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059 Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?

59. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
• Native Americans
• American Indians

Most Americans are taught that an explorer (or a person who goes to an unknown place to learn about it) named Christopher Columbus discovered (or found) America in 1492. But the truth is that millions of people were already living in North and South American before Christopher Columbus ever arrived on the American shore (or the land next to an ocean). Christopher Columbus was surprised to see the natives (or people who are born in America). He thought that he had landed in the East Indies on his way to India, so he called the people he met there Indians. Today, these people are usually called American Indians or Native Americans.

The arrival of Christopher Columbus and other Europeans in the New World (or North and South America) was devastating (or extremely bad) for the Native
Americans. Millions of Native Americans died because of epidemic diseases, which were illnesses that made a large number of the Native Americans sick very quickly. Many of the diseases that were common in the Old World (or Europe) were unheard of (or unknown) in the New World. The American Indians did not have the immunities that Europeans did, which meant that their bodies did not have the ability to fight against the diseases. When the Europeans came, they inadvertently (or without knowing or wanting to) infected the Native Americans and made them ill. Many of them died without ever knowing what was happening.

The Native Americans who didn’t die from disease were often killed by the Europeans. Almost all of the Europeans who came to America wanted the Native
Americans to become more like them, and especially to become Christian and believe in the Christian God. They killed Native Americans who resisted (or fought against) their efforts.

As more and more Europeans began living in and being born in the New World, they needed more land, so they began to displace the Native Americans, which means that the Native Americans were made to move to other lands so that the Europeans could use them for farming. Over time, the Native Americans were pushed further and further west to lands that were not very good for growing things. Many Native Americans died while walking to those new lands, and many others died when there wasn’t enough water and food in those new lands.


explorer – a person who goes to an unknown place to learn about it
* Robert Edwin Peary was a famous American explorer who went to the North Pole.

shore – land next to an ocean
* We stood on the shore and waved as their boat went out to sea.

native – a person who was born in a particular place and has always lived there
* The first Europeans to come to America were surprised to see so many natives already living there.

devastating – extremely bad; horrible and destructive
* The floods were devastating for small towns in Iowa.

epidemic disease – an illness that makes a very large number of people very sick very quickly
* How many people are killed by epidemic diseases each year?

unheard of – unknown; unusual; very unlikely to happen
* Marrying for love used to be almost unheard of.

immunity – a body's ability to fight against a specific disease, so that even if a person is exposed to a disease, he or she does not get sick
* I wish I had an immunity for the common cold!

inadvertently – without knowing or wanting to; having something happen unintentionally; without realizing what is happening
* Have you ever inadvertently sent an email to the wrong person?

to resist – to fight against something; to try not to let something happen
* Yolanda wants to lose weight, but she has a hard time resisting ice cream.

to displace – to force someone to leave a particular area so that one can use that area for oneself; to force people to leave an area because of dangerous events
* How many people were displaced by the earthquake?