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Life for North American Indians began to change with the arrival of Europeans. While explorers from other regions of the world may have landed in North America earlier, it was Christopher Columbus' voyage to the "New World" in 1492 that signaled the true beginning of European colonization of the continent. European colonies existed in North America from the end of the 15th century (1400s) until the 19th century (1800s) ... a period of more than 300 years.

Europeans were interested in colonizing North America for a variety of reasons: to acquire fabulous riches like gold and silver, to escape poverty, to find religious freedom, to convert Indians to Christianity, or simply to find adventure and new opportunities. Soon after they arrived, the European colonists began to import enslaved Africans, who were found in many of the colonies along the East Coast.

Although European colonies existed in practically every region of North America, many areas were largely uninhabited by Europeans and remained home to Indian tribes for hundreds of years.
Map of North America, 1650. (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division [G3300 1650.S3])
Learn more about the European colonies

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