- Published: 02 February 2010
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Donna Skelton, age 12, of Daly City, Calif., for her question:
How did the Indians reach America before Columbus?
Most experts agree that the first Americans came here from northern Asia. They may have arrived about 20,000 years before Columbus set foot in the new world. We do not know the exact day because no records were kept of the great event. We can assume that the Indians came originally from northern Asia because they resemble the Mongoloid peoples of that area. There is geological evidence to show that they could have come from Asia.
When they came is a matter still open for more study. Since these first Americans kept no records of their history, we have to estimate how long they have been here. One way is to figure the age of buried bones and weapons. Another way is to figure how long it took the Indians to do this or that. For instance, it may have taken them 10,000 years to cultivate their corn from the wild grasses. Taken together, the known facts indicate that the first Americans have been here for 20,000 years. New evidence from older reliques may prove they have been here much longer.
They certainly arrived before the dawn of history. Man was a wanderer over the face of the earth. He was a hunter, for he had not yet learned to cultivate plants or tend flocks. The cruel glaciers of the Ice Age drove him from certain hunting grounds. The land was pushed out of shape and solid ice covered some of the seas. There may have been a bridge across the Bering Strait, joining Alaska with Asia.
There was no one there to report the first arrival. But we can imagine what it was like. It may have been a band of agile, sharp‑eyed hunters. It may have been a man and his family wandering in search of food or shelter.
If it was 20,000 years ago, the massive glaciers were in plain sight, or chances are, these wanders found what they wanted in Alaska. There were spaces between the glaciers and wild life was plentiful. They may have crossed the Rockies and found an ice free corridor leading from Alaska right down to the south. In any case, these first groups of American Indians were followed by others.
Through the years they crossed from Asia in great numbers. Sometimes it was a small band, sometimes a whole tribe. Once across, each group decided on its own route. Some stayed in the frozen north and some hugged the western coast. Some found the wide plains and some settled in the eastern mountains. Some stayed in the southern deserts and others went way down through Central and South America.