European Natives and Indians

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Although they share a number of similarities, the Europeans of the early 16th century had many differences with the Native Americans of the same era. When the Europeans first "discovered" the Americas in the late 1400s-early 1500s, they expected to find a land filled with savages that had little or no intelligence or technological advancements. However, these European explorers came to realize that the Native Americans were far more civilized than they had imagined.

When the first European explorers reached North America, they thought they had discovered a land of "forest primitives". The majority of Europeans held the Natives to this stereotype, simply because the Native Americans' way of life was, in some ways, far different from their own. The biggest, and perhaps the most glaring, difference between the two societies was that some of the Natives lived in a matrilineal society, while the Europeans believed in a more common patrilineal way of life. The Iroquois believed in matrilineal families where the family was determined by the mother, rather than the father. The females were clearly the authority of the household; if a woman desired a divorce with her husband, she would simply take his belongs and place them on the doorstep. Similarly, there was a group of older women from related families which made the majority of the political decisions for the village. Whether or not the village should go to war was decided upon by the matrons. If they disagreed with a war effort, they simply ceased the production of supplies, forcing the men to return home. In these ways, the European and Native societies were extreme opposites.

Another way that the two societies differ is in their political systems. While the Europeans had a capitalism-based society, many Native Americans practiced more of an "upside-down capitalism". This was a direct contrast to the Europeans, where the goal was to pile up material possessions. Instead, the Indians believed in giving...
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