- American Indians are often thought of as one group, but they do not constitute a single, unified ethnic grouping. There are literally hundreds of cultural and linguistic — that is, ethnic — distinctions: the Navajo of Arizona, for example, have little in common with the Mohawks of New York. The Inuits and the Aleuts of Alaska are categorized as American Indians, but they are ethnically distinct from each other and from the American Indians of the contiguous states as well. It is estimated that from 300 to 550 different American Indian languages were in use in North America before European colonization; about 150 are still spoken today.
- While the Ingalik language and culture differ from those of the Seminoles, there is a general history that all American Indians have in common: an origin in the prehistoric past somewhere in northeast Asia (their immigration to the Western Hemisphere, over a period of thousands of years, was an event so remote that evidence of it is lost in the strata of ancient rock or ice deposits) and, in more recent centuries, confrontation with European explorers and settlers followed by extreme social and economic discrimination by the European Americans.
- For all American Indians, an integrated way of life was irrevocably upset by the arrival of Europeans and their expropriation of the land. The trauma of culture conflict had its origins in the very first contacts between the Europeans, who could not comprehend the American Indians' attitude toward land as an everlasting resource for common use, and the American Indians, who could not comprehend the notion of land as private property that could be sold and lost forever.
- Most estimates of American Indian population at the time of the European arrival hover around the one million mark. However, for a number of reasons it is believed likely that the population might have been two or more times that. The Europeans introduced not only conflicting ways of life, but diseases to which the American Indians had no resistance, and whole populations died. By 1860 there were only about 340,000 American Indians in the contiguous states and by 1910 some 220,000. Improvement in medical care even on remote reservations at about that time resulted in a decline in the death rate, and the American Indian population started to grow. The Census Bureau records that from 1950 to 1970 this population more than doubled, from 357,000 to 793,000.
According to the passage, which is true of the number of American Indian languages currently in use in North America?
- (A) It is at most one-half the number spoken before European colonization. CORRECT ANSWER
- (B) It is nearly double the number spoken before European colonization.
- (C) It is about the same as the number spoken before European colonization.
- (D) It has been steadily increasing in the years since European colonization.
- (E) It has only recently decreased significantly from the number spoken before European colonization.
Find the sentence in the first paragraph that compares the number of Indian languages spoken in the past with today. This is the last sentence in the first paragraph: "It is estimated that from 300 to 550 different American Indian languages were in use in North America before European colonization; about 150 are still spoken today."
(B) and (C) and (D) can be eliminated because fewer Indian languages are spoken today (150) than before European colonization (300-550). Since the passage does not mention when the decrease occurred, (E) can also be eliminated. (A) is correct because the 150 languages spoken today are half of the 300 languages spoken in the past.
(from the October 1996 test)