People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Native Americans Part 2

About the Native Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Native Americans and more.


Where They Came From: The question of the origin of the native Americans in the U.S. precipitates differences between scholar-scientists and traditionalist native Americans. The religious and folk accounts of all native Americans place their origin in the American hemisphere. The Hopi, for instance, relate that they emerged from the earth's interior onto the North American continent, and the Mandan also assert that they came from underground. Scholars, on the other hand, contend that the peoples encountered here by the white man were immigrants from Asia, their entry point being the Bering Strait with its closely spaced Diomede Islands. These early immigrants either walked across the exposed floor of the strait, waded through shallow water, bridged the strait when it was frozen solid, or island-hopped on primitive water craft. The dates of the many migratory waves are in contention, but existing evidence suggests a period as early as 80,000, but no later than 50,000, years ago. Scientists who cling to the belief that humans arrived here more recently are confounded by the stone scrapers, knives, and hammers unearthed on an alluvial fan in the Calico Mountains of California, which are of an age estimated at well over 50,000 years--a conclusion confirmed by the eminent anthropologist Louis S. B. Leakey. To date, no pre--Homo sapien skeletal remains have been found in this hemisphere. Unless they are, we must accept the theory that the native Americans came to the Western Hemisphere from Asia.

Numbers: An estimate of the number of native Americans in 1492, when the Europeans arrived in the "New World" is about 1,115,000 indigenous people in what was to become the contiguous U.S. Various native American groups insist there were 2.5 million. Whatever the figure, the native American population declined steadily after 1500 A.D. as a result of wars with the whites, contact with unfamiliar diseases, deliberate extermination, and the introduction of grain alcohol (Benjamin Franklin suggested rum would be most efficient in the extirpation--his word--of the savages). By 1890, there were fewer than 90,000 native Americans in the U.S. In the next 80 years, however, a phenomenal comeback took place among native peoples. The census bureau holds that there were 357,000 native Americans in 1950 and 793,000 in 1970. Of the total number in 1970, 391,000 were listed as living in the West, with Oklahoma, Arizona, and California containing more than 90,000 each. Further, 437,000 were accounted for in rural areas, while 308,000 were said to live in standard metropolitan areas. Various native American groups and native American scholars suggest there are as many as 2.5 million U.S. citizens who consider themselves native Americans by virtue of some degree of native American blood.

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