Today, American Indians are full citizens of the United States who are proud to be Americans. However, they are no less proud of and their own cultural heritage, and, as it is difficult in today’s world, they trying to protect and preserve it.
The history of Native Americans – or American Indians – is unique, tragic, and at the same time full of optimism. It is unique because the Indians were the original inhabitants of the American continent, and experienced all the stages of its settlement by Europeans, beginning with the first colonies in the 17th century and ending with the completion of the development of the western borders by the end of the 19th century. It is tragic, since the conflict between the Indians and the white population is a repetition of the experience of other nations whose traditions have come into conflict with the expanding industrialized society.
Their history at the same time is full of optimism, because the American Indians, even though they were deprived of most of their ancestral lands in the 19th century, survived, they were able to establish themselves in their political and economic rights, and they have retained their national identity and culture in spite of the invasion of modern civilization.
There are many hypotheses about when for the first time a man appeared in the Western Hemisphere and how people came to the America. Since the XVI century to the present day, there are tense debates on the subject. The natives of the Canary Islands, the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks and Romans, Jews, Spaniards, Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, and even the Tartars and Scythian are considered among the first inhabitants of America.
Most researchers believe that they came from Asia; others (for example, a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl) advocates the Melanesian-Polynesian version of the peopling of America. The French scientist Paul Rivet believes that both options have a right to exist.
Since the second half of the XVIII century, from time to time a diametrically opposite point of view is mentioned, telling that America was one of the centers of the appearance of the human beings.
The most reasoned version of this theory was proved at the end of the XIX century by the Argentine archaeologist and philosopher Florentino. He argued that «homo pampeanus», inhabiting the territory of Argentina 1-2 million years ago, was the first man on Earth, and therefore, America was the cradle of mankind. The arguments of opponents of Argentine scientists are few, but they have been confirmed by several archaeological sites: in the Western Hemisphere there were no sub-human apes.
Currently, most researchers believe that the population of the Americas came from Asia across the Bering Strait.
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