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Setting the Record Straight About Native Peoples: Origins of American Indians

Q: How did Indians get to the Americas?
A: Well, Native American tradition is that Indians were always here. Most of the scientific evidence is that Indian ancestors came from Asia in prehistoric times, when mammoths and other ancient animals did. This would have had to happen more than 20,000 years ago, when there was still a land bridge there. No human culture has good records of what it was doing 20,000 years ago, so perhaps we're both right.

For a supplement about why the Bering Strait theory makes Indians so mad, click here.

Q: Is it possible Indians migrated to America much more recently than that, like 700 or 1000 years ago?
A: No. There are archaeological sites between five and ten thousand years old, and Native American oral histories, like oral histories in other parts of the world, go back thousands of years. Also, by the time of European contact 500 years ago, there were some forty million natives dispersed throughout the entire Western Hemisphere. It would have been impossible for a single group of migrants to accomplish that in 200 or 500 years.

Q: If Native Americans migrated from Asia, then they're not really 'Native' at all, right?
A: Even if Native Americans migrated from Asia, they have been here 20-30,000 years longer than Europeans. Whether or not you call that 'native' is up to you. But the Americas have been inhabited longer than England (12-15,000 years) or northern Europe (10,000 years).

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