The typical U.S. history course begins with a chapter on the original inhabitants of the Americas. When I was a student of U.S. history in school, many moons ago, the first Americans were called “Indians.” This led to some confusion when we students discovered that there were people from India who also were called Indians.
Today American Indians are often called Native Americans. This is also somewhat confusing because those of us born in America (North or South) can also be considered native Americans (albeit with a lower-case “n”). In any event, historical or otherwise, here are some observations about American Indians (the term I prefer).
Most historians believe that the first Americans came from Asia thousands of years ago across a land bridge that existed where the Bering Strait is located today. This successful migration supports the idea that travelers should always get their bearings straight before beginning a voyage.
These first Americans came from the eastern hemisphere from an area we call the Orient to become the first settlers of the western hemisphere. Some say the Indians were here first because they had reservations. I have reservations about the theory, but I repeated it anyway.
The first Americans moved from place to place as they hunted and gathered food. Surprisingly, they seldom got angry or insane. For these reasons, they are called “no mads.”
One of the first Native American civilizations was the Olmec Empire. They were among the first Americans to develop agriculture. We know this fact because of the Olmec Indian who had a song written about him. “Olmec Donald Had a Farm” was the title.
The first American crop was maize. This was a truly amazing development. I know that was corny, and it goes against my grain, but I just couldn’t be cereal about the subject. Just lend me an ear and don’t stalk me if you don’t approve.
The Incas, like most American Indian groups had no system of writing. To record information and send messages throughout their vast empire, they had a system using knots of strings called “Quipus” (kee-pus). The leaders said “This system will Quipus together.”
The people of the Great Plains of North America lived in teepees. One bald Sioux chief (a nice guy known as “Sweet Sioux “) kept his toupee in his teepee. He did this to keep his wig warm, and if anyone made fun of him, there would be the devil toupee.One day “Sweet Sioux” visited a psychiatrist complaining that “some days I feel like a teepee and some days I feel like a wigwam.’ The doctor quickly responded, “your problem is you’re two tents.”
The Inuits settled in the northernmost parts of North America. They came looking for a source of food. When the first animal, a mammoth, was spotted (which was very unusual because most of them were solid-colored) the tribal leader shouted, “I knew it” and henceforth they were known as the “ I knew its,” or Inuits, for short.The Inuits are sometimes called Eskmoes but I won’t deal with that issue. My feeling is Eskimo questions and I’ll tell you no lies.
Transportation by water was very important. Many American Indians used canoes. The name originated when one American Indian said to the other, “I can paddle this boat, canoe?”
Throughout the Americas, American Indian cultures, as all cultures must, adapted to the climate and terrain. If it started terrain they adjusted by building shelters weather they liked it or not. That settles that, and the Indians settled the Americas.
- Appleby, Joyce, Brinkley, Alan, and McPherson,James, M.. The American Journey. Ney York. Glencoe Mcgraw-Hill. 1998.