object that was hafted to weapon that was capable of being thrown or projected, such as a javelin A ...

Folsom point
s as projectile tips and activities known from kill sites, where slaughter and butchering of
bison Bison are large, even-toed ungulate The even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla , ) are ungulate Ungulates ( ) are members of the diverse clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', "branch"), also known as a monophyletic group or natural gro ...

bison
took place. Folsom tools were left behind between 9000 BCE and 8000 BCE. -speaking peoples entered North America starting around 8000 BCE, reaching the
Pacific Northwest The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is a geographic region in western North America bounded by its coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains to the east. Though no official boundary exists, the most common co ...
by 5000 BCE, and from there migrating along the and into the interior. Linguists, anthropologists, and archaeologists believe their ancestors comprised a separate migration into North America, later than the first Paleo-Indians. They migrated into Alaska and northern Canada, south along the Pacific Coast, into the interior of Canada, and south to the Great Plains and the American Southwest. -speaking peoples were the earliest ancestors of the
Athabascan Athabaskan (also spelled ''Athabascan'', ''Athapaskan'' or ''Athapascan'', and also known as Dene) is a large family of indigenous languages of the Americas, indigenous languages of North America, located in western North America in three areal ...
-speaking peoples, including the present-day and historical
Navajo The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a of the . At more than 399,494 enrolled tribal members , the is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S. (the being the second largest); the Navajo Nation has the larges ...
and
Apache The Apache () are a group of culturally related Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans ...

Apache
. They constructed large multi-family dwellings in their villages, which were used seasonally. People did not live there year-round, but for the summer to hunt and fish, and to gather food supplies for the winter.


Archaic period

Since the 1990s, archeologists have explored and dated eleven Middle
Archaic Archaic is a period of time preceding a designated classical period, or something from an older period of time that is also not found or used currently: *List of archaeological periods **Archaic Sumerian language, spoken between 31st - 26th centu ...
sites in present-day Louisiana and
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
at which early cultures built complexes with multiple earthwork
mound A mound is a heaped pile of earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is ...

mound
s; they were societies of hunter-gatherers rather than the settled agriculturalists believed necessary according to the theory of
Neolithic Revolution The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (Ameri ...
to sustain such large villages over long periods. The prime example is
Watson Brake Watson Brake is an archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human ...
in northern Louisiana, whose 11-mound complex is dated to 3500 BCE, making it the oldest, dated site in North America for such complex construction. It is nearly 2,000 years older than the
Poverty Point#REDIRECT Poverty Point Poverty Point State Historical Site (french: Pointe de Pauvreté; 16 WC 5) is a prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world hist ...
site. Construction of the mounds went on for 500 years until the site was abandoned about 2800 BCE, probably due to changing environmental conditions.Joe W. Saunders*, Rolfe D. Mandel, Roger T. Saucier, E. Thurman Allen, C. T. Hallmark, Jay K. Johnson, Edwin H. Jackson, Charles M. Allen, Gary L. Stringer, Douglas S. Frink, James K. Feathers, Stephen Williams, Kristen J. Gremillion, Malcolm F. Vidrine, and Reca Jones
"A Mound Complex in Louisiana at 5400–5000 Years Before the Present"
''Science'', September 19, 1997: Vol. 277 no. 5333, pp. 1796–1799, accessed October 27, 2011
The
Oshara Tradition Oshara Tradition, the northern tradition of the Picosa culture The Picosa culture encapsulates the Archaic lifestyles of people from three locations with interconnected artifacts and lifestyles. It was named by Cynthia Irwin-Williams in the 1960 ...
people lived from around 5,440 BCE to 460 CE. They were part of the Southwestern Archaic Tradition centered in north-central
New Mexico ) , population_demonym = New Mexican ( es, Neomexicano, Neomejicano, Nuevo Mexicano) , seat = Santa Fe , LargestCity = Albuquerque , LargestMetro = Greater Albuquerque , OfficialLang = None , Languages = English English usually refer ...

New Mexico
, the
San Juan Basin The San Juan Basin is a geologic structural basin located near the Four Corners region of the Southwestern United States. The basin covers 7,500 square miles and resides in northwestern New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, and parts of Utah and ...
, the
Rio Grande The Rio Grande ( and ), known in Mexico as the Río Bravo del Norte and as the Río Bravo, is one of the principal river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another r ...

Rio Grande
Valley, southern
Colorado Colorado (, other variants) is a state in the Mountain West The Mountain West Conference (MW) is one of the collegiate athletic conferences affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic ...

Colorado
, and southeastern
Utah Utah ( , ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mountain states, Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. Utah is a landlocked U.S. state bordered to its east by Colorado, to its northeast by Wyoming, to its north by Idaho, to its so ...

Utah
.
Poverty Point culture 350px, An aerial view of the earthworks, built by the prehistoric Poverty Point culture, located in present-day Louisiana. The Poverty Point culture is the archaeological culture of a prehistoric Indigenous peoples of the Americas, indigenous peo ...
is a Late Archaic
archaeological culture An archaeological culture is a recurring Assemblage (archaeology), assemblage of types of Artifact (archaeology), artifacts, buildings and monuments from a specific period and region that may constitute the material culture remains of a particular ...
that inhabited the area of the lower Mississippi Valley and surrounding Gulf Coast. The culture thrived from 2200 BCE to 700 BCE, during the Late Archaic period. Evidence of this culture has been found at more than 100 sites, from the major complex at Poverty Point, Louisiana (a
UNESCO World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNES ...
) across a range to the near
Belzoni, Mississippi Belzoni ( ) is a city in Humphreys County, Mississippi, United States, in the Mississippi Delta region, on the Yazoo River. The population was 2,235 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Humphreys County. It was named for the 19th-centur ...
.


Post-archaic period

The Formative, Classic and post-Classic stages are sometimes incorporated together as the Post-archaic period, which runs from 1000 BCE onward. Sites & cultures include: Adena, Old Copper,
Oasisamerica Oasisamerica is a term that was coined by Paul Kirchhoff (who also coined that of Mesoamerica) and published in a 1954 article, and is used by some scholars, primarily Mexican anthropologists, for the broad cultural area defining pre-Columbian ...

Oasisamerica
,
Woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the ''plurale tantum A ''plurale tantum'' (Latin for "plural only"; ) is a noun that appears only in the plural The plu ...
,
Fort Ancient Fort Ancient is a name for a Native American culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, ...

Fort Ancient
,
Hopewell tradition The Hopewell tradition (also called the Hopewell culture) describes the common aspects of an ancient pre-Columbian Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of ...
and
Mississippian culture The Mississippian culture was a Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United Sta ...
s. The
Woodland period In the classification of archaeological cultures of North America, the Woodland period of North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be d ...
of North American pre-Columbian cultures refers to the time period from roughly 1000 BCE to 1000 CE in the eastern part of North America. The Eastern Woodlands cultural region covers what is now eastern Canada south of the
Subarctic The sub-Arctic zone is a region in the Northern Hemisphere immediately south of the true Arctic and covering much of Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, An ...
region, the
Eastern United States The eastern United States, commonly referred to as the American East, Eastern America, or simply the East, is the region of the United States lying to the east of the Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the second-longest river an ...
, along to the
Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico ( es, Golfo de México) is an ocean basin 400px, Diagrammatic cross-section of an ocean basin, showing the various geographic features In hydrology Hydrology (from Greek: wikt:ὕδωρ, ὕδωρ, "hýdōr" meaning ...

Gulf of Mexico
. The
Hopewell tradition The Hopewell tradition (also called the Hopewell culture) describes the common aspects of an ancient pre-Columbian Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of ...
describes the common aspects of the culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern United States from 100 BCE to 500 CE, in the
Middle Woodland period In the classification of :category:Archaeological cultures of North America, archaeological cultures of North America, the Woodland period of North American pre-Columbian cultures spanned a period from roughly 1000 Common Era, BCE to European cont ...
. The Hopewell tradition was not a single
culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals i ...
or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations. They were connected by a common network of trade routes. This period is considered a developmental stage without any massive changes in a short period, but instead having a continuous development in stone and bone tools, leather working, textile manufacture, tool production, cultivation, and shelter construction. The
Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast The Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a particular place. The term ''indigenous'' was firs ...
were of many nations and tribal affiliations, each with distinctive cultural and political identities, but they shared certain beliefs, traditions, and practices, such as the centrality of
salmon Salmon is the common name for several species of ray-finned fish Actinopterygii ( New Latin ('having rays') + Greek ( 'wing, fins')), members of which are known as ray-finned fishes, is a clade A clade (; from grc, , ''klados'', ...

salmon
as a resource and spiritual symbol. Their gift-giving feast,
potlatch A potlatch is a gift-giving feast practiced by Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast The Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are cu ...

potlatch
, is a highly complex event where people gather in order to commemorate special events. These events include the raising of a
Totem pole pole (left) and Kwakwaka'wakw pole (right) at Thunderbird Park (Victoria, British Columbia), Thunderbird Park in Victoria, British Columbia, Victoria, Canada. Totem poles ( hai, gyáaʼaang) are monumental carvings, a type of Northwest Coast art, ...

Totem pole
or the appointment or election of a new chief. The most famous artistic feature of the culture is the Totem pole, with carvings of animals and other characters to commemorate cultural beliefs, legends, and notable events. The
Mississippian culture The Mississippian culture was a Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United Sta ...
was a mound-building Native American civilization archaeologists date from approximately 800 CE to 1600 CE, varying regionally.Adam King, "Mississippian Period: Overview"
''New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2002, accessed November 15, 2009
It was composed of a series of urban settlements and
satellite village A satellite village is a term for one or more settlements that have arisen within the outskirts of a larger one. See also * Satellite state References *Lund Studies in Geography: Human Geography. 1989. Issues 53–56. Page 103Google Books*Kanok R ...
s (suburbs) linked together by a loose trading network, the largest city being
Cahokia The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site ( 11 MS 2) is the site of a pre-Columbian Native American city (which existed 1050–1350 CE) directly across the Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the List of longest rivers of the Uni ...
, believed to be a major religious center. The civilization flourished in what is now the
Midwestern The midwestern United States, often referred to simply as the Midwest, is one of four census regions of the United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau (USCB), officially the Bureau of the Census, is a principal agency of ...
,
Eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct American airline that operated from 1926 to 1991 *Eastern Air Lin ...
, and
Southeastern United States The southeastern United States, also referred to as the American Southeast or simply the Southeast, is broadly the eastern portion of the southern United States The Southern United States, also referred to as the Southern States, the Ame ...
. Numerous pre-Columbian societies were sedentary, such as the
Pueblo peoples The Puebloans or Pueblo peoples, are Native Americans in the Southwestern United States The southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest or simply the Southwest, is a geographic and cultural region of the United States tha ...
,
Mandan The Mandan are a Native American tribe of the Great Plains who have lived for centuries primarily in what is now North Dakota North Dakota () is a U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly k ...

Mandan
,
Hidatsa The Hidatsa are a Siouan languages, Siouan people. They are enrolled in the Federally recognized tribe, federally recognized Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. Hidatsa la ...
and others, and some established large settlements, even cities, such as
Cahokia The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site ( 11 MS 2) is the site of a pre-Columbian Native American city (which existed 1050–1350 CE) directly across the Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the List of longest rivers of the Uni ...
, in what is now
Illinois Illinois ( ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspape ...

Illinois
. The
Iroquois The Iroquois ( or ) or Haudenosaunee (; "People of the Longhouse") are an indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous pe ...

Iroquois
League of Nations or "People of the Long House" was a politically advanced, democratic society, which is thought by some historians to have influenced the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first ...

United States Constitution
, with the
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...
passing a resolution to this effect in 1988. Other historians have contested this interpretation and believe the impact was minimal, or did not exist, pointing to numerous differences between the two systems and the ample precedents for the constitution in European political thought.


European exploration and colonization

After 1492, European exploration and colonization of the Americas revolutionized how the Old and New Worlds perceived themselves. Many of the first major contacts were in Florida and the Gulf coast by
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
explorers. Some scholars have designated this point in history as the beginning of the "Age of Capital" or the Capitalocene: an epoch that encompasses the profit-driven era that has led to climate change, global land change.


Impact on native populations

From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Native Americans sharply declined. Most mainstream scholars believe that, among the various contributing factors,"Indian Mixed-Blood"
Frederick W. Hodge, ''Handbook of American Indians'', 1906.
epidemic An epidemic (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approx ...
disease A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure A structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system A system is a group of Interaction, interactin ...
was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the Native Americans because of their lack of
immunity Immunity may refer to: Medicine * Immunity (medical), resistance of an organism to infection or disease * Immunity (journal), ''Immunity'' (journal), a scientific journal published by Cell Press Biology * Immune system Engineering * Radiofrequ ...
to new diseases brought from Europe. It is difficult to estimate the number of pre-Columbian Native Americans who were living in what is today the United States of America. Estimates range from a low of 2.1 million to a high of 18 million ( Dobyns 1983). By 1800, the Native population of the present-day United States had declined to approximately 600,000, and only 250,000 Native Americans remained in the 1890s.
Chicken pox Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a highly contagious disease caused by the initial infection An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-causing agents, their multiplication, a ...
and
measles Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host (biology), host tissues to ...
,
endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest gro ...
but rarely fatal among Europeans (long after being introduced from Asia), often proved deadly to Native Americans. In the 100 years following the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas, large disease epidemics depopulated large parts of the eastern United States in the 16th century. There are a number of documented cases where diseases were deliberately spread among Native Americans as a form of
biological warfare Biological warfare, also known as germ warfare, is the use of Toxin#Biotoxins, biological toxins or Pathogen, infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, insects, and Fungus, fungi with the intent to kill, harm or incapacitate humans, animal ...
. The most well-known example occurred in 1763, when Sir
Jeffery Amherst Field marshal (United Kingdom), Field Marshal Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, (29 January 1717 – 3 August 1797) was an officer and Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in the British Army. Amherst is best known as the architect of Britain's ...
,
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces The Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, later Commander-in-Chief, British Army, or just the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), was (intermittently) the professional head of the English Army