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Rise & Facts of the Natives of North America

Following are fascinating facts about the rise of Native North Americans….

  • The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in North America about 15 thousand years ago. As a result, a wide diversity of communities, societies, and cultures finally developed on the continent over the millennia before the European settlers began to arrive.
Migration routes of the first humans into the Americas from Europe and Asia.
  • About 50 Million indigenous peoples populated the Americas prior to the 15th century when European settlers began to arrive.  (American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, by David E. Stannard).  While this number is hard to absolutely determine, many historians estimate the population to have been as high as 100 million.  
  • 70 Million or More:  The population figure for Indigenous peoples in the Americas by the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492.
  • First known contact of North America’s indigenous people with non-indigenous settlers occurred as early as 983 when Norseman Erik Thorvaldsson, also known as Eric the Red, first settled off the southern tip of Greenland. 
  • First Natives in Greenland: Prior to the Norse explorers, Native peoples including the Beothuk and ancestors of the Inuit people lived in Greenland and throughout Newfoundland. The Beothuk is now extinct as a culture, although there is DNA record of their ancestry in people living today.
  • First Trade: There is historic confirmation that there was trade between the North American Natives and the Norse settlers.  The Norse settlers called these indigenous people Skræling, a likely reference to the dried pelts, or skrá, that they wore. The Norse settlements eventually ceased to exist by the late 15th century based on radiocarbon dating.
  • First Encounters in Greenland: History has recorded that Gunnbjorn Ulfsson, an Icelandic settler, first spotted Greenland in 877 CE, but did not land there. He called it Cronland. Knowing this led Eric the Red to go in search of the land in 982 CE as he was exiled from Iceland and Norway.  Technically, Greenland is on the eastern edge of North America, although its cultural influence is all European. 
  • First Settlement: The first settlement on the main continent of North America was established by Eric the Red’s son, Leif Ericsson, in roughly the year 1,000 CE off the coast of Newfoundland in an area he called Vinland because of its lush presence of grapes.  The settlement did not last long because of hostile interactions with the natives of the region. 
  • European Migrion to the America: Europeans began establishing colonies in North America in search of a freedom, better life, and riches, pretty much in that order; hence, the impetus leading to Native Americans’ encounters with the Old World peoples.
Descendents of the Taino Indians who were among the first indigenous people encountered by Chrstopher Columbus when he discovered the New World in 1492. (Wikimedia Commons BY-SA 4.0 by JazzManJr)
  • First Encounters: Indigenous peoples of the Americas first began to encounter the European settlers and cultures in 1492 when Christopher Columbus “discovered the New World” when he arrived at what today is called The Bahamas, part of the group of islands called The West Indies. However, Columbus and the Europeans would quickly learn the new land they had found was already populated by millions of South American tribespeople. (Puerto Rico: The Ageless Ecological Adaptation of an Hispanic People, Ecology Prime).
  • The Spanish created the first permanent settlement on the contiguous American mainland in 1565, 42 years prior the English establishment of Jamestown in what is Virginia today on 1607. 
  • The Timucuan Indians, who were prevalent from Virginia into Florida, would have encountered the Spanish, who had arrived on the North American east coast around 1513.  By 1800, the Timucuan people had been wiped out primarily due to the incursion of the English, Spanish and French settlers including the spread of disease and domination of the European cultures. (Timucuan Tribe – Lost Today, Legends of America, 2021)
  • At one time, numbering in the millions, the native peoples of the Americas spoke close to 4,000 languages.
  • The Native American population suffered a sharp population drop through epidemics, hostilities, ethnic cleansing, and slavery in the Americas as a result of the European conquest of North America, which began in 1492.
  • Indigenous people of North America first migrated from Siberia onto the west North American coast some 15,000 years ago, and possibly sooner, coming across the frozen Bering Strait.  By 1,000 B.C.E., they had covered nearly the entire continent.  After the end of the last ice age, several large waves of migration took place, including many groups of people from Asia and South America.  (American Indian Heritage Foundation)
  • The current total population of Native Americans and Alaska Natives in the United States is 6.79 million, about 2.09% of the entire population. Of this, about 574 federally Native American tribes in the U.S. are Federally recognized.  (World Population Review)
  • Alaska has the highest percentage Native American population of the of the US states with 14.89% (World Population Review)
Navajo Elder and WWII Vet Dan Akee speaks with youth at National American Heritage Month, commemorating the history, heritage, and culture of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. (Wikimedia CC 2.0 by Michael Quinn)
  • California has the highest population of Native American people of the US states with 757,628 people. This represents approximately 1.94% of the state’s total population. (World Population Review)
  • The Aboriginal Population of Canada is 1,673,785 and includes the First Nations Peoples (original inhabitants of Canada prior to the arrival of European settlers), Métis people (combined indigenous and European ancestry), and the Inuit (the indigenous people of the Arctic).  (Statistics Canada)
  • Indigenous people (pure Native Americans) make up 21% of the Mexican population, or approximately 26.5 million people. This Amerindians population is the second largest ethnic group in Mexico. (INEGI – Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography)The Hopi Native American Tribe founded the oldest existing continuously occupied settlement around 1100-1150 CE, five centuries before the first Europeans settled in America.  It is the Hopi pueblo of Oraibi, Arizona, population 6,946 according to the 2020 US Census.

Oraibi, Arizona