from all over the world have come to the United States to live. Our
population consists of individuals and groups who have
racial, and religious backgrounds.
That is why the United States is often called a
The first people to live in North America were the ancestors of the American
who now live in the United States. It is believed that those ancestors first
came to North America approximately 25,000 years ago. By 1600, between three
to four million Native Americans lived in present day Canada and the United
States. There were hundreds of different tribes and languages. Their
knowledge and skills helped European settlers survive and prosper.
The first European immigrants were mostly from countries in Northern and
Western Europe such as England, France, and Spain. The majority of the
immigrants who settled in the thirteen colonies, which would eventually become
the United States, came from Great Britain. That is why the English language
is our official language and England has had such great influence on our
culture, especially in law and government.
The first United States
was taken in 1790. About four million people lived here and three million
were English. About 750,000 were African-Americans, most of whom had been
brought here against their will. 300,000 were German. There were smaller
numbers of Dutch, French, Spanish, and Swedish people. Since then, immigrants
from many other countries have come here to live.
Between 1790 and 1890 the majority of immigrants to the United States came from
Northern and Western Europe. Especially large numbers of Germans and Irish
came. The first Chinese immigrants also came.
Between 1890 and 1920 the majority of immigrants came from Southern and Eastern
Europe. Few spoke English. Most were Catholic and Jewish. Many were poor and
unskilled. The largest numbers came from Italy, Russia, and Poland.
Since 1945, the majority of immigrants have come from Asia and Latin America.
The largest Asian groups include Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese. The largest
Latino groups include Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans.
Immigrants continue to come to the United States and apply to become
There are so many each year that
has passed laws limiting the number who can be admitted permanently in any one
Each cultural group
to the development and social customs of the United States. For example,
while English is our official language, many words of other countries and
cultures have been added to our vocabulary. Yam (African), cookie (Dutch),
pretzel (German), tobacco (Native American), and ranch (Spanish) are words
describing things we think of as being "American".
What is American? What is an American? These are not easy questions to
answer. Certain people see the United States as a "
melting pot," which means that the characteristics of different groups and individuals
have blended together to form the country and culture we share. Others see the
United States as a "salad bowl," which means that the different groups and
individuals have retained many of their unique characteristics. There is truth
in both points of view. Each recognizes that the United States is a product of
its rich cultural