European Views of Native Americans

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The trappers of the Canadian wilderness and the American wilderness liked and respected Native Americans. They even interbred with them and sold them guns, which was very often illegal. Traders had a special status in Native American society. A trader could travel thousands of miles in his canoe without once being robbed or molested. Contrast that with Europe, where anyone from another town was fair game.

However, the English settlers, after a very brief period of good relations in Massachusetts, came to loathe Native Americans. There was a serious culture clash here between stone age Native Americans (who had no land as private property, property belonged variously to the family, clan, or tribe) and Iron Age Europeans. Europeans had a totally different concept of private property. Your own property could be sold, transferred, deeded, or abused with complete contempt for the land. It astonished Native Americans that the English and Dutch could denude, or even want to denude,entire mountains of forest in just a few years. To them this was incredibly barbaric. In European eyes Native Americans were contemptible because they embraced polygamy, often went about nude, and indulged in mutilating corpses after a battle. Usually this meant looping intestines over a tree and taking a bite out of your enemy's heart to gain whatever courage he had. This is not cannibalism, but a form of ritual magic. This distinction was lost on Europeans who simply assumed they were all cannibals. Cannibalism was practised in the Carribean and in South America among a few tribe, but hardly at all in North America.

Another thing that astonished Native Americans was the very harsh way in which Europeans treated their children. Children were not beaten in Native American societies. Native Americans in European eyes were ignorant savages who needed to be Christianized and exploited at the same time. In Native American eyes Europeans were vicious liars whose character was bad and who...
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