Emilia Tomescu, Iuliana Neagoș
The Spirit of a People and its National Anthem - the American Continent
In the year 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean and claimed the island he had found for Spain, naming it San Salvador. He treated with the Arawak natives, calling them ”Indians” as he believed that he had reached the coast of Asia. He explored three small islands before sailing to Cuba, and then to Hispaniola (present Dominican Republic and Haiti), where he established the first European settlement in America that was bound to resist. In 1493, he set off back to Spain, quite convinced he had sailed to Asia and back.Only in 1499, the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci who travelled to South America and the Caribbean realized that the lands Columbus had reached were not in Asia but part of a new continent. He called it The New World but in time this name was replaced by the land of Amerigo or America.
The first great civilizations that flourished in America were those from Mesoamerica and South America which rivalled those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and China. In Mesoamerica, the civilization of the Olmecs established a blueprint for later cultures in the region. At the heart of Olmec belief was jaguar-worship, associated to the God of Fertility: Tlaloc, that they shared with their South American counterparts. Thisculture, which reached its peak by 600-400 BCE, was to have a strong influence in various regional cultures that persisted afterwards through Mesoamerica, specifically the Zapotecs and Toltecs.
The next great American cultures that developed before the arrival of the European settlers left impressive traces, above all in Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula) and in Central America as well as in the Andes, where the Aztec, the Mayan and the Inca empires once flourished. In New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado one can find well-preserved ruins of the Anasazi.
In North America, the First Nations, who were to be known after Columbus as American Indians or Native Americans, had cultures of their own. The main Tribal Nations in North America were: the Iroquois, the Seminoles, the Navahos, the Cheyennes and the Lakotas. On the territorry which would became Canada there were the Aleuts and the Inuits.
The Iroquois of up state New York were a unique confederation of six Indian nations. Their great law of peace attracted the attention of American colonists who were forging their own new country.
The Seminoles of Florida who gathered together free Indians and black slaves fleeing the northern lands. Together they built a patchwork nation of peoples mirroring the melting pot of America.
The Navaho whose powerful spiritual link to their land inspired a courageous defence of their territory in the great south-west.
The fiercely Independent Cheyenne, the beautiful people of the plains, whose families were massacred by US Army soldiers.
And their brothers Lakota, the defiant warriors of the west who united with the Cheyenne to hold back the tide of Western expansion for 50 years.