This might be just my idiosyncratic definition so I’m admitting this now. I define native Americans as those people who inhabited the Americas before Christopher Columbus “discovered” it back in 1492. As such I include those in north America/ USA, central, Caribbean and south America. I may also include those in Hawaii & Alaska too.
Native Americans are believed to be an offshoot of the OOA emigrants who travelled to east Asia. These ones, rather than stay in east Asia, crossed the Bering Strait for whatever reason. The Bering Strait is a water passageway between the easternmost tip of Asia (Cape Dezhnev, Chukchi Peninsula, Russia) & the westernmost tip of north America (Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA). They didn’t sail or swim across it; back then the ocean levels were much lower and there was a land bridge that the migrants just walked across! This bridge is called Beringia but it doesn’t exist anymore; it disappeared due to the rise of ocean levels.
Disagreement exists over when this happened. 2 theories prevail today, short chronology & long chronology theory. The former says the migrants got there roughly 15,000 to 17,000 years ago, the latter says about 21,000 to 40,000 years ago (with a much later 2nd influx. More on this later).
You often hear these natives called Indians, or American Indians, ‘red’ Indians, Amerindians, Apache Indians, amerinds, Injuns or something similar. All of these names are complete cack because their ancestors never came from India and have no connection to Indians, past or present. The reason these names persist is because of Columbus; he was originally trying to reach India and went off course! When he reached land he thought it was India, which was kind of fair enough. However, he later realised he’d actually found a continent that ‘white’ people never knew about but didn’t bother correcting anyone! That’s why, over 500 years later, we make the same mistake despite knowing better! Even palaeontologists make this mistake, by calling the ancestral natives palaeoindians. I therefore call them palaeoamericans.
(This is the same reason the Caribbean is called the West Indies, as opposed to south Asia which used to be known as the East Indies. It’s also why the Americas were and still are called the New World, because it was new. To Europeans, that is)
However, native Americans are not one big homogenous group. In Namerica (north America, by which I’m lumping USA & Hawaii, Canada & Newfoundland together) there are:
- Algonquin (sometimes mistakenly called Algonquian)
- Apache (they call themselves N’dee)
- Inuit (plural of Inuk), used to be called Eskimos/ Esquimaux but they consider it offensive
In the Caribbean/ Mesoamerica (aka. central America) there are:
- Carib (after whom the islands are named), aka. Kalinago
- Arawak, which includes the Taíno & Igneri
- Kali’na, aka. Galibi
- Ciboney (name means ‘cave dwellers’ in Taíno)
In Samerica (south America) there are:
- Maya (yes they still exist. They didn’t die out with their calendar!)
- Selk’nam, aka. Onawo
- Quechua/ Kichwa, a collective group name that includes others like the Inca, Chancas, Huancas & Cañari as they all speak Quechuan languages
|Mayan girls, Guatemala|
|Embera children, Panama|
|Apache man, USA|
|Alejandro Toledo, 1st Quechuan president of Peru|
|Bororo men, Brazil, about to partake in the Indigenous Games|
|Ojibwe girl, USA|
Carib man, St Lucia
Because of European colonisation & the TAST (trans-Atlantic slave trade), all natives have become the minorities in the lands where they used to be the majority. In north America the majority are ‘white’, in the Caribbean the majority are ‘black’, and in south America the majority are mixed (though their ‘white’ ancestry is most visible). Many natives intermixed with others; in the Caribbean for example you have the Garinagu (plural of Garifuna, half-African half-native, used to be known as Black Caribs), in much of south America there are mestizos (the majority – mixture of European and native, though some countries include African in that mix), and in north America there are the Melungeons (in USA, mixed African, native & European) & Métis (in Canada, mixed native & European).
Point of interest: there are some people nowadays who go around claiming to be native Americans but aren’t. In reality, they’re people (usually ‘white’ although I’ve heard of ‘black’ ones too) who either think their lives are boring & unexotic or want to push an agenda – to show mainstream American society how bad it is to be native because the stereotypes are true. They get away with it because many, maybe most, native Americans in the USA are mixed with ‘white’ (which goes back to slavery days. What, you didn’t think Africans were the only enslaved ones did you?) so heavily most ‘white’ people don’t know what full natives look like anymore!
|David A. Yeagley,
claims to be Comanche (has been disowned by real Comanches),
actually a ‘white’ supremacist with a Comanche adoptive mother
|Iron Eyes Cody, real name Espera Oscar de Corti,
claims to be native of some kind (now settled on Cherokee-Cree),
actually Italian-American actor
|Margaret B. Jones, real name Margaret Seltzer,
claims to be half-native and raised in a ‘black’ ghetto,
actually fully ‘white’ and raised in Los Angeles, California,
was exposed by her sister
Above I mentioned the long chronology theory and the 2 waves of migrants into the Americas. Recent research has uncovered what appear to be a different type of people who inhabited the Americas millennia before the present-day natives, which are probably the 1st-wave migrants. Their craniofacial types are australoid & negroid, but such people are gone now. What became of them is a mystery, but there are a few traces of them. There are a few accounts of what Columbian-era Europeans called the 2 races of natives: ‘red’ & ‘black’. On top of that, the Olmec colossal heads of ancient central America resemble the ‘true Negro’ look even more than many Africans. In Tierra del Fuego, an island group just south of Argentina & Chile, there are a people who may be the mixed descendants of the 1st-wave & 2nd-wave migrants.
|La Venta Olmec head|
UPDATE: More information on the 1st-wave migrants. Now it’s believed they’re an offshoot of… Aboriginal Australians! It’s believed they wound up in the Americas by accident, though their boats had unusually high prows which suggests they had intended to travel out on the open sea in relatively rough waters.