Was Conflict Between Native North Americans and English Settlers Inevitable?
Until the lions tell their stories, the hunter will always be the hero .” History is basically
written about the victors. The version that tends to make a group look better is always told. There are many examples in history such as the history between the Natives and English settlers. People may argue how Europeans coming to America, invading Native North Americans home for there needs, caused conflict, because they didn’t come to make relationships only determined to get what they want. The eventual conflicts that took place between Native North Americans and English settlers was not inevitable, meaning avoidable, because English were able to live amongst Native North Americans peacefully, relied on them as allies, and were able to cultural exchange and synchronize.
It is believed by archaeologists that thousands of years ago, Americans came from Asia as they were following animals across a land bridge that was created during the Ice Age. As the people came into America they began to journey east and south through many harsh environments. They were known as very skilled hunters and had adapted into their environment. (
) By 1492, when Columbus arrived from Europe, he named the group of people he came in contact with first “Indians”, as he was searching for India believed that’s where he was.
Decades later, as Natives began to make first encounters with European settlers, the population began to decrease as the Natives were being exposed to diseases such as smallpox, influenza,
measles and other diseases as they lacked the natural immunities to European germs. They were not used to this sickness. (
We Shall Remain/After The Mayflower)
Many tribes lived in North America before the English, such as Protestants,which were people who were a group of English Protestants that didn’t agree with some of the ways of the Church of England began to arrive in the 1600s meeting with various tribes that were a part of the Algonquin. (patheos.com) Many people had begun to depart from England to make a profit off the many resources they would find in America, therefore they sought out to gain more land. In 1607, three ships docked in Jamestown, making them the first English people to settle down in what is now the U.S. On the ship were 103 people and they chose John Smith to governing council (nps.gov). Before the 1620s, many Europeans came to America for trading for resources with the Natives to acquire furs, though; they had the English built a bad reputation for capturing and killing the Natives.
In 1621, a group of pilgrims, people who migrate to places for religious reason, arrived and were settling in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As they settled they came across a tribe known as the Wampanoag, who barely had any members left as they were struck with a terrible disease, thus desperate for allies. The two had agreed on forming an alliance, which they both depended on in order to survive. The two groups she both had celebrated the first Thanksgiving were celebrated by two groups to celebrate the colony’s first effective harvest.( scholastic.com) In 1622, an event known as The Indian Massacre, which was
Powhatan Confederacy trying to get rid of the colony of settlers, which was the spark of conflict as 300 people were killed (
Possibilities of Peace
In the 1600s, when English settlers arrived in New England, conflict amongst the two
groups was not inevitable, as they were able to live peacefully with each other in the first decade of English settlement. In 1621, pilgrims left England on the Mayflower, hoping to have their own freedom of their religion and church. They settled in Massachusetts and began to settle and begin to build up a civilization there, they met a group called the Wampanoag, whom most of had been killed by an epidemic two years earlier. (PBS)
A documentary filmed by PBS called
We Shall Remain: After the Mayflower explains
that the Wampanoag tribe and their leader Massasoit negotiated with the English colonists in order to come to a resolution that would benefit both groups as the Wampanoag decided to help them, in order to have their help. Neal Salisbury, a historian, explains in the film, "There are strong personal relationshipscertainly going on among the leading political figures on each side and for all we know among all other individuals as well.” (Salisbury) The two men who held the power amongst each group, known as Massasoit and Edward Winslow, both developed a very well developed relationship, as they respected each other very well and handled certain situations peacefully and without any problems. As this was happening other members of the tribes began to build relationships between each other. This shows how both men who held power, were able to develop a relationship, allowing peace between each other. As they interacted with each other and spent time with each other, such as Winslow taking care of
Massasoit when he was ill and resolving any problems without violent action, they allowed time to build a relationship, which comes with trust and comfort. The two leaders’ ability to do this shows how conflict between members of their groups was avoidable. Edward Winslow wrote a letter describing the pilgrims’ relationship with the Wampanoag. In the letter it says, “We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us, very loving, and ready to pleasure us. We often go to them, and they come to us.” (Winslow, 1621). Winslow describes how the Wampanoag were able to maintain the agreement of peace with the pilgrims, that well they cared for English settlers, and that both groups were able to provide for one another. This proves my claim because it shows that both groups were living peacefully with each other and providing for both sides with resources they needed. Both quotes show how Natives and English were able to live peacefully with each other as both men of power were able to develop relationships with one another, making groups feel that they were able to trust each other, and how they looked out for each other, showing conflict was avoidable.
As English settlers were arriving in the 1600s to America, they were coming in contact
with many Native tribes; they began to rely on each other as allies. In 1607, a group funded by Virginia Company of London, had sent out 104 English men and boys (Jamestown and Yorktown Settlement Center), to make money of the resources they would find there. In an article published by the Jamestown and Yorktown Settlement Center, “Powhatan met with settlers and attempted to form an alliance with them to take over some of the surrounding communities..." (Jamestown and Yorktown Settlement Center) Basically this quote is saying
how Powhatan, the chief of the Algonquin living in what would become the Virginia Colony, was trying to work side by the English settlers in order to take over other local people in order to obtain new weapons and tools from the English as a reward, since they helped the English get land and more resources. This proves my claim because it shows how the Powhatan and English settlers relied on each other as allies in order to cooperate to gain resources for each other to survive, showing how conflict was avoidable.
Another way both groups were shown to rely on each other was shown in the treaty made between the Wampanoag and pilgrims in 1621. In the treaty it stated how both groups would protect each other if one is attacked, to do no harm to one another and equal control. In the documentary film,
We Shall RemainAfter the Mayflower
, created by PBS describes the
interactions among the Wampanoag and the early English settlers. A historian named Carver stated that groups’ treaty said, "Let us agree then that if anyone unjustly attack you, that we will help you, and if unjustly attack us, and then you will help us." (Carver) The two different groups had set a treaty between both that they will both protect each other if either side had got attacked either by the Wampanoag biggest enemies the Narraganset or the English get attack by other tribes surrounding them or other groups from different countries. This is supporting my claim because it shows how they relied on each other with their safety also showing a sign of trust as well. These two quotes prove my claim because as they were relying on one another as allies for protection and in order to gain resources for survival, it proves that conflict was not inevitable.
Cultural Exchange and Syncretism
Native North Americans in the 1600s were able to live peacefully with French settlers
because they were able to combine and exchange cultures. French and English settlers both originated from the continent known as Europe, meaning they’re both European. They both came from a society that was male dominant, patrilineal and Christian.They both had similar aspects, such as originating from the same place, allowing French to be similar to English settlers. Therefore, the ability of some French settlers to avoid conflict with Native North Americans can be used to prove that English settlers could have done the same.In the 1500s, the French fur traders settled in what is now Canada, where they met Native North Americans who were part of the Algonquain network of tribes, such as the Delaware, the Narragansetts, the Pequot, and the Wampanoag
Many of the settlers began to marry Native women. As that began to happen, there was cultural syncretism and cultural exchange. Cultural syncretism is where two cultures share traits and create one new one. Cultural exchange is where cultures share traits, maintaining their culture but adding new aspects. According to Susan SleeperSmith, who studied the marriage between French Fur Traders and Native Women, written an article about “Richard White’s conception of the ‘middle ground’ between both groups, explains of how Natives were able to come to an agreement that brought peace. She writes, “…although access to trade enhanced (strengthened) power and influence of these Native women, they did not…maintained their tribal identities.”(Susan SleeperSmith) This quote is basically saying that with more trade goods increasing, they stayed true to who they were and there was never a problem with it. This proves my claim because as the two groups began to syncretize aspects of one culture voluntarily; therefore this allowed conflict to be avoidable.
There are other ways to show how Native North Americans and English settlers were able to culturally exchange. As the English were beginning to settle down in America, the Natives were helping them to farm, in order to help the English survive in their first years in America. They taught them how to grow many different crops as it says, “ American Indians
taught European colonists to grow many varieties of the corn including yellow, red, blue, pink, and black kernels, often banded, spotted, or striped...the new settlers to America began to depend on corn as one of the most important farm crops.” (www.campsilos.org) This quote says that as English began to settle in, Natives were teaching English to farm corn, and after a while, the English began to view corn as important of their daily uses, one big one being able to feed their family. This proves my claim because the settlers didn’t leave their culture or betray it in order to learn to farm using native methods, they maintained their culture just adapting an aspect of another culture to their lifestyle, creating a bond by communication. Both sources prove that conflict between European settlers and Native Americans was not inevitable because since they were able to merge cultures or exchange ideas, nothing was destroyed, showing no conflict.
Many other historians will argue that Native and English settlers’ conflict was inevitable.
In the 1600’s, as English settlers were landing in America, many Europeans were seeing Native Americans as an obstacle, who were in the way of reaching the goal of acquiring land. Because of the religious and economic reasons that drove them, many English settlers would do whatever actions that must be use to reach it making conflict inevitable. In an article, that talks about
Native American and European conflict, it says “The Europeans brought with them not only a desire and will to conquer the new continent to all its material richness...considered Indians to be nomads with no interest to claim land ownership.” (anikutani.com). This quote is basically saying how the Europeans came to the New World, for the reason to acquire all the land that had the resources they wanted and also saw that Indians didn’t have a permanent house in the area so they didn’t have right ownership of the land. This quote can prove that conflict was inevitable because, since the Europeans already had a mindset where they weren’t going to make friends, they were just going to go and acquire land and as they felt the Natives had no ownership of the land they wanted, they saw that as an opportunity to conquer the land. To the Indians, who viewed land as having spiritual meaning, so for the English to just take it without asking, they made conflict inevitable.
There were many ways throughout English settlers’ meetings with Natives that had conflict in them because they were seen as obstacles in their way. Settlers known as Puritan, saw Indians as “lazy savage who accepted life in the wild.” (Prentice Hall U.S. Textbook, 2008
began to take steps in America to remake England, such as making English style barns and houses. In 1636, they were accusing the Pequot of killing an English trader. Many events started to take place that caused the killing of both groups.( Prentice Hall U.S. Textbook, 2008) An
article which is titled
Conflict With the Native Americans which is a secondary source out of Prentice Hall U.S. History Textbook, focuses on how Puritans began a war known as the Pequot War, which was Narragansett Alliance with English against the Pequot. Pequot ended up losing and had 600 dead. The article says, “The missionaries forced the prayingtown Indians to abandon their traditional and to don English clothing...me to forsake hunting and fishing in favor
Prentice Hall U.S. Textbook, 2008) This quote is saying how men who were in Praying Towns, which were ways to convert Natives to Christianity, were making the Natives leave back all their traditions that they’ve carried for years, and accustoming to English traditions. The praying towns were examples of English settlers’ attempts to destroy Native culture in order to gain control of land by forcing assimilation. English forced the Natives to drop farming and hunting, make them follow the English division of gender rules. They’re taking away who they really are, and that proves the claim of how conflict was inevitable. As you can see, this evidence shows how conflict could be seen as unavoidable, because of how the Europeans took power into their hand and forced Natives to assimilate into their culture and were only determined to get land not worrying about who owns or anything they’re just going to take it. However, I still believe that my thesis is correct; that there was a period of time where both groups were able to live amongst each other without a conflict. They were able to share resources, share knowledge with each other and work with each other. If the two groups could live together without conflict for a time, it was possible for it to continue happening. The power was shared equally, and relationship were being created, they were both benefiting of each other for survival. None had to take the further step to try and become more dominant than the other.
As two groups known as the Native North Americans and English settlers were able to live peacefully with each other and having to rely on each other, and conflict avoidable. As I wrote about how Natives were able to live peacefully among each other and how exchanging
cultures was a sign of how each group was comfortable adding new aspects from another culture and how relying on each other as alias was a way of trust as their safety was in each other hands and helping each to get resources to survive making the conflict between both avoidable. Although, how was all this able to occur with people that seemed "alien" to you and what if the Natives weren't gullible? Knowing about the Native North Americans stories that were never talked about is important because it shows us the actual truth about what happened not just one side because you will not understand the entire history. Native American history is just as
important as any other culture. They were the ones that help progress the development of the Nation. They helped and shared their tactics with European settlers in order for them to survive on their land. Native people had the first cultures in the Americas. Civilizations were created and developed because of Native Americans of all of them from North and South America. If conflict had been avoided then, Indian culture would’ve still be very dominant and there will be many lives that could’ve been saved. There would’ve been no hierarchy of people or a nation that is white supremacy.
We can see how everything developed and who is really "American".