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Autochthon (Characters) #25


Amerindians, American Indians, Indians or Native Americans, as claimed by certain peoples, are the inhabitants of America before the European colonization of the Americas. The Native American ethnonym derives from American Indian. It was invented following the error of the explorer Christopher Columbus who, in 1492, thought to have reached the Indian subcontinent while landing in America. It is in this context that the Europeans named this territory the West Indies, to differentiate them from those called Eastern (which also gave its name to various European colonial entities called East India Company). Because of this confusion, we continue to use the word "Indians" to speak of the New World populations. With the works of the cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in the early sixteenth century, we begin to speak of "American continent", in memory of the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci; its inhabitants are then referred to as "American Indians" to distinguish them from the people of India without completely changing the practice of designating them as Indians.

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