The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, and their descendants. Pueblos indígenas (indigenous peoples) is a common term in Spanish-speaking countries. Aborigen (aboriginal/native) is used in Argentina, whereas “Amerindian” is used in Guyana but not commonly in other countries. Indigenous peoples are commonly known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, which include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Indigenous peoples of the United States are commonly known as Native Americans or American Indians, and Alaska Natives. According to the prevailing New World migration model, migrations of humans from Eurasia (in particular North Asia) to the Americas took place via Beringia, a land bridge which connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait. The majority of authorities agree that the earliest migration via Beringia took place at least 13,500 years ago, with disputed evidence that people had migrated into the Americas much earlier, up to 40,000 years ago. These early Paleo-Indians spread throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. According to the oral histories of many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, they have been living there since their genesis, described by a wide range of creation myths. Application of the term “Indian” originated with Christopher Columbus, who, in his search for Asia, thought that he had arrived in the East Indies. The Americas came to be known as the “West Indies”, a name still used to refer to the islands of the Caribbean sea. This led to the names “Indies” and “Indian”, which implied some kind of racial or cultural unity among the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. This unifying concept, codified in law, religion, and politics, was not originally accepted by indigenous peoples but has been embraced by many over the last two centuries. Even though the term “Indian” does not include the Aleuts, Inuit, or Yupik peoples, these groups are considered indigenous peoples of the Americas. Although some indigenous peoples of the Americas were traditionally hunter-gatherers—and many, especially in Amazonia, still are—many groups practiced aquaculture and agriculture. The impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. Although some societies depended heavily on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming, hunting, and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, chiefdoms, states, and empires. Many parts of the Americas are still populated by indigenous Americans; some countries have sizable populations, especially Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Greenland, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. At least a thousand different indigenous languages are spoken in the Americas. Some, such as Quechua, Aymara, Guaraní, Mayan languages, and Nahuatl, count their speakers in millions. Many also maintain aspects of indigenous cultural practices to varying degrees, including religion, social organization, and subsistence practices. Like most cultures, over time, cultures specific to many Indigenous peoples have evolved to incorporate traditional aspects, but also cater to modern needs. Some indigenous peoples still live in relative isolation from Western society, and a few are still counted as uncontacted peoples.
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