Native Americans were greatly affected by the European colonization of the Americas, which began in 1492, and their population declined precipitously due to introduced diseases, warfare, and slavery.
Since the 1960s, Native American self-determination movements have resulted in many changes to the lives of Native Americans, though there are still many contemporary issues faced by Native Americans.
Today, there are over five million Native Americans in the United States.
Over time, the United States forced a series of treaties and land cessions by the tribes and established reservations for them in many western states. The ways Native Americans refer to themselves vary by region and generation, with many older Native Americans self-identifying as "Indians" or "American Indians", while younger Native Americans often identify as "Indigenous" or "Aboriginal".
The term "Native American" has not traditionally included Native Hawaiians or certain Alaskan Natives, such as Aleut, Yup'ik, or Inuit peoples.
These were complex nomadic cultures based on (introduced) horse culture and seasonal bison hunting. Cultural activism since the late 1960s has increased political participation and led to an expansion of efforts to teach and preserve indigenous languages for younger generations and to establish a greater cultural infrastructure: Native Americans have founded independent newspapers and online media, recently including First Nations Experience, the first Native American television channel; established Native American studies programs, tribal schools, and universities, and museums and language programs; and have increasingly been published as authors in numerous genres.
They carried out resistance against United States incursion in the decades after the end of the Civil War and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in a series of Indian Wars, which were frequent up until the 1890s and continued into the 20th century. Indian agents encouraged Native Americans to adopt European-style farming and similar pursuits, but European-American agricultural technology of the time was inadequate for the often dry reservation lands, leading to mass starvation. The terms used to refer to Native Americans have at times been controversial.The differences in cultures between the established Native Americans and immigrant Europeans, as well as shifting alliances among different nations in times of war, caused extensive political tension, ethnic violence, and social disruption.Even before the European settlement of what is now the United States, Native Americans suffered high fatalities from contact with new European diseases, to which they had not yet acquired immunity; the diseases were endemic to the Spanish and other Europeans, and spread by direct contact and likely through pigs that escaped from expeditions.The ancestors of modern Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much longer, from Asia through Beringia.A vast variety of peoples, societies and cultures subsequently developed.While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus' initial landing.