American Indian Studies
American History before
Determining What Came Before
• For Indians, history did not begin with
• History began when their ancestors:
• “Fell from the sky” (Iroquois)
• “Entered the world through a hollow log”
• “Crossed the Bering Strait”
Columbus did “NOT” discover a
• He discovered another world rich in
diverse peoples, histories, communities
• As late as 1987, a popular U.S. HST
textbook claimed that the America’s lay
without mankind for thousands of
• Later revised editions still only devoted 4
pages out of 1,000 to pre-Columbus
• Old estimates are fewer than 1million.
• Improved techniques of demographic
calculation have raised the estimates.
• Between 2 and 18 million north of Mexico.
• N & S America populations combined could
have ranged between 43 and 65 million.
• 1/5 (? %) of the world’s population.
• This should eliminate many stereotypes
about Indian societies prior to European
• Social structures, political and economic
• Indians had altered forests and other
topographical features, sometimes
• Infrastructural elements such as roads and
canals were in place.
Creation Stories and Migration
• Estimates of how long Indians have been
in America also vary.
• Firm evidence dates back to 12,000 yrs.
• Some evidence suggests as far back as
• Creation stories of many tribes tell how
their people have always lived in America.
• “Anishinaabewaki” to the Anishinaabe.
• “Dinetah” to the Navajo.
Popular Migration Theories
• One of the lost tribes • The Bering Strait
of Israel. theory citing genetic,
• Descendants of the dental and linguistic
Welsh prince Madoc evidence.
from the 12th century.
• Descendants of
The Bering Strait Theory
• Began with the Ice Age • By the Archaic period
of 75,000B.C. -8,000 (8,000 B.C. -1,000 B.C.),
B.C. most areas of the
• Water levels dropped continent were inhabited.
exposed a “land bridge” • **This is only 1
connecting Siberia and explanation.
Alaska. • Sea travel was possible.
• Climate and food • Indians say that they
sources were very have always been here.
Examples of Evidence
• 1925-Folsom (New Mexico) worked flint near
a bison discovered. The species had been
extinct for 8,000yrs.
• 1932-Clovis (New Mexico) weapon points
older than Folsom discovered.
• 11,500 yrs back is the widely accepted
beginning point of occupation in the
• Some estimates go as far back as 20,000.
• Indians claim that they have always been
here, not just the first immigrants.
• Some suggest that Asian people migrated
Kennewick Man Controversy
• 1996, the skeletal remains of a man between
40 and 45 was discovered near Kennewick,
• Signs of violence, and was between 8 and
9,000 yrs old.
• Evidence of “Caucasoid” features.
• Indian tribes demanded the remains returned
to be reburied to end the violation of human
• August 2002, Federal Courts granted
scientists access to the body.
• What was the controversy?
• Indians saw this as another way to “prove”
the first people came here from Asia or
• Do scientists and museums “own” the
remains of indigenous people?