It is likely that the majority of Americans who studied history in public schools will remember that when Columbus sailed across the Atlantic in 1492, he didn’t reach India as he had intended. By that time in history, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as well as other civilizations had been actively trading with descendants of the ancient Indus River civilization. However, Columbus meant to navigate a shortcut utilizing the Atlantic Ocean rather than the previously established land or sea routes to Asia.
A difficulty with names and language
That he hadn’t reached India was a minor technicality, but it didn’t stop Columbus from misnaming the peoples he encountered as “los indios” and establishing a deeply rooted misnomer that has endured to this day. Unfortunately, one could not have referred to such “New World” peoples as “Native Americans” or simply “Americans” at that time because the name of “America” was not attached to this continent until much later. So, would it have been too much to ask the natives what they called themselves? Regretfully, language is often an annoying barrier.
They called themselves human beings
Many years and much study has passed since the collision of cultures brought about after the four voyages of Columbus. We now understand that numerous nations of indigenous peoples inhabited the “New World” at the time. We now realize that each nation or clan used words in their own languages to refer to themselves. Within many native languages, their names for themselves can be translated as the people or the human beings.
The human beings flourished
In reality, the “New” World was actually quite an old world when Europeans began crossing the Atlantic. Archeological evidence suggests that humans first inhabited the Americas around 30,000 years ago. By the time Columbus arrived, it is estimated that approximately 50 to 75 million people or more had scattered across and settled on the land of the two joined continents. Within the diverse environments of the Americas, varied indigenous civilizations had developed over time and it’s likely that around 2,000 distinct languages were being spoken before the European conquest.
Searching for understanding
Within such a variety of cultures, there existed diversity yet similarity in the ways of these human beings. Many searched for greater understanding of the mysteries of their world and deeper understanding of the realm beyond life. Many developed a spiritual outlook or awareness of their world which helped them handle the realities of life and death. Their stories are as worthy of study as other noble civilizations because they wrestled with similar concerns. Such study may help in learning more than just their true names.