Native Americans are the indigenous people of North America. They were split into many tribes that populated much of the continent. It is thought that they originally came to the continent via a land bridge that once connected present day Alaska and Siberia (now the Bering Strait). Native Americans first encountered Europeans after the 1492 European discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. Since this time, Native Americans have been commonly known as Indians or American Indians in the United States. if you have ever wondered where this name comes from, keep reading to find out.
Why are Native Americans called Indians?
The name Indians came about because of a mistake by explorer Christopher Columbus. He believed that the distance from Europe to eastern Asia, then known as India or the Indies, was shorter than had been predicted. In 1492 he set out on his first voyage and when he reached the Americas he believed that he had reached eastern Asia. He referred to the native people as Indians because of this mistaken belief. Even though his error was soon discovered, the name became popular and was used to describe Native Americans for centuries. Although the term Native American is more widely used today, the term Indian or American Indian is still commonly used.
Did you know?
The mistake made by Columbus also caused him to misname the islands of the Caribbean as the West Indies!
The name American Indian is not used for those Native Americans outside the contiguous United States, which includes the native people from Alaska and Hawaii.