Before Settlement:
Before European settlement there were approximately 5 to 10 million indigenous peoples living in North America. Since European settlement that number has been continually falling. There were 283 tribes that existed in the US. The Indians lived in tribes that consisted of only a few hundred people. Even at their largest the biggest villages were only around 60,000 people. Each group had their own culture, economy, beliefs and way of living. The Atlantic and pacific seaboards were quite populated as they were rich in fish and wild plants. On the eastern seaboard the people lived in well ordered towns that were ready for defence. In the west they lived in smaller, more scattered migratory groups. These groups depended on hunting along with a small amount of agriculture. Some native American plants include rubber, tobacco, sugar maple and cinchona tree. In the southern plains (modern day California), the natives there were greatly influenced by the powerful indigenous people of Mexico and South America. In the lager colonies there were even policing laws that had to be followed, and if they weren’t then the offender would have to leave the tribe. They were an evolving and ever-learning race with an immense knowledge of nature.
Upon Arrival:
The arrival of Europeans in the Americas proved disastrous for the American Indians. These lives and cultures of the indigenous peoples were changed forever. In the 15th to 19th centuries their population has been dramatically cut. Diseases and wars wiped out many millions of Indians. Chicken pox and measles, common among the Europeans would prove fatal to the never previously exposed Indians. Even worse diseases such as small pox were also very dangerous for the Indians as they had been for other indigenous peoples such as the Australian aborigines. Epidemics would usually break out after arrival of Europeans and some historians believe that up to 80% of the population was wiped out by these diseases. One animal that was introduced into America was the horse. The horse made it easier to cover great distances and they were also used by the Indians. Ironically the horse actually originated in the Americas, but died out at the end of the last ice-age.
Under European rule, the Indians suffered from great injustice. The British and the newly formed United States were the two controlling forces. During the American War of Independence the United States competed with the British for the land east of the Mississippi River. The Indians sided with the British hoping to stall the colonisation attempts of the two westerner powers. The Indians were stunned to learn that the Americans had made peace with the British in 1783. This would mean that they would be poorly treated from there on in. The native Indians were forced from their own land. Most would take up some form of agricultural work and the ones who didn’t would become slaves. The lives of previous generations were a long lost memory. There was no form of assimilation tried with the Indians, they were simply wanted to disappear. Their culture and the way they live would be changed forever. Unfortunately this is the sad truth that the Americas native Indians had to face. Racial discrimination would also be held against them right up until the mid 20th century.

A Fight For Change:
The American Indians have been one of the most active and successful native peoples in bringing about change for their race. Since the late 20th century they have made gains in such areas as education, land ownership, religious freedom, and the law. The use of the native language is also been more strongly introduced by today’s American Indians. Because of this strong spirit the Indians have been slowly getting back what was taken away from them, with Indian national reserves, special rights and education aid. With help from state and federal governments, American Indians will have a brighter future.


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Text: Jamie Kerr
Pictures: Max Leonard
Bibliography: Max and Jamie