I'm getting way off topic here, so I'll hesh up on this subject after posting this.
Jim's response gives me an opportunity to mention a book I recently read and strongly recommend. Charles C. Mann's "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" is a landmark book about the Indian civilizations that existed in pre-Columbian America. It is the culmination of recent groundbreaking research and scholarship.
The book debunks most of the myths and misunderstanding about the so-called "Indians". Far from being primitive, unsophisticated nomads (although, as in the Old World, there were such peoples in the New World), the majority of Indians lived in a thriving, sophisticated, socially advanced civilization. The population was far, far higher than previously thought, which makes the post-Columbian depopulation of the Americas even more criminal. Indian cities, on average, were larger, cleaner, better organized and more orderly than the average European city. Indian scientists and philosphers made unparalleled advances in astronomy and mathematics.
Indian civilization has often been minimized by such misunderstood facts as the "failure" of the Indians to invent the wheel. In fact, as Mann explains, Indians knew all about the wheel, but did not develop wheeled vehicles simply because there were no indigenous draught animals to pull them. The largest domesticated animal was the llama, and that only in the Andes area of South America.
This is a very balanced book. It also challenges much of the pro-Indian and New Age myths. Far from being gentle, pastoral souls living in harmony with nature, the Indians were every bit as exploitive of their environment as people on other continents. They drove many of the large mammals into extinction. There was a dark undercurrent in Indian cultures. Human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism characterized much of their religious practices. Indians were never able to permanently solve the problem of continual inter-tribal warfare (neither were the Europeans, by the way), though they did manage to negotiate treaties and alliances as temporary fixes. Slavery was a thriving and time-honored aspect of Indian culture.
This is a fascinating study, and, despite the scientific nature of its presentation, is actually a pretty fast read. It will open your eyes to the dazzling heights of Indian civilization as well as the depths of its often dark and despairing religious beliefs.
A cautionary note, if you're sensitive to criticisms of the Christian religion you might want to give this book a pass. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. The role that Christian missionaries played in destroying an ancient, vibrant civilization simply cannot be justified, no matter how noble their intentions.
This book finally puts Indians where they belong -- as equals on the world's historical stage. Simultaneously civilized and savage, noble and depraved -- just like Europeans.