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The First Americans

The First Americans It has long been a spirited topic of debate as to who got here first.

The mosaic palate of peoples and cultures which represents today's America heightens the intensity of such a debate. Discoveries made by various anthropologists of human remains over the past few decades provide evidence that long before Ellis Island opened its doors to welcome those seeking political and religious freedom as well as the "adventurer, the wanderer, the persecuted, the fortune seekers, and others" America was a kaleidoscope of ethnic and cultural groups! Thus, the history of US immigration spans a long period of migration of many different peoples from various parts of the world.

One common belief is that America was originally peopled by wanderers from Northeast Asia about 20,000 years ago. These wanderers were believed by some to be the founding population (and ancestors!) of today's Native Americans. Others believe that the first Americans came from Polynesia, South Asia or even Europe.

Even others believe that the very first Americans were killed by later arrivals and that they left no descendants.

The debate rages on! However, not to be lost in this debate is the fact that whether 20,000, 10,000 or 1,000 years ago, most immigrant groups to America came full of hopes and dreams of the "Promised Land".
Around the year 1000, a small number of Vikings arrived. Five hundred years later, the great European migration began. In some cases, the co-existence of Europeans and Native Americans was peaceful. In other cases, there were cultural clashes, leading to violence and disease.
Many settlers from Europe and Asia came to seek their fortune in a new country which was thought to have unlimited resources. Many people from Africa, however, were bought here against their will to work as forced laborers in the building of a new nation. As early as 1619, slaves from Africa and the Caribbean were brought forcibly to America. The information appearing below will cover only the past 400 years of US immigration.


European Migration

European MigrationThe settling of America began with an idea. The idea was that people can join together and agree to govern themselves by making laws for the common good. With that idea in mind, 102 English colonists (later referred to as the "Pilgrims") set sail in 1620 on the Mayflower. They landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This is generally considered by many to be the "start" of planned European migration! In 1638, just 18 years after the Mayflower, the Swedes began their migration to America. Unlike the Pilgrim Fathers, the Swedes were not religious dissenters - they were an organized group of colonizers sent by the Swedish Government to establish a colony in Delaware. In 1655, the colony was lost to the Dutch. In the mid-1840s, a wave of Swedish migration began with the landing of a group of migrant farmers in New York and continued up to World War I.

During the colonial era most of the immigrants to the U.S. came from Northern Europe. Their numbers declined during the 1770s, but picked up during the mid 1800s. New arrivals came from several countries, but mostly from Germany and Ireland where crop failures caused many to leave their homelands. Other groups also arrived from the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, the Scandinavian countries, and Eastern Europe.

US immigration Today

The intrinsic beauty of American US immigration today is that it allows freedom and opportunity to all. US immigration policy does not discriminate based on race, religion, creed and color. In fact, the multicultural and multiracial fibers woven into the fabric of present day America is the direct result of US immigration policies, practices, and U.S. Government legislation.

Today's immigrants come from all parts of the world. The current phase of US immigration history followed the elimination of strict quotas based on nationality. In 1978, the U. S. government set an annual world-wide quota of 290,000. This ceiling was raised again in 1990 to 700,000. Immigrants have arrived at a pace that at times has exceeded 1,000,000 new arrivals per year. These new arrivals have settled in all parts of the country. America is a nation of immigrants! We are all sons and daughters of immigrants. The cultural diversity of America has served to enrich and strengthen the nation. The greatness of America is merely a reflection of the sacrifice, contributions and efforts of immigrants. They have greatly enriched the history of the United States. There is reason to celebrate the richness of the cultural diversity that US immigration has brought to America!

Make Your Own History
Thinking of coming to the USA and start a new life in the United States like many settlers did 250 years ago in the so-called "Melting Pot"?

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