Coastal Migration

chumash paddling traditional tomol on the ocean
Chumash in Tomol - Channel Islands National Park

NPS Photo/Robert Schwemmer

Often when we think of migration to this country we envision pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower, Europeans coming through Ellis Island or modern day immigrants from any number of countries seeking a better life on our shores. But migration was taking place far before recorded history. Today, scientists look to national parks along our coasts to piece together the story of how and when people first arrived in what is now America.

Archeological evidence suggests that roughly 16,000 years ago the first people to arrive in North America crossed over an ice-free corridor from Asia in what is now Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Prehistoric sites in Channel Islands National Park suggest that people arrived on the California coast as early as 13,000 years ago. The National Park of American Samoa tells of skilled navigators from Southeast Asia who traveled great distances in double-hulled canoes and colonized the Pacific islands about 3,000 years ago – well before the first Europeans arrived in North America.

Coastal national parks preserve archeological sites that may help us uncover the earliest stories of migration to this country and allow us to learn more about our pre-historic heritage.

For Further Reading

Migration Theories - Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Native Inhabitants - Channel Islands National Park

Ohlones and Coast Miworks - Golden Gate National Recreation Area

History and Culture - Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Archaeology - Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Vulnerabilities of Cultural Resources - Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Native Peoples - Biscayne National Park

Last updated: May 23, 2017


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