Native American History

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Chapter One
The history of Native Americans

1. Pre - Columbian history of Native Americans

1.1. The first people in America
According to a majority of scientists, the first Americans arrived in Alaska from Siberia using 1,500 km wide land bridge across the Bering sea, called Beringia. There is also the theory that some of them reached North America traveling along the western coast by boats. This event is dated to about 12,000 BC, however, archeological discoveries of tools, bones and artifacts proved the existence of human life in North America already about 40,000- 25,000 BC. The first people who arrived in America followed large game, attracted by the grassy land which covered Beringia. It took them 4,000 or 5,000 years to spread up around the continent and create groups known as tribes. Each tribe developed a distinct culture; by 1492 more than 400 languages were spoken in North America (Shi and Tindall 2007: 7). By first settlers, Native Americans were called red- skinned, however, their skins were not red - many tribes used to paint their bodies with that colour (Franz and Minderhout 2008: 82- 83. Frequently used term Indians was coined by Christopher Columbus in 1492, as he believed that he had reached India. (Hamby 2005: 6- 7)
The first Native Americans led a nomadic life, moving into today's mainland United States. The change of the climate and extensive hunting caused the extinction of large mammals, which forced indigenous people to introduce primitive agriculture. The setting up of the first settlements about 1000 BC encouraged the ancient Indians to introduce basketry, handicraft and farming. Native Americans from Mexico headed the way - about 5000 BC they were able to cultivate maize, beans, an...

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...e and customs. In 1934 Congress enacted the Indian Reorganization Act, prepared by John Collier, which ended the allotment system, gave Native Americans control of their land, increased appropriations for reservations, and allowed tribes practice their traditions. Because of criticism of Collier's policy, in 1945 many of the programs ended.
Conditions on reservations were still poor. Since the 1950's Native Americans became relocated from reservations to big cities hoping that they would find jobs. In the 1960's, during the War on Poverty , the government increased funds for health care, education, and job training which improved living conditions. ( Barret 2003: 478- 482)
Today in The United States live 310 officially recognized tribes in 300 reservations and the area of land which they occupy contains 2 percentage of their original lands. (Cyrus 1997: 82)
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