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Native Americans

Native Americans were wrongly called "Indians" for hundreds of years. It was Christopher Columbus who called the people living in America "Indians" because he thought that he had discovered India. They must be referred to as Native Americans.
1. White expansionism
The worst problem for Native Americans, which lasted into the late 20th century, was that white people coming from the Old Continent wanted their land. To Native Americans owning land was something strange. The white settlers started their quest for land by moving from the East coast to the West coast.

In 1656, the first reservation was set up in Virginia.

By 1840, more than 100,000 Native Americans had been deported West : when gold was discovered in Cherokee country (North Carolina), white settlers and the army invaded their territory and removed them to Oklahoma in the winter of 1838-1839. Four thousand Cherokee Indians died of cold and exhaustion on the Trail of Tears.

After 1840, three factors speeded up the extermination of the Native Americans:
? the Gold Rush to California in 1848;
It attracted gold hunters. As they had to cross Indian lands, the American army helped them reach the West Coast killing Indians on their way.

? the transcontinental railroad;
It was built from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

? the end of the buffalo;
The buffalo was slaughtered. Since the Indians depended on its meat, its skin to make clothes, thousands of them died.

Native American chiefs like Geronimo and Sitting Bull fought against the white settlers.

2. Today's situation
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are now about 550 tribes. These include well-known groups like the Navajo and Sioux. The number of Native Americans living in the US is about 1.2 million. Almost one million live on reservations.

Native Americans are US citizens and have the rights and responsibilities of any US citizen.

The Native Americans who live on reservations find it difficult to live the traditional life. Poverty is a serious problem. About 38 % of people who live on reservations are unemployed, compared with 6 % of the rest of the American society. Many tribes try to bring in money from outside.

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