What is an American?


The name "America" first began to appear on maps in the early 1500’s, always being placed in the area of present-day Venezuela or toward Nicaragua. Later, the name was applied to the entire continent of America consisting of North America, South America, the Caribbean, and offshore areas such as Newfoundland and Greenland. Today, the plural form of "the Americas" is sometimes used because of the many subregions: North America, South America, Meso-America (Mexico and northern Central America), Central America, Arctic America, etc.

America as a name may stem from the mountain range known as Amerique located in Nicaragua or it may stem from a word common to several American languages of the Caribbean and South America, namely Maraca (pronounced maracá, maráca, and mbaraca). This word, meaning rattle or gourd, is found as a place name in Venezuela (Maracapana, Maracay, Maracaibo), Trinidad (Maracas), Puerto Rico (Maracayu, etc.), Brazil (Maraca, Itamaraca) and elsewhere.

Many very early maps of the Caribbean region show an island located to the northwest of Venezuela (where Nicaragua is actually located) called "Tamaraque" which has been interpreted as "T.amaraque" standing for tierra or terra (land) of Amaraque.

Most of us have probably been taught that America as a name is derived from that of Amerigo Vespucci. Strangely enough, Vespucci’s first name is more often recorded as Albérico rather than Amerigo. It may well be that the name America is not derived from his name but we know for sure that it was first applied to South America or Central America and not to the area of the United States.

From the early 1500’s until the mid-1700’s the only people called Americans were First Nations People. Similarly the people called Mexicans, Canadians, Brazilians, Peruvians, etc. were all Native People. In 1578, for example, George Best of Britain wrote about "those Americans and Indians" by which he referred to our Native American Ancestors as Americans and the people of India and Indonesia as Indians. In 1650 a Dutch work referred to the Algonkians of the Manhattan area as "the Americans or Natives." In 1771 a Dutch dictionary noted that "the Americans are red in their skins". As late as 1845 another Dutch dictionary defined mestizos (mestis) as being children of a "European" and an "American" parent.

English usage is very little different. John Wesley, in 1747, referred to First Nations People of Georgia as "the Americans." The Quaker traveler William Bartram, after a lengthy tour among the Creeks, Cherokees, and Choctaws in the 1770’s, refers to them as "the Americans." Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1827 edition) has: "American [from America]. An aboriginal native of America; an inhabitant of America."

In 1875, Charles Maclaren, in a British encyclopedia, wrote of "the American race," "the color of the American," "the American natives" and "the Americans" by which he meant "the Americans of indigenous races." More recently (1986), the Chronicle of Higher Education noted that "Scientists Find Evidence of Earliest Americans" in northeastern Brazil (32,000 years old). These "earliest Americans" were Native Americans.

Beginning in the 1740’s-1780’s British newspapers also began to refer to their British subjects on the Atlantic seaboard as Americans in the sense of Britons living in America. After the United States became independent in the 1780’s, its new citizens began to refer to themselves as Americans, perhaps trying to identify with the famous Chief Tammany and the continent of America.

It is incorrect usage to refer to the United States as America. It is "of America," and America is the entire continent. California was part of America before it became part of the United States, and everything from Canada to Chile is still considered to be part of America.

Jack D. Forbes

[see Mestizo]

[see American Indian]

Forbes 10/94
I re-read the post, good thing, otherwise I might have looked like an idiot! but than again I often do. That was a good read andmen. here is a link that talks about this to.

news.nationalgeographic.com/n...bajaskull.html (external - login to view)
Reverend Blair
Common usage is reality though. Americans are, in this day and age, citizens of the United States of America. The rest of us are something else...Canadians, Mexicans, fans of Hugo Chavez...whatever.

I think at this point it would be better to differentiate between the citizens of the United States by referring to those who support democracy and the stated views of the founding fathers as Americans and those who see corporatism and the domination of others as imperative to their well-being as Amerikans.
Thats a good way of looking at it reverend. Some of their founding fathers were spectular. Do you have a favorite?

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