North America is home to people from all over the world. Some are the descendents of Native Americans who have lived on the continent for thousands of years, while others are the children of European immigrants who have lived in North America for hundreds of years or for only a few generations. There are also millions of people who descend from African slaves brought to North America as part of the transatlantic slave trade that flourished up until the 18th century.
It's believed that the earliest North Americans were people who arrived from Asia thousands of years ago and became the indigenous people we now call Native Americans. Historians theorize that Asians crossed a bridge of land or ice connecting present-day Russia and Alaska tens of thousands of years ago. They slowly migrated southward in search of more favorable climate.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, people from England, Holland, France, and Spain were among the first Europeans to establish colonies. Long voyages across the Atlantic Ocean were made by people seeking economic opportunities, or they sought freedom from political or religious persecution in their homelands. The Spanish established colonies in Central America and what is now Mexico and the southwestern areas of the United States. The British concentrated on colonizing the east coastal regions, while French explorers, traders, and trappers settled in the midwest and areas around Canada.
Today immigrants continue to arrive in North America from Asia and Africa. Immigration from European countries has slowed down dramatically with the exception of countries like Russia and Ukraine. The two most popular destinations on the continent are the United States and Canada. Thanks to large waves of immigration over the last few hundred years, North America benefits tremendously from the rich diversity of people and culture found within its borders.
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Now you try it. Read the paragraphs above. If you have a microphone, you can record your voice and compare it to my voice.
Click here to see how the borders of North America have changed since 1750.
Check your comprehension. Choose one answer fro each question. Answers are below.
1. From which part of the world do some historians believe that Native American ancestors originated?
A. Africa B. Asia C. Central America D. Europe
2. Which ocean did early European settlers cross to get to North America?
A. Atlantic B. Indian C. Pacific D. Arctic
3. Besides the United States, what is another North American country that has a lot of immigration?
A. Mexico B. Greenland C. the U.S. D. Canada
4. Which European country settled primarily along the east coast of North America?
A. Germany B. France. C. England D. Spain
5. What does "indigenous" mean?
A. native B. artificial C. careful D. skillful
(Answers: 1. B; 2. A; 3. D; 4. C; 5. A)
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