The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.
Although some indigenous peoples of the Americas were traditionally hunter-gatherers—and many, especially in the Amazon basin, still are—many groups practiced aquaculture and agriculture. The impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. Although some societies depended heavily on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming, hunting and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, city-states, chiefdoms, states, kingdoms and empires. Among these are the Aztec, Inca and Maya states that until the 16th century were among the most politically and socially advanced nations in the world. They had a vast knowledge of engineering, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, writing, physics, medicine, planting and irrigation, geology, mining, sculpture and goldsmithing.
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to 16th centuries. The Nahuatl words aztecatl [asˈtekat͡ɬ] (singular) and aztecah [asˈtekaʔ] (plural) mean "people from Aztlán", a mythological place for the Nahuatl-speaking culture of the time, and later adopted as the word to define the Mexica people. Often the term "Aztec" refers exclusively to the Mexica people of Tenochtitlan (now the location of Mexico City), situated on an island in Lake Texcoco, who referred to themselves as Mēxihcah Tenochcah [meːˈʃiʔkaʔ teˈnot͡ʃkaʔ] or Cōlhuah Mexihcah [ˈkoːlwaʔ meːˈʃiʔkaʔ].
Sometimes the term also includes the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan's two principal allied city-states, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan, who together with the Mexica formed the Aztec Triple Alliance which controlled what is often known as the "Aztec Empire". In other contexts, Aztec may refer to all the various city states and their peoples, who shared large parts of their ethnic history and cultural traits with the Mexica, Acolhua and Tepanecs, and who often also used the Nahuatl language as a lingua franca. In this meaning it is possible to talk about an Aztec civilization including all the particular cultural patterns common for most of the peoples inhabiting Central Mexico in the late postclassic period.
Chimu culture feather pectoral, feathers, reed, copper, silver, hide, cordage, ca. 1350–1450 CE
Two Maya women in the highlands of Chiapas
Eight Crow Nation prisoners under guard at Crow agency, Montana, 1887
Language families of indigenous peoples in North America: shown across present-day Canada, Greenland, the United States, and northern Mexico
Brazilian indigenous man of Terena tribe
Maya women from Guatemala
This map shows the percentage of indigenous population in different countries of the Americas.
Drawing accompanying text in Book XII of the 16th-century Florentine Codex (compiled 1540–1585), showing Nahuas of conquest-era central Mexico suffering from smallpox
Bill Reid's sculpture The Raven and The First Men. The Raven represents the Trickster figure common to many mythologies.
Ethnic groups ca. 1300 to 1535 CE. (See the image for the numbered List of indigenous peoples)
Cultural areas of North America at time of European contact
Indigenous people at a Brazilian farm plantation in Minas Gerais ca. 1824
Bolivia and Peru have majority-Native American populations, including mestizos.
Mapuche man and woman. The Mapuche make up about 85% of Chile's indigenous population.
Current distribution of the indigenous peoples of the Americas (not including mestizos, zambos and pardos)
Textile art by Julia Pingushat (Inuk, Arviat, Nunavut, Canada), wool, embroidery floss, 1995
Schematic illustration of maternal (mtDNA) gene-flow in and out of Beringia, from 25,000 years ago to present
Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr. (2 July 1924 – 5 November 1950) was a Marine in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, and later a soldier in the United States Army during the Korean War. Corporal Red Cloud posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions near Chonghyon, North Pyongan Province, North Korea on 5 November 1950.
Red Cloud, a Ho-Chunk Native American, enlisted in the US Army shortly before the beginning of the Korean War. Serving with the 24th Infantry Division, he was among the troops who fought the first battles of the war, being pushed back with the 19th Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Taejon and the Battle of Pusan Perimeter. He was then a part of the Eighth United States Army advance into North Korea. On the night of 5 November 1950, Red Cloud was manning a forward observation post when he spotted an imminent surprise attack by Chinese forces. Red Cloud singlehandedly held off the Chinese forces despite being shot eight times, at one point ordering his men to tie him to a tree because he was too weak to stand by himself. His company found him the next morning, surrounded by dead Chinese troops. He was credited with alerting his company to the ambush and saving them from being overrun. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
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