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Native Americans"American Indian" redirects here. For other indigenous peoples, see Indigenous peoples of the Americasand other geographic regions. For Americans from South Asia, see Indian American. Native Americans within the boundaries of the present-day United States(including indigenous peoplesof Alaskaand Hawaii) are composed of numerous, distinct tribesand ethnic groups, many of which survive as intact political communities. The terms used to refer to Native Americans have been controversial. According to a 1995 U.S.Census Bureauset of home interviews, most of therespondents with an expressed preference refer to themselves as "American Indians" or simply "Indians"; this term has been adopted by major newspapers and some academic groups, but does not traditionally include Native Hawaiiansor certain Alaskan Natives, such as Aleut, Yup'ik, or Inuitpeoples.Since the end of the 15th century, the migration of Europeans to the Americashas led to centuries of conflict and adjustment between Oldand New Worldsocieties. Many Native Americans lived as hunter-gatherersocieties and told their histories by oral traditions; Europeans therefore created almost all of the surviving historical record concerning the conflict.The indigenous cultures were quite different from those of the proto-industrial and mostly Christianimmigrants. Manynative cultures were matrilinealand occupied hunting grounds and agricultural lands for use of the entire community. Europeans at that time had patriarchalcultures and had developed concepts of individual property rightswith respect to land that were extremely different. The differences in cultures between the established Native Americans and immigrant Europeans, as wellas shifting alliances among different nations of each culture through the centuries, caused extensive political tension, ethnic violence, and social disruption. Native Americans suffered high fatalities from contact with Eurasian diseasesto which they had not acquired immunity. Smallpox epidemicsare thought to have caused the greatest loss of life for indigenous populations, although estimates of the pre-Columbian population of what today constitutes the U.S. vary significantly, from 1 million to 18 million.After the coloniesrevolted against Great Britainand established the United States of America, PresidentGeorge Washingtonand Henry Knoxconceivedof the idea of "civilizing" Native Americans in preparation for assimilation
as U.S. citizens. Assimilation (whether voluntary, as with the Choctaw, or forced) became a consistent policy through American administrations. During the 19th century, the ideology of manifest destinybecame integral to the American nationalist movement. Expansion of European-American populations to the west after the American Revolution resulted in increasing pressure on Native American lands, warfare between the groups, and rising tensions. In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the IndianRemoval Act