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The prevailing theory proposes that people migrated from Eurasia across Beringia, a land bridge that connected Siberia to present-day Alaska during the Ice Age, and then spread southward throughout the Americas over the subsequent generations.Genetic evidence suggests at least three waves of migrants arrived from Asia, with the first occurring at least 15 thousand years ago.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.Native American cultures are not normally included in characterizations of advanced stone age cultures as "Neolithic," which is a category that more often includes only the cultures in Eurasia, Africa, and other regions.Since the 1960s, Native American self-determination movements have resulted in many changes to the lives of Native Americans, though there are still many contemporary issues faced by Native Americans.

After the thirteen colonies revolted against Great Britain and established the United States, President George Washington and Henry Knox conceived of the idea of "civilizing" Native Americans in preparation for assimilation as U. During the 19th century, the ideology of manifest destiny became integral to the American nationalist movement. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the government to relocate Native Americans from their homelands within established states to lands west of the Mississippi River, accommodating European-American expansion.

Expansion of European-American populations to the west after the American Revolution resulted in increasing pressure on Native American lands, warfare between the groups, and rising tensions. This resulted in the ethnic cleansing of many tribes, with the brutal, forced marches coming to be known as The Trail of Tears.

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.

By comparison, the indigenous peoples of Canada are generally known as First Nations.

It is not definitively known how or when the Native Americans first settled the Americas and the present-day United States.

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