European Colonization of the Atlantic Coast Term Paper

Pages: 5 (2004 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans

¶ … European Colonization of the Atlantic coast and neighboring lands was a very complicated process which can not be regarded as simply positive or negative. This is a very uneasy historical problem which influenced American history and changed the continent but at the same time it caused numerous casualties of Native American population and ultimately Indian tribes were faced conquerors' discrimination or even true genocide. That was a conflict of two different civilizations, two different societies which could not live in peace together as they wanted to be the only owners of those vast lands. Sure, Native American civilization was not as progressive as Colonists' one but we should remember that Native Americans were not only small migratory groups who hunted wild animals and gathered plants. To have such point-of-view is absurd: Indian tribes had sophisticated societies which had own values and specific sense of life based on unity of human and nature. "Convinced that Europe was synonymous with civilization, colonizing Europeans failed to see anything of value in Indian civilizations. They regarded Indian peoples as "primitive"..."but that was a tragic mistake.

Numerous wars against Native Americans stand to be well-known facts nowadays but it is worth mentioning that warfare was not the only episode of colonization process. Europeans influenced Native Americans' life in many aspects: they developed trade relations between colonies and some tribes; they influenced Indian religion and culture and many historians admit the fact that cultural adaptation of Native American population was a widely spread process.

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Now I will try to define major directions of European influence which ultimately caused Colonists' victory and capture of Native Americans' lands.

Term Paper on European Colonization of the Atlantic Coast and Assignment

Economical factor was no doubt one of the main factors of Colonists and Native Americans relations. To prove this we need to compare French colonies in Canada and English ones of the Atlantic seaboard of the present-day U.S.A. territory as their attitude to Native Americans was absolutely different. French colonists considered local tribes as trade partners because both French and Native American commercial interests were centered on fur trade. Also local population could be used against hostile English colonies. English colonists had another point-of-view which depended on their desire to capture more land which belonged to Native Americans. To do this, colonists had to displace local population which sure would never accept such hostile interference. Also there were some misunderstandings in European and Native American understanding of private property. Indigenous tribes considered private property as a right of the whole community to hunt on the land they occupied. This interpretation was absolutely different from the one English people had. Another particularity of English-Native American relations was considering them not important to the colony's economy as there was no any place for them in English conception of colonization. But after a military threat of Northern opponents (French colonies) English people became more experienced and tried turn some Indians into allies by presenting them some gifts, developing trade relations. Ultimately colonists realized that they had to cooperate with Indians for some time to strengthen their positions in the region. So, they involved indigenous peoples into trade relations and that was their great success as "many Indians became dependent on the manufactured goods the fur trade brought them, and hunted to meet the demands of European markets rather than the needs of their families." According to Colin Calloway Indian peoples quickly became tied into European trade networks and ultimately they became a part of Atlantic colonial economics which worked for European colonists but not for Indians themselves. That was very important because Native Americans were no longer economically independent from colonists and circumstances forced them to cooperate with conquerors. This conception of economical conquest became very popular later and was used by leading countries in their foreign policies.

English strategy was to weaken indigenous tribes to displace them from the lands which were found worth capturing as English settlers wanted to be the only land-owners and no cooperation with Indians could give them real hegemony on the continent. Economical success of English colonies (first of all manufacturing) helped them in achieving leading positions in continent's economics because colonies governed by France and Spain were still agricultural and outdated.

Indigenous tribes of North America suffered not only economical dependence but also "unknown" diseases which, as they thought, were brought by offended wildlife spirits. Diseases came from the south of the country where they were brought probably by Spanish conquerors. Later medical specialists found out that Indians were immunologically vulnerable to pulmonary ailments, gastrointestinal disorders, and the most dangerous - smallpox. These diseases were unknown in both Americas before Columbus but later they spread all over, especially in Latin America. Atlantic seaboard was not an exception. Some historians admit that depopulation process in northern American regions could be caused by Jesuit priests who knew Native Americans' vulnerability and brought microbial infections there. Thousands of innocent casualties among Indian population were the frightening results of this genocide. Lack of qualified medical service was really tragic. Many Indians believed that these diseases were caused by soul of a sick human as they didn't know anything about infections. "Unfortunately, traditional Indian cures offered little protection against the new diseases that swept the land after Europeans arrived in North America." So, Native Americans were forced to leave their lands to look for some friendlier environment where they would not suffer from horrifying epidemics.

Economical dependence and lessened population of Native Americans meant great success of colonists but that was not enough. Europeans wanted to destroy Indian way of life, destroy their beliefs and the whole culture because being unique and independent Native culture could unite indigenous tribes and be an ideological basement for resistance. So, the main purpose of expansion was religion of Native Americans as the universal system of their knowledge and world understanding. Europeans started spreading Christian ideology among Indians since Native Americans were considered "children of the forest" who had to be assimilated by church-leaded educational process. "European missionaries were convinced that there was only one true religion" and no doubt they did their best to teach "wild" Indians European religion.

All Indian tribes were pagans and believed in numerous gods and spirits who were associated with nature. History had proved that pagan religions are not that strong as Christianity or Islam and we have many historical arguments to prove this statement (Ancient Rome, Arab Caliphates, Ottoman Empire, Slavic tribes). So we can see that Native American religion was not able to change and resist European influence as Indians had too different culture which developed in isolation for many centuries. Native American religion was a land-based religion which could not be universal system of social education for all tribes; it could not unite them. Religious assimilation began with epidemics because indigenous tribes tried to find any explanation of this tragedy in their myths. But nobody succeeded finding any convincing idea. Another reason was close cooperation of local population with white colonists and we know that all nations being in contact with one another always gain something new from this cooperation. White people realized this weakness of Native American religion and decided to use it in own interests. So they began various missionary activities and ultimately European forms of Christianity had enormous impact upon Indians. But missionaries used different methods: some of them even combined Native American religion and Christianity because they were sure that such mixture would be more understandable than usual Christianity. Now we know that by the early 20th century many indigenous tribes were Christians but it is important that new religion didn't change their way of life, their mentality because "Some Indians who worshiped in Christian churches continued to live in wigwams. They made Christianity an Indian religion. Indian men served as preachers, pastors, and deacons; Indian women found that Christianity honored their traditional roles..." But spiritual expansion failed as many Native Americans resisted new religion: they were convinced it threatened their world and resisted any effort to separate them from their culture. All these misunderstandings caused bloody conflicts and numerous wars began.

Both Europeans and Native Americans didn't want to be passive. Europeans formed military units to fight Indians and perpetrated assaults on Indians' settlements, burned them, murdered their population. That stupid aggression united many tribes and they proclaimed war on whites as that was the only way out for them to survive and protect their homeland. Native Americans received many rifles and other ammunition since they cooperated with colonies and became rather dangerous and experienced enemies, who fought bravely for own freedom. French-Indian war is a bright example of that conflict. French colonies fought against English ones and many tribes for example Delaware and Shawnee were interested in trade relations with French colonies, so they sided with the French. They received military ammunition, food and other supplies from French allies but it didn't change the situation and French troops were defeated. As a result Native Americans were left alone and British colonial aggression unleashed. It could not be characterized… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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