Date of this Version
Encyclopedia of the Great Plains Indians, edited by David J. Wishart. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA: University of Nebraska Press, 2007, pages 144-147.
Paleo-Indians were the earliest people to inhabit the Americas. Between thirty and eleven thousand years ago, small, highly mobile groups of huntergatherers extended their hunting areas throughout Beringia (the landmass that joined Siberia and Alaska) and into the Western Hemisphere. This “bridging landmass” emerged slowly from beneath the Bering Sea as more than nine million cubic miles of glacial ice accumulated over southern Alaska, Canada, Labrador, and Greenland. About twenty to eighteen thousand years ago an immense “ice dome” (the Laurentide glacier) towered more than one mile over present-day Hudson Bay. Two lobes of ice spread southward over the eastern edge of the Dakotas and deeper into the Midwest. The Central and Southern Great Plains remained unglaciated at this time, yet the mountains of glacial ice to the north exerted pronounced influences upon the everyday lives of the Paleo-Indians throughout the region.