Their Ancestors Migrated east from Siberia into Alaska and then south into the rest of North America some twelve thousand to fourteen thousand or more years before any Europeans "discovered" the continent at the end of the fifteenth century. During those millennia the people now known as Indians developed hundreds of societies with differing languages, social practices, and adaptations to their local environments. In eastern Canada the Laurentian Iroquoians supplemented their gardening with hunting and fishing near their Saint Lawrence Valley towns. Their Algonquian neighbors hunted and gathered along the north shores of the great river while the populous agricultural Hurons lived to the West. South in Florida and along the Gulf Coast much larger Indian societies would encounter the Spanish early in the sixteenth century. Agricultural people such as the Coosa, Apalachee, and Natchez had developed large and complex societies based on rich soil, plenty of rainfall, and a mild climate. Farther west beyond the plains a variety of smaller groups inhabited the semiarid and and part of the Southwest, where Zuni, Hopi, and other pueblo dwellers all had well-established permanent settlements. 1 Wherever and however these people lived in 1500, they could not escape some contact with the Europeans who probed the continent repeatedly.
The entire native world differed drastically from that of the Europeans. There were no empires or kingdoms and probably only a few loose confederacies with which to deal. Even most groups now recognized as tribes or nations developed those identities after 1500 and often as a result of contact with the invaders.