Definition of Native American noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


Native American

BrE BrE//ˌneɪtɪv əˈmerɪkən//
; NAmE NAmE//ˌneɪtɪv əˈmerɪkən//
(also American Indian)
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a member of any of the races of people who were the original people living in America Culture For a long time white people called Native Americans Indians because when Christopher Columbus first arrived in America, he thought he had reached India. Today, many people do not like this name and prefer to use the term Native American or American Indian. Before Europeans arrived in North America there were many tribes who lived by hunting animals and gathering plants, and who moved from one place to another according to the season. When Europeans first settled after 1607, Native Americans were quite positive about them and were happy to have the many new things they brought. However, the settlers also introduced new diseases that Native Americans had no resistance to, and they wanted to take their land. To Native Americans the idea of owning land was unknown, but the settlers assumed that they would take control of North America and used all means to do this. Gradually the Native Americans were forced to move to new areas very different from the ones they were used to. Before the Europeans arrived there were over 300 Native American languages, some of which have now died out and many of those remaining are only spoken by a few older people. Other languages, like Cherokee, are more widely spoken. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are now about 550 tribes including well-known groups like the Navajo and the Sioux. In 2000 there were about 1.9 million Native Americans living in the US, some of them on reservations, areas of land that the government has allowed them to keep as their own. Away from the reservations many Native Americans find that their culture is very different from that of white people and have difficulty adapting.

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