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The differences in cultures between the established Native Americans and immigrant Europeans, as well as shifting alliances among different nations in times of war, caused extensive political tension, ethnic violence, and social disruption.
Even before the European settlement of what is now the United States, Native Americans suffered high fatalities from contact with new European diseases, to which they had not yet acquired immunity; the diseases were endemic to the Spanish and other Europeans, and spread by direct contact and likely through pigs that escaped from expeditions.
The ten cultural areas are as follows: At the time of the first contact, the indigenous cultures were quite different from those of the proto-industrial and mostly Christian immigrants.
Some Northeastern and Southwestern cultures, in particular, were matrilineal and operated on a more collective basis than that with which Europeans were familiar.
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period.
While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus' initial landing.
As American expansion reached into the West, settler and miner migrants came into increasing conflict with the Great Basin, Great Plains, and other Western tribes. Contemporary Native Americans have a unique relationship with the United States because they may be members of nations, tribes, or bands with sovereignty and treaty rights.The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much earlier, from Asia via Beringia.A vast variety of peoples, societies and cultures subsequently developed.Smallpox epidemics are thought to have caused the greatest loss of life for indigenous populations.William M Denevan, noted author and Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said on this subject in his essay "The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492"; "The decline of native American populations was rapid and severe, probably the greatest demographic disaster ever. In many regions, particularly the tropical lowlands, populations fell by 90 percent or more in the first century after the contact.