We all learned in school that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America when he sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But what if I told you that there were people living in the Americas long before Columbus ever set sail? You might be surprised to learn that the history of the Americas is a lot more complicated—and a lot more interesting—than we were led to believe in school.
The first people to set foot on North American soil were actually from Siberia. Around 15,000 years ago, a group of hunter-gatherers followed herds of large animals across the Bering land bridge into Alaska. From there, they slowly spread southward, populating every corner of the continent.
These early Native Americans lived in small tribes and survived by hunting game and gathering plants. They had no written language, but they did have rich cultures and traditions. For example, many Native American tribes believed in a Great Spirit who watched over them and ensured their survival.
Native Americans lived in the Americas for thousands of years before Columbus arrived on the scene. In fact, it’s estimated that there were between 10 and 20 million Native Americans living in North and South America before Europeans arrived. So, how did Columbus “discover” a continent that was already home to millions of people?
Simply put, he didn’t. Although Columbus did not intentionally “discover” America, his voyage did mark the beginning of European colonization of the Americas—which had devastating consequences for the native population.
Most of us learned in school that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America when he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. But the history of the Americas is much more complicated—and much more interesting—than we were led to believe in school. The Americas were actually home to millions of people long before Columbus ever set sail, and his voyage marked the beginning of European colonization of the continent—which had devastating consequences for the native population. Next time you’re celebrating Columbus Day, take a moment to remember the real history of the Americas.