Indigenous Peoples of North America: An Index

The following data is taken from the just-published Indigenous Peoples of North America: A Concise Anthropological Overview by Robert J. Muckle.


Number of federally recognized North American Indigenous people: 2.6 million

Number of people in North America that claim Indigenous North American ancestry: 6 million

Number of Indigenous people worldwide: 370 million

Number of federally recognized Indigenous groups (tribes and nations) in North America: > 1,000

Countries that initially opposed the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People: Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand

Number of North American Indigenous people’s skeletons collected prior to 1990: > 150,000

Number of funerary artifacts collected prior to 1990: > 2 million

Minimum number of years people have been in North America: 14,000

Estimated population of Indigenous people at AD 1500: 4-5 million

Earliest evidence of contact between North Americans and Europeans: 1,000 years ago, Norse (Vikings)

Region with the highest population density at AD 1500: California

Regions with the lowest population densities at AD 1500: Arctic and Subarctic

Number of distinct North American Indigenous languages at AD 1500: c. 400

Number of distinct North American Indigenous languages today: c. 200

Number of plant species used as food by North American Indigenous people: 1,500

Animals domesticated by North American Indigenous people prior to the arrival of Europeans: dogs, turkeys

Major crops farmed by North American Indigenous people prior to arrival of Europeans: corn, beans

Average loss of population to Indigenous groups resulting from contact with Europeans: 80 percent

Principal cause of population loss to Indigenous people following contact with Europeans: disease

Number of organizations advocating the abolition of Indigenous-themed mascots, logos, and nicknames: > 100

Major areas of contemporary research involving North American Indigenous peoples and anthropologists: identity, language, revitalization, politics, traditional ecological knowledge, and economic development

Indigenous Peoples of North America: A Concise Anthropological Overview was designed for those who want a fundamental knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of North America, variously known as Indians, Native Americans, First Nations, Aboriginal, and by other labels. The book was conceived primarily as a core textbook for undergraduate anthropology courses, as well as a basic reference for those with an interest in the Indigenous peoples of North America, be they academic, professional, or lay audiences.

There are several core things that all readers will hopefully understand and retain, including (i) “Indigenous” is an umbrella term being increasingly used, especially in a global context, but terms such as Indian, Native American, and Aboriginal retain specific meaning; (ii) the archaeological record of North America is vast, spanning at least 14,000 years, containing hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites and millions of artifacts; (iii) prior to the arrival of Europeans, North America was populated by extremely diverse peoples, with millions of people speaking hundreds of different languages and expressing considerable diversity in economic, social, and ideological systems; (iv) the colonialization of North America by Europeans was devastating to Indigenous peoples and cultures; (v) Indigenous peoples have been remarkably resilient; and (vi) the development of North American anthropology has been intricately intertwined with Indigenous peoples.

—Robert J. Muckle, Capilano University

Note: If you are scheduled to teach a course that would benefit from having this book on the required reading list, please email to request an examination copy. We would be more than happy to give you the opportunity to review this excellent text for yourself!


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