Who really discovered America?

by Shirley Williams
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America has always been known as a place with an incredibly diverse culture. From the moment Christopher Columbus stepped foot in the country and maybe before, it was a diverse land where people of different ethnicities mixed. Columbus himself is often credited with discovering America but the term is one of arrogance. The country was clearly discovered long before as when he got there, he met people. When people say that Columbus discovered America they, of course, mean that he was the first European to discover it. When was America really discovered?

Columbus has already been shown up a number of times in the history books. He clearly didn’t discover America first, he was aiming for India and he may not have even been the first European to discover the country. 

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There is clear evidence that the Vikings were in the Americas long before Columbus was, although whether they went as far south as where the United States of America is today, is unknown. In Canada, there is one heritage site with a number of settlements that date all the way back to Viking time. Even before the Vikings, an Irish man may have been the first to set foot in America. 

St. Brendan allegedly traveled west from Ireland on a voyage. When he returned home seven years later he spoke of a paradise that he had visited. He recounted tales of sheep as big as oxen, crystal pillars and fireballs. If we trace a rough line from Ireland to America it could make sense as the Faroe Islands would have sheep, there would be plenty of icebergs and even a volcano or two near Iceland. This means that the Irish could have been the first to land in America from the West around the year 500AD. 

While there is no proof that St. Brendan landed there, there are some texts of the Vikings that are found to refer to the land south of their settlement as Greater Ireland, meaning it may have been a well-known fact at the time. 

Whoever was there first, it certainly wasn’t Columbus. In addition, whoever got there from the West would have already found settlers. To know who really discovered America we should try and figure out where the Natives came from. 

It appears to answer this question, we must go back about 15,000 years. Back then, North America was attached to Siberia by the Beringia land bridge. Historians suggest that animal life migrated to the Americas over this land bridge and were eventually followed by humans in search of food and places to settle. It is said that these people first settled in North America but migrated further down to Central and South America as well. 

These people are called the Clovis people (because their remains were found near the town of Clovis in Mexico). DNA studies suggest that nearly 80% of all indigenous people in the Americas are related to these Clovis people. There may have even been people earlier than the remains found in Mexico but this debate rages on.

It is amazing to think that there have been so many wars and genocides on American soil over the last 15,000 years. So many have laid claim to a land that so many inhabit today. The evidence appears to suggest that the first settlers would have come from the East, not the West. The debate rages on as discoveries continue to be found. It was recently discovered that the Sweet Potato (native to the Americas) was found in Polynesia around 1,000 years ago. This means that while Columbus was landing in one part of America, the Polynesians may have been discovering another part. Whoever can lay claim to being the discoverer of America, one thing is for sure, Columbus can not.

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