The first evidence showing indigenous people to inhabit North America indicates that they migrated there from Siberia over 11,000 years ago. More than likely, they crossed the Bering Land Bridge, which was in existence during the Ice Age. After that time period, several large waves of migration took place, including many groups of people from Asia and South America.
Generally, the Native Americans lived in peace and prosper until around the 15th century when Europeans first arrived on the shores of North America. At that time, horses were brought over, which began to spread disease among the natives. Since they had no immunity to these strange diseases, thousands began to die from things such as measles and chicken pox. In addition, the Europeans began to take over the land and set up farms and homes there.
While at one point in time, Native Americans were a very populous group of people, today they only account for 1.4 percent of the United States population. Most of those who claim to be Native American live on designated Indian reservations. The symbol of Native Americans is used in many national sports teams as a mascot. This has been a large center of controversy over the last few decades. It has been noted that the suicide rate among Native Americans is the highest in the country. Many Native Americans continue to take pride in their ancestral traditions, still practicing the music, art, and ceremonies that took place many years ago. In 2004, a museum was opened in Washington, D.C. paying tribute to their heritage. The museum is called the National Museum of the American Indian, and is part of the Smithsonian family of museums. The museum contains over 800,000 objects and artifacts and over 125,000 images representing the life and culture of Native Americans.
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