A noble savage is a literary stock character who embodies the concept of the indigene, wild human, an "other" who has not been "corrupted" by civilization, therefore symbolizes humanity's innate goodness. In English, the phrase first appeared in the 17th century in John Dryden's heroic play The Conquest of Granada, wherein it was used in reference to newly created man. "Savage" at that time could mean "wild beast" as well as "wild man". The phrase became identified with the idealized picture of "nature's gentleman", an aspect of 18th-century sentimentalism; the noble savage achieved prominence as an oxymoronic rhetorical device after 1851, when used sarcastically as the title for a satirical essay by English novelist Charles Dickens, who some believe may have wished to disassociate himself from what he viewed as the "feminine" sentimentality of 18th and early 19th-century romantic primitivism. The idea that humans are good is attributed to the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, a Whig supporter of constitutional monarchy.
In his Inquiry Concerning Virtue, Shaftesbury had postulated that the moral sense in humans is natural and innate and based on feelings, rather than resulting from the indoctrination of a particular religion. Shaftesbury was reacting to Thomas Hobbes's justification of an absolutist central state in his Leviathan, "Chapter XIII", in which Hobbes famously holds that the state of nature is a "war of all against all" in which men's lives are "solitary, nasty and short". Hobbes further calls the American Indians an example of a contemporary people living in such a state. Although writers since antiquity had described people living in pre-civilized conditions, Hobbes is credited with inventing the term "State of Nature". Ross Harrison writes that "Hobbes seems to have invented this useful term."Contrary to what is sometimes believed, Jean-Jacques Rousseau never used the phrase noble savage. However, the character of the noble savage appeared in French literature at least as early as Jacques Cartier and Michel de Montaigne in the 16th century.
Tacitus' De origine et situ Germanorum, written c. 98 AD, has been described as a predecessor of the modern noble savage concept, which started in the 17th and 18th centuries in western European travel literature. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, the figure of the indigene or "savage"—and increasingly, the "good savage"—was held up as a reproach to European civilization in the throes of the French Wars of Religion and Thirty Years' War. During the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, some ten to twenty thousand men and children were massacred by Catholic mobs, chiefly in Paris, but throughout France; this horrifying breakdown of civil control was disturbing to thoughtful people on both sides of the religious divide. Foremost among the atrocities connected with the religious conflict was the St. Batholomew's massacre... The Parisian populace inflamed by anti-Protestant preaching, a general massacre ensued, devastating the Huguenot community of Paris. Bodies were stripped naked and thrown into the Seine.
The massacres spread throughout France into the fall of 1572, spreading as far as Bordeaux.... Estimates of the total number of deaths vary widely. Huguenots were not innocent of massacres themselves In his famous essay "Of Cannibals", Michel de Montaigne—himself a Catholic—reported that the Tupinambá people of Brazil ceremoniously eat the bodies of their dead enemies as a matter of honour. However, he reminded his readers that Europeans behave more barbarously when they burn each other alive for disagreeing about religion: "One calls'barbarism' whatever he is not accustomed to." The cannibal practices are admitted but presented as part of a complex and balanced set of customs and beliefs which "make sense" in their own right. They are attached to a powerfully positive morality of valor and pride, one that would have been to appeal to early modern codes of honor, they are contrasted with modes of behavior in the France of the wars of religion which appear as distinctly less attractive, such as torture and barbarous methods of execution In "Of Cannibals", Montaigne uses cultural relativism for the purpose of satire.
His cannibals are neither noble nor good, but not worse than 16th-century Europeans. In this classical humanist view, customs differ but people everywhere are prone to cruelty, a quality that Montaigne detested. In his Essais... Montaigne discussed the first three wars of religion quite specifically; the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre led him to retire to his lands in the Périgord region, remain silent on all public affairs until the 1580s. Thus, it seems. To him, cruelty was a criterion that differentiated the Wars of Religion from previous conflicts, which he idealized. Montaigne considered that three factors accounted for the shift from regular war to the carnage of civil war: popular intervention, religious demagogy and the never-ending aspect of the conflict..... He chose to depict cruelty through the image of hunting, which fitted with the tradition of condemning hunting for its association with blood and death, but it was still quite surprising, to the extent that this practice was part of the aristocratic way of life.
Montaigne reviled hunting by describing it as an urban massacre scene. In additio
Joan Jiko Halifax is an American Zen Buddhist teacher, ecologist, civil rights activist, hospice caregiver, the author of several books on Buddhism and spirituality. She serves as abbot and guiding teacher of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Zen Peacemaker community which she founded in 1990. Halifax-roshi has received Dharma transmission from both Bernard Glassman and Thich Nhat Hanh, studied with the Korean master Seung Sahn. In the 1970s she collaborated on LSD research projects with her ex-husband Stanislav Grof, in addition to other collaborative efforts with Joseph Campbell and Alan Lomax, she is founder of the Ojai Foundation in California, which she led from 1979 to 1989. As a engaged Buddhist, Halifax has done extensive work with the dying through her Project on Being with Dying, she is on the board of directors of the Mind and Life Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring the relationship of science and Buddhism. Joan Halifax was born in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1942.
At age four a serious virus caused her to go blind, from which she recovered two years later. In 1964 she graduated from Harriet Sophie Newcomb College at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she had become drawn into the American civil rights movement and participated in anti-war protests. Halifax moved to New York City and began working with Alan Lomax, by 1965 she was reading books on Buddhism and teaching herself how to meditate, she worked at the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University with Alan Lomax from 1964–1968. She went to Paris and worked at the Museum of Man in the Ethnographic Film Section, she received her Ph. D. in medical anthropology and psychology and worked at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She went to Mali, where she studied the indigenous Dogon tribe. During the 1970s, Halifax went to Mexico to study the Huichols. Halifax entered a short-lived marriage with Stanislav Grof in 1972. While together the two examined the use of LSD as a support mechanism for those dying, jointly publishing the book The Human Encounter With Death in 1977.
The book discusses several "rebirth" incidents which are rather similar to regular reports of near death experiences. In 1979, Halifax founded an educational and interfaith center. In 1990 Halifax founded Upaya Zen Center located in New Mexico; the center offers Zen training, in addition to various courses and retreats on topics such as engaged Buddhism and caring for the dying. According to author Sarah Buie, Upaya is, "...a residential and teaching center on the outskirts of Santa Fe on the site of earlier Buddhist communities. While proceeding in an organic and incremental way, integrating existing structures into the Upaya campus, Joan's vision for its present form has been comprehensive, it is based on her deep understanding of the consonance of spatial expressions. She considers our condition of interrelatedness and interdependence in the design choices she has made. Caring stewardship of the land and its resources has been a constant factor in the development of the site; as has been noted, Joan Halifax has done extensive work with the dying over her career.
Professor Christopher S. Queen writes—in the book Westward Dharma, "She teaches the techniques of'being with death and dying' to a class of terminally ill patients, nurses, lovers and friends, she speaks calmly, with authority. In a culture where death is an enemy to be ignored and hidden away, Joan physically touches the dying, she holds them, listens to them, comforts them, calms them, eases their suffering by any means possible. She shares their fears, she travels from church to synagogue, hospice to hospital, dispensing techniques and training born of Buddhist traditions and beliefs in a culturally and spiritually flexible manner."In March 2011, she was appointed a distinguished visiting scholar at the John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress. Halifax, Joan. Standing at the edge: finding freedom where fear and courage meet. New York: Flatiron Books, 2018. Halifax, Joan. Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death. Boston. ISBN 1590307186 Halifax, Joan. A Buddhist Life in America: Simplicity in the Complex.
Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-3785-2. Halifax, Joan; the Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting With the Body of the Earth. HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-250369-3. Halifax, Joan. Shamanic Voices: A Survey of Visionary Narratives. Arkana. ISBN 0-14-019348-0. Halifax, Joan. Shaman, the Wounded Healer. Crossroad. ISBN 0-8245-0066-0. Grof, Stanislav; the Human Encounter with Death. E. P. Dutton. ISBN 0-525-12975-8. Halifax, Joan. Trance in Native American Churches. OCLC 26412971. Halifax, Joan. Being With Dying. Sounds True. ISBN 1-56455-493-7. Halifax, Joan. Thorns and Roses Living Mindfully. New Dimensions Foundation. OCLC 16185539. Grof, Stanislav. Optional Ways of Dying. Big Sur Recordings. OCLC 36710741. Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. Elder As Healer With Joan Halifax. Panacea Productions. OCLC 28118179. Photo by Joan Halifax "Alive in Death". Dharma Life. Winter 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-02. Findly, Ellison Banks. Women's Buddhism, Buddhism's Women: Tradit
A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, lineage, or tribe. While the term totem is derived from the North American Ojibwe language, belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to indigenous peoples of the Americas but common to a number of cultures worldwide. However, the traditional people of those cultures have words for their guardian spirits in their own languages, do not call these spirits or symbols "totems". Contemporary neoshamanic, New Age, mythopoetic men's movements not otherwise involved in the practice of a tribal religion have been known to use "totem" terminology for the personal identification with a tutelary spirit or guide, however this is seen by the originating cultures as cultural misappropriation. Totem poles of the Pacific Northwest of North America are monumental poles of heraldry, they feature many different designs that function as crests of chiefs. They commemorate special occasions.
These stories are known to be read from the bottom of the pole to the top. The spiritual, mutual relationships between Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders and the natural world are described as totems. Many Indigenous groups object to using the imported Ojibwe term "totem" to describe a pre-existing and independent practice, although others use the term; the term "token" has replaced "totem" in some areas. In some cases, such as the Yuin of coastal New South Wales, a person may have multiple totems of different types; the lakinyeri or clans of the Ngarrindjeri were each associated with one or two plant or animal totems, called ngaitji. Totems are sometimes attached to moiety relations. Torres Strait Islanders have auguds translated as totems. An augud could be a kai mugina augud. Early anthropologists sometimes attributed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander totemism to ignorance about procreation, with the entrance of an ancestral spirit individual into the woman believed to be the cause of pregnancy.
James George Frazer in Totemism and Exogamy wrote that Aboriginal people "have no idea of procreation as being directly associated with sexual intercourse, believe that children can be born without this taking place". Frazer's thesis has been criticised by other anthropologists, including Alfred Radcliffe-Brown in Nature in 1938. Totemism is a belief associated with animistic religions; the totem is an animal or other natural figure that spiritually represents a group of related people such as a clan. Early anthropologists and ethnologists like James George Frazer, Alfred Cort Haddon, John Ferguson McLennan and W. H. R. Rivers identified totemism as a shared practice across indigenous groups in unconnected parts of the world reflecting a stage of human development. Scottish ethnologist John Ferguson McLennan, following the vogue of 19th-century research, addressed totemism in a broad perspective in his study The Worship of Animals and Plants. McLennan did not seek to explain the specific origin of the totemistic phenomenon but sought to indicate that all of the human race had, in ancient times, gone through a totemistic stage.
Another Scottish scholar, Andrew Lang, early in the 20th century, advocated a nominalistic explanation of totemism, that local groups or clans, in selecting a totemistic name from the realm of nature, were reacting to a need to be differentiated. If the origin of the name was forgotten, Lang argued, there followed a mystical relationship between the object — from which the name was once derived — and the groups that bore these names. Through nature myths and natural objects were considered as the relatives, patrons, or ancestors of the respective social units. British anthropologist Sir James George Frazer published Totemism and Exogamy in 1910, a four-volume work based on his research among Indigenous peoples of Australia and Melanesia, along with a compilation of the work of other writers in the field. By 1910, the idea of totemism as having common properties across cultures was being challenged, with Russian American ethnologist Alexander Goldenweiser subjecting totemistic phenomena to sharp criticism.
Goldenweiser compared Indigenous Australians and First Nations in British Columbia to show that the shared qualities of totemism - exogamy, descent from the totem, ceremony, guardian spirits and secret societies and art - were expressed differently between Australia and British Columbia, between different peoples in Australia and between different peoples in British Columbia. He expands his analysis to other groups to show that they share some of the customs associated with totemism, without having totems, he concludes by offering two general definitions of totemism, one of which is: "Totemism is the tendency of definite social units to become associated with objects and symbols of emotional value". The founder of a French school of sociology, Émile Durkheim, examined totemism from a sociological and theological point of view, attempting to discover a pure religion in ancient forms and claimed to see the origin of religion in totemism; the leading representative of British social anthropology, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, took a different view of totemism.
Like Franz Boas, he was skeptical. In this he opposed the other pioneer of social anthropology in England, Bronisław Malino
New Age is a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in Western nations during the 1970s. Precise scholarly definitions of the New Age differ in their emphasis as a result of its eclectic structure. Although analytically considered to be religious, those involved in it prefer the designation of spiritual or Mind, Body and use the term "New Age" themselves. Many scholars of the subject refer to it as the New Age movement, although others contest this term and suggest that it is better seen as a milieu or zeitgeist; as a form of Western esotericism, the New Age drew upon a number of older esoteric traditions, in particular those that emerged from the occultist current that developed in the eighteenth century. Such prominent occult influences include the work of Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Mesmer, as well as the ideas of Spiritualism, New Thought, Theosophy and the European Lebensreform movement. A number of mid-twentieth century influences, such as the UFO religions of the 1950s, the Counterculture of the 1960s, the Human Potential Movement exerted a strong influence on the early development of the New Age.
The exact origins of the phenomenon remain contested, but there is general agreement that it developed in the 1970s, at which time it was centred in the United Kingdom. It expanded and grew in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular within the United States. By the start of the 21st century, the term "New Age" was rejected within this milieu, with some scholars arguing that the New Age phenomenon had ended. Despite its eclectic nature, a number of beliefs found within the New Age have been identified. Theologically, the New Age adopts a belief in a holistic form of divinity that imbues all of the universe, including human beings themselves. There is thus a strong emphasis on the spiritual authority of the self; this is accompanied by a common belief in a wide variety of semi-divine non-human entities, such as angels and masters, with whom humans can communicate through the form of channeling. Viewing human history as being divided into a series of distinct ages, a common New Age belief is that whereas once humanity lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual wisdom, it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius, from which the milieu gets its name.
There is a strong focus on healing using forms of alternative medicine, an emphasis on a New Age approach to science that seeks to unite science and spirituality. Centred in Western countries, those involved in the New Age have been from middle and upper-middle-class backgrounds; the degree to which New Agers are involved in the milieu varied from those who adopted a number of New Age ideas and practices to those who embraced and dedicated their lives to it. The New Age has generated criticism from established Christian organisations as well as modern Pagan and indigenous communities. From the 1990s onward, the New Age became the subject of research by academic scholars of religious studies; the New Age phenomenon has proved difficult to define, with much scholarly disagreement as to its scope. The scholars Steven J. Sutcliffe and Ingvild Sælid Gilhus have suggested that it remains "among the most disputed of categories in the study of religion"; the scholar of religion Paul Heelas characterised the New Age as "an eclectic hotch-potch of beliefs and ways of life" that can be identified as a singular phenomenon through their use of "the same lingua franca to do with the human condition and how it can be transformed."
The historian of religion Olav Hammer termed it "a common denominator for a variety of quite divergent contemporary popular practices and beliefs" that have emerged since the late 1970s and are "largely united by historical links, a shared discourse and an air de famille". According to Hammer, this New Age was a "fluid and fuzzy cultic milieu"; the sociologist of religion Michael York described the New Age as "an umbrella term that includes a great variety of groups and identities" that are united by their "expectation of a major and universal change being founded on the individual and collective development of human potential."The scholar of religion Wouter Hanegraaff adopted a different approach by asserting that "New Age" was "a label attached indiscriminately to whatever seems to fit it" and that as a result it "means different things to different people". He thus argued against the idea that the New Age could be considered "a unified ideology or Weltanschauung", although he believed that it could be considered a "more or less unified'movement'."
Other scholars have suggested. The scholar of religion George D. Chryssides called it "a counter-cultural Zeitgeist", while the sociologist of religion Steven Bruce suggested that New Age was a milieu. There is no central authority within the New Age phenomenon that can determine what counts as New Age and what does not. Many of those groups and individuals who could analytically be categorised as part of the New Age reject the term "New Age" in reference to themselves; some express active hostility to the term. Rather than terming themselves "New Agers", those involved in this milieu describe themselves as spiritual "seekers", some self-identify as a member of a different religious group, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Buddhism. In 2003 Sutcliffe observed that the use of the term "New Age" was "op
Indigenous peoples known as first peoples, aboriginal peoples or native peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original settlers of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently. Groups are described as indigenous when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture, associated with a given region. Not all indigenous peoples share this characteristic, as many have adopted substantial elements of a colonizing culture, such as dress, religion or language. Indigenous peoples may be settled in a given region or exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, but they are historically associated with a specific territory on which they depend. Indigenous societies are found in every inhabited climate continent of the world. Since indigenous peoples are faced with threats to their sovereignty, economic well-being and their access to the resources on which their cultures depend, political rights have been set forth in international law by international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank.
The United Nations has issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to guide member-state national policies to the collective rights of indigenous peoples, such as culture, identity and access to employment, health and natural resources. Estimates put the total population of indigenous peoples from 220 million to 350 million. International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples is celebrated on 9 August each year; the adjective indigenous was used to describe animals and plant origins. During the late twentieth century, the term Indigenous people began to be used to describe a legal category in indigenous law created in international and national legislations, it is derived from the Latin word indigena, based on the root gen-'to be born' with an archaic form of the prefix in'in'. Notably, the origins of the term indigenous is not related in any way to the origins of the term Indian which until was applied to indigenous peoples of the Americas. Any given people, ethnic group or community may be described as indigenous in reference to some particular region or location that they see as their traditional indigenous land claim.
Other terms used to refer to indigenous populations are aboriginal, original, or first. The use of the term peoples in association with the indigenous is derived from the 19th century anthropological and ethnographic disciplines that Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as "a body of persons that are united by a common culture, tradition, or sense of kinship, which have common language and beliefs, constitute a politically organized group". James Anaya, former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has defined indigenous peoples as "living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others, they are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest". They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.
The International Day of the World's Indigenous People falls on 9 August as this was the date of the first meeting in 1982 of the United Nations Working Group of Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the Commission on Human Rights. Throughout history, different states designate the groups within their boundaries that are recognized as indigenous peoples according to international or national legislation by different terms. Indigenous people include people indigenous based on their descent from populations that inhabited the country when non-indigenous religions and cultures arrived—or at the establishment of present state boundaries—who retain some or all of their own social, economic and political institutions, but who may have been displaced from their traditional domains or who may have resettled outside their ancestral domains; the status of the indigenous groups in the subjugated relationship can be characterized in most instances as an marginalized, isolated or minimally participative one, in comparison to majority groups or the nation-state as a whole.
Their ability to influence and participate in the external policies that may exercise jurisdiction over their traditional lands and practices is frequently limited. This situation can persist in the case where the indigenous population outnumbers that of the other inhabitants of the region or state. In a ground-breaking 1997 decision involving the Ainu people of Japan, the Japanese courts recognised their claim in law, stating that "If one minority group lived in an area prior to being ruled over by a majority group and preserved its distinct ethnic culture after being ruled over by the majority group, while another came to live in an area ruled over by a majority after consenting to the majority rule, it must be recognised that it is only natural that the distinct ethnic culture of the former group requires greater consideration."In Russia, definition of "indigenous peoples" is contested referring to a number of population (less
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, between possibility and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together mean "after or behind or among the natural", it has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics. Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are. Metaphysics seeks to answer, in an abstract and general manner, the questions: What is there? What is it like? Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence and their properties and time, cause and effect, possibility. Metaphysics study, conducted using deduction from that, known a priori. Like foundational mathematics, it tries to give a coherent account of the structure of the world, capable of explaining our everyday and scientific perception of the world, being free from contradictions.
In mathematics, there are many different ways. While metaphysics may, as a special case, study the entities postulated by fundamental science such as atoms and superstrings, its core topic is the set of categories such as object and causality which those scientific theories assume. For example: claiming that "electrons have charge" is a scientific theory. There are two broad stances about; the strong, classical view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist independently of any observer, so that the subject is the most fundamental of all sciences. The weak, modern view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist inside the mind of an observer, so the subject becomes a form of introspection and conceptual analysis; some philosophers, notably Kant, discuss both of these "worlds" and what can be inferred about each one. Some philosophers, such as the logical positivists, many scientists, reject the strong view of metaphysics as meaningless and unverifiable. Others reply that this criticism applies to any type of knowledge, including hard science, which claims to describe anything other than the contents of human perception, thus that the world of perception is the objective world in some sense.
Metaphysics itself assumes that some stance has been taken on these questions and that it may proceed independently of the choice—the question of which stance to take belongs instead to another branch of philosophy, epistemology. Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as the core of metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, subdivided according to similarities and differences. Identity is a fundamental metaphysical issue. Metaphysicians investigating identity are tasked with the question of what it means for something to be identical to itself, or — more controversially — to something else. Issues of identity arise in the context of time: what does it mean for something to be itself across two moments in time? How do we account for this? Another question of identity arises when we ask what our criteria ought to be for determining identity?
And how does the reality of identity interface with linguistic expressions? The metaphysical positions one takes on identity have far-reaching implications on issues such as the mind-body problem, personal identity and law; the ancient Greeks took extreme positions on the nature of change. Parmenides denied change altogether, while Heraclitus argued that change was ubiquitous: "ou cannot step into the same river twice." Identity, sometimes called Numerical Identity, is the relation that a "thing" bears to itself, which no "thing" bears to anything other than itself. A modern philosopher who made a lasting impact on the philosophy of identity was Leibniz, whose Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals is still in wide use today, it states that if some object x is identical to some object y any property that x has, y will have as well. Put formally, it states ∀ x ∀ y However, it seems, that objects can change over time. If one were to look at a tree one day, the tree lost a leaf, it would seem that one could still be looking at that same tree.
Two rival theories to account for the relationship between change and identity are perdurantism, which treats the tree as a series of tree-stages, endurantism, which maintains that the organism—the same tree—is present at every stage in its history. Objects appear to us in space and time, while abstract entities such as classes, r
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants. Although some indigenous peoples of the Americas were traditionally hunter-gatherers—and many in the Amazon basin, still are—many groups practiced aquaculture and agriculture; the impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. Although some societies depended on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, city-states, states and empires. Among these are the Aztec and Maya states that until the 16th century were among the most politically and advanced nations in the world, they had a vast knowledge of engineering, mathematics, writing, medicine and irrigation, mining and goldsmithing. Many parts of the Americas are still populated by indigenous peoples.
At least a thousand different indigenous languages are spoken in the Americas. Some, such as the Quechuan languages, Guaraní, Mayan languages and Nahuatl, count their speakers in millions. Many maintain aspects of indigenous cultural practices to varying degrees, including religion, social organization and subsistence practices. Like most cultures, over time, cultures specific to many indigenous peoples have evolved to incorporate traditional aspects but cater to modern needs; some indigenous peoples still live in relative isolation from Western culture and a few are still counted as uncontacted peoples. Indigenous peoples of the United States are known as Native Americans or American Indians and Alaska Natives. Application of the term "Indian" originated with Christopher Columbus, who, in his search for India, thought that he had arrived in the East Indies; those islands came to be known as the "West Indies", a name still used. This led to the blanket term "Indies" and "Indians" for the indigenous inhabitants, which implied some kind of racial or cultural unity among the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
This unifying concept, codified in law and politics, was not accepted by the myriad groups of indigenous peoples themselves, but has since been embraced or tolerated, by many over the last two centuries. Though the term "Indian" does not include the culturally and linguistically distinct indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of the Americas—such as the Aleuts, Inuit or Yupik peoples, who entered the continent as a second more recent wave of migration several thousand years before and have much more recent genetic and cultural commonalities with the aboriginal peoples of the Asiatic Arctic Russian Far East—these groups are nonetheless considered "indigenous peoples of the Americas". Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, which includes not only First Nations and Arctic Inuit, but the minority population of First Nations-European mixed race Métis people who identify culturally and ethnically with indigenous peoplehood; this is contrasted, for instance, to the American Indian-European mixed race mestizos of Hispanic America who, with their larger population, identify as a new ethnic group distinct from both Europeans and Indigenous Americans, but still considering themselves a subset of the European-derived Hispanic or Brazilian peoplehood in culture and ethnicity.
The term Amerindian and its cognates find preferred use in scientific contexts and in Quebec, the Guianas and the English-speaking Caribbean. Indígenas or pueblos indígenas is a common term in Spanish-speaking countries and pueblos nativos or nativos may be heard, while aborigen is used in Argentina and pueblos originarios is common in Chile. In Brazil, indígenas or povos indígenas are common if formal-sounding designations, while índio is still the more often-heard term and aborígene and nativo being used in Amerindian-specific contexts; the Spanish and Portuguese equivalents to Indian could be used to mean any hunter-gatherer or full-blooded Indigenous person to continents other than Europe or Africa—for example, indios filipinos. The specifics of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are the subject of ongoing research and discussion. According to archaeological and genetic evidence and South America were the last continents in the world to gain human habitation.
During the Wisconsin glaciation, 50–17,000 years ago, falling sea levels allowed people to move across the land bridge of Beringia that joined Siberia to northwest North America. Alaska was a glacial refugium; the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered most of North America, blocking nomadic inhabitants and confining them to Alaska for thousands of years. Indigenous genetic studies suggest that the first inhabitants of the Americas share a single ancestral population, one that developed in isolation, conjectured to be Beringia; the isolat