Indians and Europeans - Contact/Relationship Between

Fur trade, Society of Jesus

The geographical separation of the European and Indian settlements fostered their early societies to grow up drastically different to one another. When contact was finally made, inevitable misunderstanding followed, sprung from their individually formed world views. The Indians were initially seen as savages by the Europeans due to their apparent primitive practices, and many missionaries made it their concern to civilise them into something closer to their European ideal. Bruce Beresford's film Black Robe helps visually illustrate the difficulty of doing so and depicts some consequences that following such a ‘civilising' attempt by a Jesuit, Father Laforgue or ‘Black Robe'. Problems arose however mainly due to the obvious cultural clash between the two; their differences of views seem to have been too great to coexist together and remain unaltered. The Indian culture is shown to suffer the most detriment from contact with the whites: European trade contact caused problems by encouraging Indian dependency and abuse on their goods; views and practices on religion were so different that European missionaries' attempts to convert the Indians to their Christianity often failed, and those converted only divided the community and weakened the fabric of Indian culture; and finally, communication between the two was thick with misunderstanding, and the attempt by the Europeans to ‘correct' the Indians with literacy and the written word only wore away at their traditional customs and identity.

Upon contact between the Europeans and the Indians, communication methods proved to be greatly different, leaving plenty of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The first record of contact between the Europeans and the Indians of pre-British Columbia was recorded in July 1774 in the journals of two Franciscan friars, Thomas de la Pena and Juan Crespi, who were aboard the Santiago. A group of native Haida paddled out to the ship and threw feathers all about over the...
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