It took incredible courage, tenacity and skill for people to get from Asia to North America and then South America. When I first heard about how they got here I thought it was impossible. These first migrants to this hemisphere were amazing people. They deserve all of our admiration. That does not mean they were perfect. Perfection is rarely found outside of my household.
They arrived in extremely difficult conditions. The Ice Age was in progress, though receding. Much of North America was still covered in ice. The rest was occupied by dangerous critters. It is difficult to imagine a more inhospitable or dangerous place. Yet they came.
Scott Momaday in America in 1492: The World of the Indian Peoples Before the Arrival of Columbusedited by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.described them this way, “When man set foot on the continent of North America he was surely an endangered species.” Those people came with few weapons of survival and few resources. At least from our modern perspective they had few resources, but they were not without resources.”
These explorers had tenacity, strength of will, endurance, resourcefulness, a willingness to learn, and perhaps most importantly a cooperative spirit. They knew how to hunt. They could make fires. They probably came with dogs and perhaps even sleds. They could speak and most certainly they could think. Perhaps most importantly they were able to work in groups and learn from each other. They were able to cooperate. As Momaday said, of the first explorer, “He had some sense of society, of community, of cooperation. And, alone, among the creatures of the earth, he could think and speak. He had a human sense of morality, an irresistible craving for order, beauty, appropriate behavior. He was intensely spiritual.” My only quarrel with this description is the word “alone.” For too long now humans have seen themselves as having a monopoly on thought and speech. Modern science and traditional knowledge are discrediting those notions for the modern descendants of those people certainly have prejudice and bias.
I want to emphasize the cooperation of the First to cross into the western hemisphere. In difficult environments people have to learn to cooperate. Rugged individualism is rarely the solution. Humans became powerful because they could work in groups. That requires a lot of social skill. We should not forget those important lessons from our ancestors.