Their ancestors had made the same discovery long before. To them the New World was so old it was the only world: a “great island,” as many called it, floating in the primordial sea. They had occupied all the habitable zones from the Arctic tundra to the Caribbean isles, from the high plateaus of the Andes to the blustery tip of Cape Horn. They had developed every kind of society: nomadic hunting groups, settled farming communities, and dazzling civilizations with cities as large as any then on earth. By 1492 there were approximately 100 million Native Americans – a fifth, more or less, of the human race.
Within decades of Columbus’s landfall, most of these people were dead and their world barbarously sacked by Europeans. The plunderers settled in America, and it was they, not the original people, who became known as Americans.
Unlike Asia and Africa, America never saw its colonizers leave. America’s ancient nations have never recovered their autonomy, but that doesn’t mean they have disappeared. Many survive, captive within white settler states build on their lands and on their backs. In the Andes, 12 million people still speak the language of the Incas: the murder of Atawallpa in 1533 and the violence of today’s Shining Path are parts of the same story. Central America has 6 million speakers of Maya (as many as speak French in Canada): if Guatemala really had majority rule, it would be a Maya republic. In Canada, in 1990, Mohawks took up arms in the name of a sovereignty that they believe they have never ceded to Ottawa or Washington.
– From ‘Stolen Continents: Conquest and Resistance in the Americas’ by Ronald Wright, p3-4.