How did the Native American people get their names?

Indians

Sitting Bull was a chief of the Hunkpata Lakota Sioux Indians. The English name means Seated Bull.

The people in America who lived there before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, as well as their descendants, are called Indians. Indians live very differently and speak different languages. So it is not a question of one people, but of many peoples.

Some of these peoples had advanced civilizations centuries ago, some owned a lot of gold. There were many trades, and agriculture and water management were already known around 4000 BC. Only 1000 years later, around 3000 BC, some Indians were already living in cities.

When more and more Europeans came to America after Columbus, the Indians experienced a lot of bad things. Their land was taken from them and many died of diseases from Europe or in battles against the Europeans. Today, however, Indians still live in the countries of North America and South America. Some live similarly to other Americans, others live more like their ancestors.

Why are the Indians called that?

When Columbus came to America from Europe in 1492, he believed he had arrived in India. That's why he called the people of America Indians. The people of India are now called Indians.

When you hear the word Indian, one thinks primarily of the tribes in North America. Those in South America are called "Indios" or "Indigenos", which means natives. In the north of North America and in Greenland live the Eskimos or rather "Inuit". In Canada they say “First Nations”, and in the USA they say “American Indians” or “American Indians”. In the past, Indians were also called "red skins".

Today “Indian” is an expression for all people in America whose ancestors lived there before Columbus. But it is not a name that they have given themselves. The foreign immigrants also gave them the many other names, such as “Eskimo” or “Indio”. This is why some people do not like to hear the word "Indian".

What did the Indians experience in the past?

The Indians are originally from Asia. Their ancestors moved to America about 15,000 years ago, via the Bering Strait. This is a small piece of sea between Asia and Alaska in North America.

The Indians belong to different groups called tribes, for example the Apaches, the Sioux, the Comanches and Cheyenne or the Navajo. That's why they speak different languages. They lived and live differently: some in big cities, others in simple tents or huts in the country.

After Columbus, many people came to America from Europe. They were called the "whites" by the Indians. In order to get more land themselves, the immigrants often waged war against the Indians and drove them from their homeland. The Indians then had to live on poor, barren land. In addition, the immigrants brought and spread diseases from which many Indians have died. How many Indians there were at that time and how many perished is not known. It is believed that there are fewer Indians living today than in the past.

The people of Europe have made many Indians slaves or separated from their families and relocated to distant parts of the country. In some areas, they were also banned from speaking in their own language. That way they should learn more quickly to live like whites.

Some Indians are still very famous today, especially those who fought against the whites. They include “Sitting Bull” or “Geronimo”. These were the leaders of their tribes, and that is why they were called chiefs. The Indian Sacajawea helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition to the Pacific.

How do the Indians live today?

Today there are fewer than four million Indians living in Canada and the United States. In South America there are around 70 million, of which a good half live in Mexico alone. There are reserves for many tribes, several thousand in total. They had to move there earlier because their old, bigger and better land was taken away from them. In some reservations the Indians have their own rights and laws.

Many are poor, some are trying to regain their old rights in court. Another problem is the alcohol that was brought to America by the whites. The body of Indians can handle alcohol badly. When an Indian dies, alcohol has played a role in one in ten cases.

Some Indians want to live like those Americans whose ancestors came from Europe. Others try to live like their own ancestors. Many people mix cultures for themselves: they have a modern life like others, but celebrate the festivals of their own culture.