We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Why Are Native Americans Called Indians?

Niki Acker
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Historical Index is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Historical Index, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The term Indians as applied to Native Americans, or the indigenous peoples of the Americas, is thought to have originated in a misconception on the part of the Europeans who arrived in Central America in 1492. Since Christopher Columbus began his journey to America with the intent of finding an alternate route to Southeast Asia, he is said to have assumed that the people he came into contact with upon reaching land were Indians. Despite the fact that people probably realized this mistake within hours, the name remained in use. Similarly, the islands in Central America came to be called the "West Indies", as opposed to the "East Indies" that Columbus originally had in mind as his destination.


In the 1970s, the academic world began promoting the term Native Americans as a politically correct alternative to Indians. Some people feel that Native Americans is more accurate and less stigmatizing. However, Native Americans also has some issues, as anyone born in the Americas, indigenous or not, could be considered "Native American" if the term is taken literally. "Indigenous peoples of the Americas" is the most accurate term, but too cumbersome to be used regularly in everyday speech. Native Americans caught on to some degree, especially in the media, but the term Indians is still widely used.


Native Americans continue to refer to themselves as Indians, especially those of older generations. In addition, American Indian is the official legal term used in the United States. Indians can also be a useful term because it traditionally does not include the indigenous people of Hawaii or Alaska, a distinction not present in the term Native Americans.

The correct way to refer to Native Americans will probably continue to be debated well into the foreseeable future. However, for better or worse, Indians has certainly pervaded legal, literary, and vernacular language in both North and South America. It's strange to think that such an entrenched word is most likely based on a mistake.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a Historical Index editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon1006664 — On Apr 24, 2022

Everyone has a big idea about this but, I have to ask. Who really gives a dang what old

Chris called the folks he found in America! I am only 1/2 American Indian, born in the states. I find fault not in the name handed down for centuries but in the argument now on this page that has gone from a discussion of the original thought to Africa and on and on. Get to the point: no one knows where the first American came from, nor what they should have been called. Supposedly there was an ice bridge from Europe to America at one point. So we all came from somewhere and what does any of it have to do with aid to countries? Or did I read recent comments wrong?

By anon1005781 — On Nov 19, 2021

"Cowboys and Indians" still just sounds better than "Cowboys and Indigenous peoples of the Americas". What would John Wayne call them?

By anon993006 — On Oct 17, 2015

The thing that bothers me is that expert navigators were trained into studying the shapes of lands and knowing proper methods of cartography so I think it is not valid for Columbus, a well known navigator, that he thought he reached India and called the Amerindian people "Indians" when I am pretty sure there was already a term for the people in Bharat (present-day India).

By anon926506 — On Jan 19, 2014

There were no originals on Canadian land. They came from elsewhere and fought to take land, to fight, to take, to use as was the way it was when they roamed the land.

They were using it. In fact, ownership wasn't thought of then. They were, in effect, Gypsies or Roamers who killed off others. They killed them off -- that's what happened back then in the 1300s and it stayed this way, with them not wanting nor having any responsibility for this land, but just using it which is still how it is today with natives.

The Brits brought legalities of ownership once they started claiming land, but the natives didn’t care one iota about such. They also signed treaties with this mindset.

The Brits didn’t have to have treaties once claiming the land started. On top of all this, the people calling themselves Native today believe animals and spirits are the owners of the land and they did not make the animals, either. They animals were here before anyone. They have no ancestry, ownership or right to the land, nor to the animals, either. The treaties are null and void.

By anon351486 — On Oct 14, 2013

It makes sense that Indians are from India and Americans are from America. It was an error by Columbus to refer to the Americans as Indians because he was going to India and he landed in America, meeting the Taino and the Arawak.

By anon350242 — On Oct 03, 2013

Has any one of you stopped to think for a second where every other cultures and different people came from to start with? Have you ever stopped to think that the Native Americans Indians could have been here longer than most had thought? It's the same for every other place and humans in this world. Here's another question: could they have been created there? Maybe not all humans came from the same side of the world, like Spanish, Europeans, Asians, Indians, etc. The list goes on and on. The thing is everyone is a tribe of their own. That's why everybody is different. It's not just skin colors or their ways concerning things, but also even their blood types are different.

By anon328864 — On Apr 05, 2013

The first people who met Columbus when he arrived were the Taino (of the Arawak). It is conceivable that he described them as "in dio" (Latin for "in the open air). Indeed, the bohios in which the Taino lived had thin walls or none at all, consisting of a cone-shaped roof made of palm leaves suspended over hammocks.

In Latin: "in dio" means "In the open air;" "indio" means "India."

In Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish: "indio" means "Indian" (or "indium", but it was unknown until the 19th century); "in dio" means "in god." What "Old Chris" thought he said and what he meant could have parted ways as soon as he was out of sight.

In North America, we eat turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We call it a turkey because the first of their species to arrive in England, did so in a Turkish ship. The first people to see them called them turkey birds. If they had arrived directly from the New World, we might be eating "Americans" at Christmas instead.

By anon326584 — On Mar 22, 2013

even web searches gets confused..if i look for "indans" or "indain", it shows native americans + indian indians..lol

By anon310787 — On Dec 27, 2012

I am part Native American and white. If someone asks me if I am Indian I tell them no, because I am not from India.

By Anonjo — On Aug 16, 2012

Sheesh. Case in point: "Happy European Slavers ... whispering and patting Native Americans on the back." Right.

By Anonjo — On Aug 16, 2012

What's *sad* is the education and knowledge many garner and retain as fact from popular novels/movies/television and other forms of "cultural" entertainment.

By anon285517 — On Aug 16, 2012

Sadly, if you even go online you will find Natives actually posting videos stating that India was only called India in 1947. Such an appalling and ludicrous lack of historical context and respect for the people of India is due to the effect of wrong terminology.

Natives now feel that India is a new term and that they are the real owners of the name "Indian". Oddly, if you ask any native what country they are from, they cannot say India.

It behooves the Natives of the Americas to cease and desist from using the name of another civilization; it causes confusion as well for many Indian descendants who have been living in the west for generations.

This is the legacy of the enslavement of Native Americans and now after the European slaver is happy and pats the Native on his head, he whispers."Oh and er you're not Indian. It was a mistake. Sorry tee hee hee."

By anon270721 — On May 23, 2012

Because Christopher Columbus made a mistake stepping on the Indian land. Ultimately, they are not Indians. Because the Americas are not India. The native Americans are the people of the American continent.

By anon258383 — On Apr 01, 2012

What about people from India? Are they supposed to call themselves something else now? Your explanation that "The correct way to refer to Native Americans will probably continue to be debated well into the foreseeable future..." is insensitive.

We are a billion people and are the only rightful owners of the ethnic identity label Indians. The others can be proud of their own identities "Cherokee, Navajo, Hopi, Comanche, Apache..." or whatever else they are.

By Anonjo — On Feb 15, 2012

Those stating the Europeans decimated the American Indians to near extinction fail to take into consideration the resulting cause and effect from the natural progression of a modernized society. Or do you believe the American Indians would have stood still in time as the rest of the world evolved, and they'd still be living in teepees and shopping for dinner with a bow-and-arrow?

By anon247327 — On Feb 13, 2012

European killed 95 percent of them. Whatever they want just give to them, simple?

By anon246927 — On Feb 12, 2012

Just because something's a mistake, or an insulting word doesn't mean it cannot be reclaimed. I always knew that Indians must have meant Asians and that's how it started. Visiting this site has confirmed that.

But when I refer to an American Indian, I don't do it as a white man looking down his superior nose at the red man. I use the term "Indians" with respect and a sense of wanting to know more about them, out of respect. If I ever do visit the USA, I will do the honorable thing and visit and learn from the people of America -- the Indians -- just as I respect that a true Australian is an abo. They were there first, not us whiteys.

By anon177352 — On May 18, 2011

I'm going to boggle your minds here. How are they called natives when they are on their own land? It just happened, just like that?

By anon167990 — On Apr 14, 2011

@anon167962: *You* brought Africa up, not me. You said you were "from Africa" and I just informed you that you needed to get your own backyard straightened out before *you* start pointing fingers at other people.

The only thing I've called you out on are the words you actually posted. I haven't made any personal remarks or assumptions about you, because I don't know you. But you felt free to make assumptions about me, even though you've never met me and know nothing about me. And you know what? That is the worst kind of arrogance and intellectual self-interest. You're doing *exactly* what you accused me of.

So we probably need to agree that each of us needs to render service where we are and each do our own part to fix the problems in our respective countries. I can't think of a better way to promote peace and fellowship than to help our fellow citizens live better, more productive lives. Be blessed and be well.

By anon167962 — On Apr 14, 2011

@ anon167489: Did you know anybody accepting his/her hidden motivations?

And powerful people do not ask for help because they can arm-twist to get it.

Why are you so worked up about Africa? Save your energy to solve American problems. Instead of worrying about Africa, worry about the destruction of nature and environment that the life and style of all modern nations have caused. Do some real service not just lip service.

By the way: people who really do selfless help are never so boastful about it.

By anon167489 — On Apr 12, 2011

@anon167105: Yeah, and I'll bet that free food doesn't stick in your throat going down, either. Get over yourself.

I'll be the first to admit that America has a slew of problems. There's no doubt. We have issues. Any American with any sense knows it. We just don't go whining to the rest of the world for help.

Remember Live Aid? No, probably not. Look it up.

Don't you dare question my personal motivations in sending any aid anywhere. There's no self-interest. My name isn't on it. I do it to help other people, because I've been blessed with the ability to do it. I don't care if I'm thanked personally or not. Doesn't matter to me.

Let me say it again: When Africa gets its problems straightened out, you can feel free to preach to Americans. Until then, I suggest you be part of the solution instead of pointing fingers elsewhere. That's what I'm trying to do. You have a nice day.

By anon167105 — On Apr 11, 2011

@anon165964: Free aids are rarely free most of the time. There is always implied self interest attached to it. The most obvious one is to give some pride to intellectuals like you and make them believe we are doing so well here.

By anon165964 — On Apr 06, 2011

@From Africa: Let me suggest you assist in getting the problems in Africa solved before you start making comments about U.S. history.

There is no doubt the Native Americans have been horribly mistreated, but how that is any of your affair is quite beyond me. We are, believe it or not, working to make amends to these people, as halting and feeble as our efforts have been, sometimes.

When Africa gets the messes in Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, and God help us, Sudan, cleaned up, then perhaps, you will be qualified to express an opinion on how poorly Americans are doing in our own country. In the meantime, please feel free to enjoy the billions of dollars in humanitarian aid that Americans freely send to Africa through private charitable organizations.

By anon165166 — On Apr 04, 2011

from Africa. I have two inquires: What was the name of the continent or land given by those who were living there before the European incursion?

Second, what the Europeans did was wrong. Do you know why there was a large number of people killed by Europeans, because their stupid philosophers did not think that other peoples (non-Europeans) are fully human. Now from the comments above I see a compounded ignorance. At least you have to acknowledge the wrong done: massacre, genocide, enslavement, changing names. Then civilize yourselves. Mere material possessions and sophisticated killing machines make the West more barbaric than the groups it claims to label barbaric.

Have feelings. Imagine the suffering these people are undergoing: the destruction of their culture, identity, occupations.

By anon157426 — On Mar 02, 2011

Xicano: How do you know the "original inhabitants" didn't venture into the land prepared to fight for the land and take what they wanted by force?

Many scientists believe that the habits of the people of the past can be found within our own uncivilized neighbors of today. Many of those uncivilized habits of "today" are of infighting, rape and murder. If you need proof of this, you need only to visit one of their tribes, alone, unarmed. Better yet, ask for one of their women's hand in marriage, unarmed.

So that I'm not mistaken, I'll say it bluntly. It is human nature that a man will protect a woman. To what extent a man will protect a woman depends upon the man, but in a community with many men and little or no consequences amongst their people for killing you, at least one of the men will believe that murder is the correct way to handle a disagreement, especially if you insist.

I suppose you think the most barbaric tribes of today learned these distinctly unique barbaric ways and customs, that have been going on for thousands of years, from non-natives?

I suppose you think that "The Law of the Land" and "Kill or Be Killed" are just a bunch of baseless cliches.

It was only because of fortune that these so called "original inhabitants" were first and that they didn't have to deal with the ugliness of war. That's one of the cool things about being the first in many things, but it's certainly not a good argument.

I suppose you think if the so called "original inhabitants" had found people here and all the other lands had been populated by warmongers, they'd just turn around after having traveled many miles across harsh lands and waters that swallowed up their brothers and sisters along the way?

I suppose you think that the original people of the land were vegetarians in a paradise and had nothing to worry about. The snakes didn't bite. The crocodiles weren't a threat. You'd smile at the bears and shake hands to claws. The cougars would just walk right over you while you were sleeping and you would see the cougar above you and you'd just turn the other way and listen to the pitter-patter of the rain. Zzzz.

No, the original inhabitants waged war on the land. To survive they created weapons of war to defend themselves against the infighting that happened when disagreements abounded and the warmongering animals that surrounded them and they killed and ate those warriors, "god's" living creatures, animals that were just trying to live in a paradise of their own.

Were you a leader surrounded by oppressive warmongers at home, I suppose you would turn your people around after having found a different land of a different type of people indigenous to the land, but not as capable in war. Your "original inhabitants" probably wouldn't have survived the long trek back home.

Murder, rape and other ills of war thrive in the dangerous minds of many men, women and animals of many cultures and locations. I personally am against war! I despise war! But I wonder what would I do if I were presented with war threatening my family and the only choice I have for survival is the law of the wild. Kill or be killed?

Brother, war, famine, misfortune and disease come to those who do not want it.

By anon157419 — On Mar 02, 2011

@anon76100: "we are and always will be the peoples of this land."?

I'd hate to put words in your mouth and say that what you meant by being "the peoples of this land" is that you were the first people indigenous to this land, but that's the general implication most people get when someone says that.

Firstly, not one person on this planet can, beyond a reasonable doubt, prove that they were the first people to occupy any part of the earth. Nothing "naturally existing" on this planet "belongs" to anyone, including the so called "indigenous." So what if you were here first?

Wangi was here first.

I'd bet my life that there were other peoples here before your peoples and probably others before them. In times of survival, it is in the nature of people to take things they need or want by force or otherwise in a more pleasing fashion.

Secondly, we all come from the same DNA that can be traced to one or a handful of people. People are different in mind because of culture.

Culture is an easy way of saying that people are molded into who they are by the sensory perceptions of their surrounding environment and by the behaviors, teachings and perceptions of the people surrounding them.

In this new world of the internet the people surrounding them tend to be anyone they relate to on the planet. So who are you now?

It's funny that you don't care what you're called yet you demand via your implied comment at the end that you are to be remembered as "We are and always will be peoples of this land."

If the land of the US were to fall to some new powerful entity, would you then feel empathy for the US, "the 'new peoples' of this land?" Or would you still feel enmity as your subconscious so obviously implies?

You would feel empathy and if necessary, and if given the chance, you might fight side by side with us against a dictating terror. But who will your children be?

In 500 years. who are the indigenous peoples? In 1,000? In 10,000? If we're still here, the likely outcome is that the people finding our bones would refer to "us" as indigenous.

We "all" are "the peoples." How do you like them apples?

By anon128163 — On Nov 18, 2010

Just bumped into this with interest as I recently returned from Canada. I live in Australia and we too have issues with Aboriginal society. What surprises me a little is that I did not find any reference here to the expression "First Nations" that was used again and again during my trip in Canada. I found this quite honourable and satisfying.

As for the debate about whether or not American Indians where the first there, I think it's rather petty and hope we would leave this to the experts when an extreme need for accuracy is needed.

Also regarding what happened in the past, for me, the best way to deal with it is to do what can be done now about these people present condition. Australia has gone through arrowing (and I would say, meaningless official "sorry") that supposes to have been very constructive and well received. So be it, but I think only time and good will is a healer.

Nations have always taken advantage of each other in the past through various means and new societies have emerged. I appreciate this was much more than a regular "war" but it can't be undone. --rnc

By anon122150 — On Oct 26, 2010

Lets think about this for a sec. The reason we have the name America, is because of a map maker named Amerigo Vespucci would sign his name on maps and had his name signed on a map "Amerigo" of the new world or part of it and people thought the land was called Amerigo or America, so I have learned.

Continuing to think, Amerigo Vespucci was European. When Europeans came to the new world, they thought the people were Indians from India, from what I learned, the sailors wanted to go to India. So, there is a problem with some people who don't like the word "Indian." Most of the Indian Indians that I have come across, think it is kind of novel and cool and seem to be somewhat honored that a group of people is named after them. Sure there are some who don't, but yes, Indians in the Americas are not Indian Indians.

Now back to the word America: why should we call people native Americans, when the word "America" comes from a european map maker and isn't connected to the people group in the new world any more than "Indian' is. And oh yeah, don't you think "first peoples" is kind of cheesy sounding?

By anon118937 — On Oct 16, 2010

i strongly feel clarity should be here. if native americans were considered uncivilized, why were they given the name Indian, because an indigenous indian feels hurt for such a relation with the name indian.

By anon101162 — On Aug 02, 2010

True, we had better weapons. Still do. Too bad we weren't better people and learned how to use them right. Maybe they weren't so bloodthirsty as to need them. Have we really gotten out of the cave? I find it hard to believe so.

The world is unacceptable this way. We need to not put up with it. Saying, "what else can we do" or "it's necessary," is a cop out. We could find a way, if we really wanted to and we have found many, but who even looks up the information? It's out there.

Children, try to be civilized. Adults don't make excuses. That calculates out. They have us down as about six year olds emotionally. Sounds about right to me or should it be the terrible twos for some?

Commit the crime and justify it. That's creative use of the intellect, all right. Good for narcissists and the worst sociopaths.

Even most sociopaths are no worse than the average person, no higher crime rate etc. It all depends on what you do with what you have.

By anon87547 — On May 31, 2010

anon42372: the process lasted for centuries, sometimes as friends, sometimes as enemies and with cruelty on both sides. It was not a total and never ending war and the West is only a small and last part of the story.

They used what they had for war. If they had ships, gatlings and cannons etc., they would have used them too against other tribes.

Look at just the Crows' bad relations with Lakotas, claiming they have stolen their lands (black hills, e.g.: both claims them "land of their fathers"). The Shoshone claim that when they came on their land they fought and killed the people living there and in Dunwoody Canyon you can find rock incisions about it that have nothing to do with indians.

The anthropologist Jenks found in Minnesota a skeleton of the Pleistocene that is not indian too. But kind of mongoloid.

By anon79500 — On Apr 22, 2010

The name indian is derived from the spanish word for indigenous, indigena. in spanish g sounds like an h so imagine saying indihena really quickly, sounds a lot like indian with a slight accent. English speakers just heard this word and started calling them indians.

By anon76100 — On Apr 08, 2010

O.K. History experts, here's the truth. We, real Native Americans really don't care about whatever names the white people came up with, because we're not that, we are all different peoples, different tribes and customs; we're not the same.

And you can call us whatever you want. We have always known who we are and where we come from. We don't need a proper name because we couldn't care less.

It's actually kind of funny that every one else gets so worked up in the terms and the history. The fact is you all really don't know, you weren't there and history is pretty much crap and by the way, we are and always will be the peoples of this land. We never wanted to own it like the whites. You can't own land.

By anon74837 — On Apr 04, 2010

I met a Navajo Indian yesterday, in Sedona, Arizona and he told me that Columbus naming the Indians was not because of his misconception of India, but derived from some word "in dio?"- it sounded like that. Anyway, derived from this word meaning "in God", because he was blown away by their practicing of monotheism.

And the word evolved to "Indian". So he and his people are not offended by the term Indian, but rather think of everyone on Earth as Indians- People of God.

By anon50336 — On Oct 27, 2009

by the way Spain is Europe=Europeans too. check the map, you will see.

By anon50057 — On Oct 25, 2009

I'm not sure how true this is, but I have heard that Columbus was wanted to Christianize the Indian Indians, but the Asians wouldn't let any Christians through to the indies, so Columbus, believing that the earth was round, and not knowing about the continent of America, decided to go west and find India that way. He then sailed under funding from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Portugal, and found the Americas, and believed the people there to be Indians.

By anon49084 — On Oct 17, 2009

Long back the Europeans started realizing that there is lot of wealth in India (the country in Asia). All wanted to do trade with India and make money and get their pie of the Indian wealth. Just like there was a race to the moon between some of the countries like US and USSR a few decades back, there started a race between the countries like France, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands etc to find short sea routes to India. The only searoute known during those days from Europe to India was coming down the south of Africa and making a turn and heading straight for the Indian West Coast. The turn at South tip of Africa is hence named the Cape of good hope. This is because the seafarers were taking that voyage with a lot of good hopes and aspirations. During these days the concept that earth is round was not really very popular. However, some believed that it may be the case that as per some scientists of those days Earth may be actually spherical in shape. One who wanted to believe this was a Spaniard called Columbus. The popular theory those days were that the sea comes to an end if you go Westward from Europe and fall down from Earth as if Earth is like a Table or something. Columbus tried to convince the Spanish king that they need to find a shorter route to India as soon as possible or else will lose out the advantage with other European countries who according to him are trying to find really shorter sea routes to India. According to Columbus there was no known land Westward of India. So he felt it may occur that India maybe really near if you go Westward and you may touch the East Coast of India. The king wasn't very happy about funding his project of trying to go westward from Europe and try to find a shorter route. So he permitted him to take some prisoners with him instead of seasoned sailors. As prisoner were anyway a waste of Public funds according to the king. So he risked the ship and few prisoners for his project. Columbus travelled many days Westward from Spain but did not find land for many days and the prisoners he had taken as his sailors feared soon they would reach the end of Earth and fall from there. So they revolted and took charge of the ship. However they decided they would travel 3 (not very sure) more days and return back. But on the second day or so they found a wooden log floating in the ocean which suggested there is land nearby and they traveled a day more and started seeing land. They landed there and saw the people there. The people did not look exactly like what they thought Indians should look like. They found them a bit reddish in color. So they called them red Indians. Excited to tell the tale of finding a new route to India back in Spain within few days they traveled back to Spain and said, we saw red Indians. The name Indians formed like this for Native Americans. Later a traveler called Amerigo Vespucci took a similar route and came to the Americas and he realized that it is not India but some other place and he reported this to the world(those days world means just Asia and Europe). Ever since those lands (American continent) started being called the Americas.

By anon48353 — On Oct 12, 2009

I wonder if the same lines of argument and reasoning can be applied to what happened on the African continent. It however appears the situation is different in that the Africans have then gone on to successfuly reclaim their land, though in some cases it has been disastrous as is the case with Zimbabwe.

By anon45807 — On Sep 20, 2009

Indians are from India. The folks that were here in the Americas before the Europeans came, are made up of many different tribes and cultures. The Europeans gave them the name "Indians", and the defeated tribes of the present day Americas know their place and have accepted whatever labels their conquerors have given them.

By anon42372 — On Aug 20, 2009

I can't believe the guy who answered first. First of all, the Europeans have decimated the native american population to near extinction. This is what they don't teach in history. It's like the pink elephant in the room. The big difference is that Native Americans from different tribes fought each other. It wasn't like some outside force with guns, ships and man power totally took over a population. Do research.

By anon39384 — On Aug 01, 2009

man -- no wonder. India was and always be a mystical land for many.

Good Columbus came to canary Island and North America or else they would have blamed the syphillis on the Indians ( Asian )

By anon37598 — On Jul 20, 2009

oh, and the Spaniards were the first ones to come here after the indians were already here.. so many blame the europeans, but either way, a lot of people were still killed through biological warfare.

By anon34072 — On Jun 16, 2009

Could the name "Indians" that is used for native Americans be related to the word "indigenous" and perhaps be derived not from a mistake by Columbus, but from an an English translation of the Spanish word "indigenes"?

By anon31217 — On May 01, 2009

Hindustan was the Urdu name for India. India was always called India. Its name comes from the river Indus which separates it from the rest of the subcontinent. I don't know what it was called in Italian but I don't see how that is significant. It is also called Bharat in Hindi. Still, the English always called it India. And yes, Indians from India are also called Indians. Which is pretty confusing for the Americans apparently because when you tell people in America that you're an Indian they start calling you Native American.

By anon29349 — On Mar 31, 2009

If you call them Indians, what about the people from India sub-continent? They are also called Indians..(As in Americans, Russians and Canadians).

By anon26322 — On Feb 11, 2009

if we came from some land bridge from asia or something like that.. how did we get there? from somewhere else? if so, then how did we get there?

By anon18424 — On Sep 22, 2008

What the heck?!?!?! Why do the darn Indians change their PC name every 5 years? What the heck is the difference between Native Americans and First Americans anyway? They didn't even want to be "Americans" in the first place!!!

By Xicano — On May 22, 2008

The original inhabitants of this land (the now called "Americas") came to this continent over 50,000 years ago; over the Bering Straights which connected what is now Russia to Alaska. They were the first inhabitants of the land and did not come killing and raping the people for their land and gold. Yes thousands of years later once they were more settled, some of the original people of the land did decide they wanted to explore new territories and become inhabitants of the land, so they did kick out whatever tribe was in control at the time.

This was not at all like the genocide committed by the Europeans on the Indigenous people of the land. European invasion killed millions more than the concentration camps the Nazi's built for the Jews. Over 95% of the Indigenous population of the Americas was murdered by European rape, murder, and disease. The "America's" was not discovered by Columbus, it was discovered over 50,000 years ago.

By anon10795 — On Apr 02, 2008

"It's strange to think that such an entrenched word is most likely based on a mistake."

Strange indeed that something caught within hours would stick, especially since in English that country was called Hindustan in 1492 and called something else in Italian at the time than it is now in Columbus's Native Italian.

He called them People "in god " or "in Dio" which came to sound like "Indians"

Sound more logical? Probably because it is.

By anon4750 — On Oct 30, 2007

I have wondered why "Indians" or "Native Americans" are said by many to have a claim to ownership of America, and many people believe that the Spanish and Anglos took their land.

From what I have read Indians were not here originally, but just like the rest of the people living in America, came here in waves of immigration over thousands of years. So, are the first "Indians" who came here the ones that laid claim to the land and are the original "owners"? There were many waves of immigration and later waves took the land of others who were there first. This happened in Asia and then in the "new world". So, who has the best claim for the land called America? Various Indian tribes were always fighting each other for the land.

For years the Apache tribe dominated much of what is currently Texas, as far east as the present day city of San Antonio. The Comanches lived in what is now Colorado. For some reason the Comanches decided to move south into the land of the Apaches. The Comanches dominated and drove the Apachies out or most of Texas toward New Mexico.

So, who has the better claim on Texas? The Apachies? The Comanches? The Spanish? Or the Anglos from the US?

How did the Spanish and Anglos do anything different than what waves and waves of immigrants had done over the centuries? They just happened to have done it more recently. Why is not the Anglos ownership of the US not as valid as the first wave of immigrants who came thousands of years ago but were then destroyed or pushed out by other immigrants?

Just wondering.

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a Historical Index editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
Learn more
Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.