Official numbers for Native Americans

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Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by Cold War Communist on Tue Jul 11, 2017 10:49 pm

This is something that I discovered was a bit of a contentious issue among historians. A few years ago in university, one of my favourite professors brought up the statistics regarding Native Americans present when the first colonizers arrived.

He said that old estimates had the total population of Native Americans in North, Central, and South America at 12 million persons, but that historians were debating revising the number to around 90 million or more. I have not been able to find any reliable sources on the high end estimate since then, and it's been several years now. There are no good books that cover the higher estimate, so if anyone can fill me in (or wants to discuss this in more detail), feel free.
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Re: Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by CptCrape on Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:03 am

I bet there were more than 12 Million, but I doubt their were 90 Million. Seeing as that's how many they estimate Europe had at the same time. And Europe is a lot more hospitable for a large population than all of the Americas. And don't forget that South Americas population is still significantly behind Europe.
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Re: Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by eggcrate09 on Sun Aug 06, 2017 8:12 am

Hello, 6 years of studying history has told me that there were give or take 90 million people. When the first colonists came (I am assuming you mean when the Spanish and Portugese sent out Conquistadors, or you could push that back 2 more years for when The Spanish set up colonies on Hispanola) the Cusco or Incan empire was in the south that had a large population, you have the central american countries with a high population and millions of people spread throughout the rest of north america. So it is highly possible there were more than just 90 million

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Re: Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by CptCrape on Sun Aug 06, 2017 12:31 pm

eggcrate09 wrote:Hello, 6 years of studying history has told me that there were give or take 90 million people. When the first colonists came (I am assuming you mean when the Spanish and Portugese sent out Conquistadors, or you could push that back 2 more years for when The Spanish set up colonies on Hispanola) the Cusco or Incan empire was in the south that had a large population, you have the central american countries with a high population and millions of people spread throughout the rest of north america. So it is highly possible there were more than just 90 million
I just kind of doubt that total because so many basic necessities for civilization were lacking. Trading wasn't anywhere near as prevalent as the old world, there were no tameable animals, empires were constantly sacrificing their people, and the climate was not very good. Maybe there was 90 million people, I just doubt it.
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Re: Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by Mr Trolldemort on Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:51 pm

It's fairly hard to estimate historical populations accurately, especially without written records or censuses.

-Most estimates for the world population during 1500 were between 400 to 500 million people. If we assume the population of Native Americans in both parts of American would be about a quarter to a fifth of the world population. That doesn't sound too unreasonable, however like many of you already said it is hard to maintain that number in that climate with the technology back then.

-It's true that the Aztecs and Incas had a few large cities, but cities back then were nowhere near as large as they are now, even in Europe, so I doubt they would be enough to make it to the high end of 90 million, even including the more rural parts of the Americas.

-If there were so many people, you would assume there would be a lot of artifacts during this time. Of course a lot of it could have been destroyed in the centuries afterwards, but such a large population shows a lot more archaeological signs.

Personally (I'm not an archeologist so this is just my own opinion) I would say the population is around a middle ground of about 50 million for both Americas. Feel free to give your own explanations or estimates.
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Re: Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by eggcrate09 on Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:49 pm

people tend to think of the America as depopulated, but before small pox they had large civilizations on the eastern USA (The Mississippi natives, Iroquois, Huron, and the Cherokee) The Western USA (Pueblo and Great Plains tribes) the Central Americans (Aztec Miztec and Maya with many smaller but high population tribes) The South america (the Inca with smaller tribes on the east coast) Along with many undocumented tribes that we do not know of as of yet. I am not as familiar with the topic as I am European and African history but I know enough to throw in on this discussion

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Re: Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by Cold War Communist on Mon Aug 07, 2017 4:34 pm

eggcrate09 wrote:Hello, 6 years of studying history has told me that there were give or take 90 million people.

What did your studies reflect that led you to believe that was the case? I heard/read/learned the same thing in academia when I was studying U.S. history, but written material is slim pickins right now.
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Re: Official numbers for Native Americans

Post by eggcrate09 on Mon Aug 07, 2017 6:43 pm

Jeremy Adelman (One of our history professors) was having a lecture about Native Americans during the Spanish and Portuguese colonization of the Americas (I forgot about the exact sources as it was a 3 years ago) and he talked about the population of native american relative to their areas. The highest concentration was in Central america where he said that there might have been up to 45-50 million in that one area. With around 10 million in north america, and 15-20 in south america. (Forgot the exact numbers, sorry) So around 70 million with the lowest estimate and 80 with the highest. Maybe there were more sources that there were more people in the Americas. In Worlds together Worlds apart by (Slew of Historians including Jeremy Alderman, probably my favorite history book) Chapter 12: Contact commerce and colonization touches on native american population again, I will look through it soon to find a quote supporting the 90 million ish claim

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