Native Americans derive from a small number of Asian founders who likely arrived to the Americas via Beringia. However, additional details about the initial colonization of the Americas remain unclear. To investigate the pioneering phase in the Americas we analyzed a total of 623 complete mtDNAs from the Americas and Asia, including 20 new complete mtDNAs from the Americas and seven from Asia. This sequence data was used to direct high-resolution genotyping from 20 American and 26 Asian populations. Here we describe more genetic diversity within the founder population than was previously reported. The newly resolved phylogenetic structure suggests that ancestors of Native Americans paused when they reached Beringia, during which time New World founder lineages differentiated from their Asian sister-clades. This pause in movement was followed by a swift migration southward that distributed the founder types all the way to South America. The data also suggest more recent bi-directional gene flow between Siberia and the North American Arctic.