The Paleolithic ancestors of the native Americans are the true original inhabitants of America, but many others deserve credit as well for the discovery of the land. Among these are Leif Erickson and the Vikings of Norway, and Christopher Columbus of Spain. Without these early visitors to the land, America would not be the thriving nation it is today.
Fifteen to forty thousand years ago the first settlers of America came to the land by way of the Bering Straight. Some believe the Pacific Ocean was much lower than it is now and these early migrants could have walked across a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska. Others believe they used small Kayaks or walked across an ice cap. These first settlers were the Paleolithic ancestors of the Native Americans. These Asians were nomadic hunters and found the land while following herds of animals eastward. After the first band of settlers many more came who soon spread across what is now the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Present day archaeologists have unearthed many Paleolithic artifacts such as campsites, primitive tools and weapons of the early settlers. With the ability to carbon 14 test these artifacts, scientists were able to confirm that they were here as early as 4000 BC.
Somewhere around 1000 AD, Leif Erickson discovered North America for the Vikings of Greenland. According to Icelandic sagas, Leif boarded his ship with thirty-five other men and sailed south of Greenland. Their first stop was somewhere near the present day Baffin Islands. He also visited a place, which he called Vineland, meaning wine land, where they found many grapes and made wine to take back to their homeland in Greenland. Leif and his crew spent the winter in Vineland and built a large house and a shed to protect their ship. No one knows the exact location of Vineland, but estimate it is somewhere in northern Newfoundland. Archaeologists found the ruins of an old Viking settlement in north Newfoundland around 1960 and suggested it might have been Vineland. Although some historians suggest that Leif must have traveled further south because grapes do not grow that far north. Other explorers sailed from Greenland to Vineland for fifteen more years. They might have even settled, but attacks by the Native Americans deterred them.
After Leif Erickson and the Vikings came Christopher Columbus and the Spaniards. They were searching for the Spice Islands of the Indies, but mistakenly landed in the Bahamas in 1492. Christopher Columbus was an Italian who had a great plan to open up a new trade route to the Indies. His plan was to sail west and end up in Japan in less time than it would take to go by land. Columbus planned to sell his idea and get sponsored for his trip. Spain took him up on his deal and gave him money and ships to make his voyage in hopes that he would bring back spices and other precious materials to Spain. Columbus set sail and headed west. He found land three months later. Believing he had found the Indies he named the inhabitants Indians. This name had stuck with the Native Americans even to the present day. Columbus made three more trips to the new land not knowing he had discovered America. He died in 1506 never knowing of his tremendous discovery. So the reason he gets all the credit is because he came back to civilized England and announced his findings. The Indians did not.
Although the Paleolithic ancestors of the Native Americans were the true discoverers of America, Leif Erickson and Christopher Columbus deserve some credit also. Each discovered the land for their people and added another chapter to our history.