This article may contain affiliate links. For details, visit our Affiliate Disclosure page.
The height of Native Americans has been a topic of interest for researchers and historians for many years. While it is difficult to determine the exact average height of Native Americans throughout history due to various factors such as regional differences and the impact of colonialism, there is evidence to suggest that their height varied based on a number of factors such as diet, lifestyle, and genetics. In this blog post, we will explore the average height of Native Americans throughout history and the factors that influenced their height.
Height and Health of Pre-Columbian Native Americans
Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans were living in diverse environments across North, Central, and South America, and their diets and lifestyles varied greatly. For example, people in the Arctic regions lived off a diet primarily consisting of fish and marine mammals, while people in the Great Plains and Southwest regions relied heavily on farming. Due to these differences, the average height of Native Americans varied by region.
According to studies of pre-Columbian skeletons, the average height of Native Americans ranged from around 5’2” to 5’10”, with the tallest individuals living in the Great Plains and Southwest regions. While these heights were generally lower than the average height of Europeans at the time, there is evidence to suggest that Native Americans were generally healthy and well-nourished. This is supported by studies of dental health, which show that pre-Columbian Native Americans had healthy teeth with little decay.
Factors that Influenced the Height of Native Americans
Diet was a major factor in the height and overall health of Native Americans. In general, people in regions with more abundant food resources tended to be taller. For example, people in the Pacific Northwest had access to a diverse range of foods, including salmon, shellfish, and berries, which likely contributed to their relatively tall stature. On the other hand, people in the Great Basin region, which is known for its arid climate and limited food resources, tended to be shorter.
In addition to diet, genetics played a role in the height of Native Americans. The genetic makeup of Native American populations varied depending on their region and history of migration. For example, people in the Great Plains region were likely descendants of the Clovis culture, which originated in Siberia and migrated across the Bering Strait. These people were likely taller due to their genetic background and lifestyle of hunting and gathering.
Impact of Colonialism on Native American Height
The arrival of Europeans and the subsequent colonization of the Americas had a significant impact on the health and height of Native Americans. The introduction of new diseases, such as smallpox, caused widespread death and illness among Native American populations. This, combined with the forced relocation of Native Americans to new environments and the imposition of European diets, led to a decline in the overall health and height of Native Americans.
Modern Height of Native Americans
Today, the average height of Native Americans has increased due to improvements in healthcare and nutrition. According to a study conducted by the Indian Health Service, the average height of Native American men in the United States is around 5’9”, while the average height of Native American women is around 5’4”. However, there is still significant variation in height based on factors such as region and lifestyle.
One factor that has contributed to the increase in height among modern Native Americans is improved access to healthcare. In the past, many Native American communities had limited access to medical care, which led to higher rates of illness and malnutrition. Today, there are more healthcare facilities on or near reservations, and there are more programs aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of Native Americans.
Another factor that has contributed to the increase in height among modern Native Americans is changes in diet and lifestyle. While traditional Native American diets were generally healthy, the introduction of processed foods and high-sugar drinks has led to higher rates of obesity and related health issues. However, there is a growing movement among Native American communities to return to traditional foods and practices, such as growing and harvesting their own crops and fishing in traditional ways.
In addition to these factors, there is also evidence to suggest that modern Native Americans may have a genetic advantage when it comes to height. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona found that Native Americans have a genetic variant that is associated with taller stature.
The average height of Native Americans has varied throughout history due to factors such as diet, genetics, and colonialism. While pre-Columbian Native Americans were generally healthy and well-nourished, the arrival of Europeans and the subsequent colonization of the Americas had a significant impact on the health and height of Native Americans. Today, the average height of Native Americans has increased due to improvements in healthcare and nutrition, but there is still significant variation based on factors such as region and lifestyle. The continued study of the height of Native Americans is important not only for understanding their history but also for improving the health and wellbeing of modern Native American communities.