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WET 219 - Applied Water Law - Indigenous Rights

12,000 Years of Blissful Isolation

Analysis of indigenous peoples' DNA from the various independent studies indicated indigenous people have lived in the Americas for a minimum of 13,000 years New evidence is emerging from the archeology community that is pushing the dates of the peopling of North America back substantially further in time

For thousands of years, indigenous people have populated the continents of the Western Hemisphere. Some scholars have estimated 60 million people lived in the Western Hemisphere before European arrival; others have estimated both far smaller and far larger populations.  The real truth is no one knows what the official population of the Western or Eastern Hemispheres was in 1491 any more than we knew the population of most European countries.

During the Pre-Columbian period, hundreds of First Nations existed, each with its own language, culture, and government. They had developed art, agriculture, and technology, engaged in warfare with other First Nations, made peace treaties (many cemented by the intermarriage between their peoples) and established their traditional territorial lands' physical boundaries and ownership.

The one thing we do know with certainty is that the original inhabitants witnessed the catastrophic change of their world after "first contact" had occurred with permanent European settlers in 1492. Initial contact resulted in the estimated death of 56 million or 90 percent of the pre-Columbian Indigenous population by the 1600s, primarily from disease. This number that represents around 10% of the global population at that time. 

Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of four centuries of death, cultural-genocide, and abuse, at the hands of European settlers and their governments. 

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