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North America

People

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North America was sparsely populated until relatively recent times. With the conspicuous exception of the inhabitants of the Mexican heartland (the plateaus and valleys around present-day Mexico City), the indigenous peoples of the continent were geographically scattered and culturally diverse. The settlement of the continent by Europeans began an almost total change in its human geography; Europeans decimated and displaced the indigenous peoples, and the living patterns of most were greatly altered. The contemporary population of North America is mostly European in background, but the continent's population also contains many other important groups.

Languages

English is the principal language for some 90 percent of the people of the United States and for about two-thirds of all Canadians. Spanish is spoken by the majority of Hispanic people in the United States, and French is the chief tongue for about one-quarter of the Canadian population. Many of the indigenous peoples and Inuit of the United States, Canada, and Greenland use their traditional languages. Spanish is the dominant language of Mexico, but several million Mexicans speak a Native American language.

Religion

Christianity is the major religion of North America. The great majority of Mexicans are Roman Catholics, and some 45 percent of Canadians and 26 percent of U.S. inhabitants profess Roman Catholicism. Some 28 percent of Canada's people are Protestants and 8 percent are Anglicans. In the United States, Protestants make up 58 percent of the population. Canada and the United States also have substantial communities of Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians.

 
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