Conclusive evidence suggests that as early as 10,000 BC, the continent of North America had inhabitants. Nomadic tribes from Asia crossed a land bridge that existed between present-day Russia and Alaska, bringing with them a variety of customs, dialects, and cultures. This diversity became the catalyst that caused them to separate and form communities across two continents.
In an environment abundant with food, fresh water, and raw materials, the population flourished. This required a structured social system to carry out the needs of the tribe. Women, children, and the elderly were required to tend to the farming, cooking, and routine maintenance of the encampments, or towns. The young men, the warriors, were responsible for hunting and fighting.
With war came the need for strict discipline and a definitive chain of command. Leaders, or chiefs, emerged to direct the members of the tribe in matters of war and peace. As the social structure of the tribes became more complex and their population grew, splinter groups of the same tribe, called septs, emerged. Septs were composed of members of the parent tribe who for personal or political reasons left it and relocated under their own leadership. Despite their separation, however, these groups maintained the same customs and traditions.
With the development of septs and the general expansion of the tribe’s population, nations evolved. Many septs, having a common social and ethnic origin, shared the same traditions and customs and lived within a common geographic region. When matters of significance required resolution, councils were held. The leadership would gather and discuss, at length, the topics at hand and would vote to resolve the issues. The size of the population of each sept determined how many delegates would represent that sept and how many votes that sept had.
This process continued for thousands of years without incident, until the discovery of this New Land. By the time men such as Columbus realized the world was not flat, the tribes of North America had evolved into efficient and well-developed nations. In all, there were over five hundred nations inhabiting North America by the time of Columbus, having names such as Shawnee, Delaware, Apache and Sioux, to name only a few.
To understand the true history of America, one must first be able to distinguish between fact and myth concerning the original natives of this continent.
To begin with they are not Indians at all; they are Americans. When Christopher Columbus first landed on this continent he truly believed he had sailed to India, hence the name.
Another popular myth concerning the Native Americans is their race. Contrary to what is commonly thought, they are not a red race: they are fundamentally Caucasian. Their closest ancestry is traceable to Asia, most likely Mongolia and Siberia. If a color designation were necessary, brown would be most appropriate--this only because of their exposure to the sun and elements due to their out-of-doors life style.
The accusation that these Americans were savages was propaganda, contrived by the leaders of the colonial government to justify the invasion of their lands and the attempted genocide of their race. The earliest white immigrants would not have survived were it not for the generosity and kindness of the natives that greeted them.
Their democratic form of government served as a model for the formation of the earliest colonial government and is still in use today. For the most part, the nations of Native America were a loving and nurturing people. The family structure was at the center of their culture. Marriages were monogamous and they followed a well-defined code of morality. Although they were not a religious people, they were very spiritual. They believed in The Great Spirit, Inumsi Ilafewanu, as a "Grandmother," who constantly weaves a great net called a ‘skemotah.’ It is believed that when she completes this net, she will lower it to earth and gather up all those that have proven themselves worthy. She will then take them to a world of great peace and happiness, a ‘happy hunting ground,’ and her ever watchful presence would comfort, guide, and protect them. Their "Supreme Father" was Moneto, creator and ruler of all the heavens.
In spite of their cultural differences, the nations were fundamentally alike in their value system and moral codes. The Shawnee nation typified the genre. They believed that it was wrong for one to kill or injure a neighbor, for in doing so one only injures oneself. A good deed done to a neighbor adds not just to his happiness but to the doer’s as well. The Shawnees believed it was wise to love their neighbors, for Moneto loved them too.
Their value system had parallels in the Christian faith, which contributed to the success of the missionaries of that time. Despite such surface similarities, the Native Americans had some radical differences of thought. They, for example, did not believe one could own land or water, as did the Europeans. They believed that these resources were placed here for their use, to be shared, cared for, and respected by all nations. This would ensure that the Great Spirit and Moneto would continue to provide for them and future generations.
These American nations shared many of the same hunting grounds and, for the most part, lived in peace. It is true, however, that they were fierce and fearless warriors, and certain rival nations would often fight. Although many of the grotesque stories of brutality and torture by the Native Americans are true, what many historians fail to mention is that this was their response, in kind, to the atrocities being perpetuated against them, not the least of which was the bounty placed on the scalps of Native Americans by the white colonial government. The escalation of incidents of torture and the taking of scalps was a reactive response meant as a deterrent to the encroachment of white settlers into Native American lands, a direct violation of written treaties with the new colonial government.
By the late 1700s, the British colonists were developing the East Coast into a center of international commerce. Towns were springing up everywhere, and new immigrants were pouring in incessantly. In an effort to ease tensions with some of the nations of America concerned with the rapidly growing colonial population, the British Board of Trade issued on November 17, 1763, the following Royal Proclamation to the settlers in the Americas, which promised, among other things, that "everything west of the heads of the streams that ultimately empty into the Atlantic Ocean are to be, for the present and until our further pleasure be known, reserved for the tribes."
This, in effect, meant that all the territory west of the peaks of the Allegheny Mountains was officially and publicly recognized as Native American land. The instrument was signed and agreed to by the Governor of the American colonies and the leaders of the affected nations: the Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokee.
The colonies soon proved to be untrustworthy. Five years later, in the fall of 1768 at Fort Stanwix, situated on the Mohawk River in Upper New York, a new treaty was struck, abolishing the Royal Proclamation of 1763. In a ceremony attended by Sir William Johnson of Great Britain, the Governor of New Jersey, Mr. William Franklin, and representatives of New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, the British purchased a huge tract of land, seemingly, from the Iroquois nation