European and Native American Relations

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Beginning in the sixteenth century, Europeans made the voyage to a “new world” in order to achieve dreams of opportunity and riches. In this other world the Europeans came upon another people, which naturally led to a cultural exchange between different groups of people. Although we commonly refer to European and Indian relations as being between just two very different groups of people, it is important to recognize this is not entirely true. Although the settlers of the new world are singularly referred to as Europeans, each group of people came from a different nation and with different motives and expectations of the new world. Similarly, the Indians were neither a united group nor necessarily friendly with each other. Due to the complexity and diversity of these groups of people, relations between the Europeans and Indians varied greatly throughout the new world, running a spectrum from mutual cooperation to harsh insular conflict.

Although often later replaced with more negative relations, some early European and Indian relations were characterized by fascination and generosity. Some Europeans were even able to recognize the ways in which Indians were superior to themselves, referring to them as “noble savages” and beautiful (Give Me Liberty, 11). Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian explorer, wrote extensively of his own encounters with various groups of Native Americans. He speaks of a mutual fascination between the Indians and his fellow explorers. The Indians, marveling the strange white people, are gracious and offer food. Verrazano seems intrigued by the Indians’ lack of clothing and physical build, which he compares to both the Ethiopians and the Orientals (Voices of Freedom, 7). Of another Indian village, Verrazano seems to appreciate ways in which the people seem to be superior to Europeans. He is perplexed by their lack of value for gold and other precious items, and also by their extreme generosity. He describes them as having “the most civil...
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