Native Americans vs. Europeans

Topics: Sociology, Native Americans in the United States, Social stratification Pages: 2 (574 words) Published: May 1, 2005
Native Americans and European Compare/Contrast Essay

Europeans lived a much more modern way of life than the primitive lifestyle of Native Americans. Europeans referred to themselves as "civilized" and regarded Native Americans as "savage," "heathen," or "barbarian." Their interaction provoked by multiple differences led to misunderstanding and sometimes conflict. These two cultures, having been isolated from one another, exhibited an extensive variation in their ideals. Europeans and Native Americans maintained contradictory social, economic, and spiritual practices. The European social structure was heavily influenced by land ownership, with a land-wealthy elite at its center. Europeans viewed land as a resource to be exploited for human benefit. Property was the basis of independence, material wealth, and political status. Native Americans deemed the exact opposite of individual land ownership. Tribes recognized boundaries, like the Europeans, but believed that land was communal. Communal land ownership helped limit social stratification in Native American communities, much unlike the social hierarchy established by the Europeans. Europeans were accustomed to a greater scale of inequality. Native Americans stressed the group rather than the individual. They did not base life on material wealth as the Europeans did. However, some exceptions to this cultural system occurred in the more modern empires of the Aztec and Inca and, in North America, among tribes such as the Natchez. Europeans' views of women were in sharp contrast to those of Native Americans. Women in European societies enjoyed very little social importance. In Native American societies, women also held inferior positions, but not to the degree instituted among European women. Native Americans determined family membership through the female line, contrary to the European patriarchal system. A woman could divorce her husband if she wished. Europeans regarded this reversal of...
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