American Indians

The Europeans gave the name of “Indians” to native Americans because in discovering the Americas Christopher Columbus thought he had reached the Far East, then called the “East Indies”. When the first Europeans arrived, Indians were perhaps more than 5 millions, gathered in a high number of tribes. Many of them were nomadic hunters, although they also grew crops, especially maize. Bison were the favourite preys of many Indian tribes. Between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains lived the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Blackfoot and the Sioux, who were bison hunters. East, along the Great Lakes, lived the Algonquin and the Huron, good at fishing and hunting. The Creek, Cherokee and Seminole, settled between the Appalachians and the peninsula of Florida, were farmers. In the south-west lived the Apache, the Hopi and the Navaho, who lived in permanent villages and were engaged in farming. The Indian civilisation was based on a complex culture, with values that were very different from those of European cultures. The community side of social life was attached a lot of importance and was strengthened by rites and dances. Indians did not have private property and the land was everyone’s.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the white settlers began to move into the plains, to exterminate bison and take possession of the land. Many Indian tribes, for instance the Sioux, strongly opposed to the settlement of those who deprived them of their land and bison, their most important means of support.
Frightening wars broke out. The white prevailed, with their modern weapons, such as guns, cannons and repeating rifles. In the late nineteenth century, the Indians of the United States and Canada both risked disappearing.
Today, one half of Indians live in reservations and the rest in small villages of the west, often in degraded social conditions. In the last century, native Americans have got their act together and have engaged in struggles to claim some of their civil rights.

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