Relationships Between Native Americans and European Explorers/Settlers
The indigenous Native Americans and the European explorers of the 16th and 17th century were two very different and distinct groups of people. The Native Americans were usually peaceful until threatened. Although they did not have much technology, they knew the land well and used their resources very efficiently. On the other hand, the European settlers, though more advanced as a civilization, proved a bit more violent and greedy. When the first arrived on the shores, they were poorly equipped and had to take advantage of the natives for resources. This pattern established the basic relationship between the two groups-one domineering and intent on materialistic gain at any cost, and the other, rather naive to the real impact of sharing their world with a culture based on absolute control. These factors played an important role in the collisions between the indigenous people and the European settlers. The many cultural differences between the Native Americans and the European settlers would be the primary cause of constant clashes, confrontations, and miscommunications.
The European settlers had distinct characteristics that set them apart from the indigenous Native Americans. The Europeans were often times thirsty for power and open to new opportunity. In the case of the English, “the English watched with envy as Spain dominated much of the hemisphere that Columbus discovered” (Lord 48). Watching a neighboring country gain so much power was uneasy for the English to do. Instead of watching, the English followed the footsteps of the Spanish explorers of the fifteenth century. In Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem, he illustrates the excitement for the new opportunity across the sea: “Oh, Spread the news, The news of golden Virginia across the sea” (Benet NPG). Also, they did not mind taking advantage of the Indians for their own good. In the short story by William Bradford, “Of Plymouth Plantation”, although the Europeans did not think of the Indians as equal people, they “became profitable to them in acquainting them with many things.” Therefore, they used the Indians for their own good to acquire power. The English and other European explorers were proponents of the new land and its supposed opportunity for land, money, and power. The Europeans were inspired by the opportunity they had, but there stood one major unexpected problem: the Europeans were very ill-prepared when coming to America. They lacked supplies, food, clothing, and hygiene. They were not prepared for the perilous weather and the harsh conditions they would encounter. For example, in “The Birth Of America, Smith talks about how “‘That summer, half the colony died. God (being angry with us) plagued us with such famine and sickness that the living were scarce able to bury the dead” (Lord 52). This perfectly illustrates the conditions that the settlers were not prepared for. In the short story, “Before They Got Thick”, the Lipan Apache talk about what happened to the settlers after they came to visit a year later: “Only a few were left, many had starved to death.” (Bigmouth). Similarly, in “La Relacion”, the Indians brought the Europeans food and necessities as a sign of friendship. Although this was a sign of friendship, the Europeans greatly appreciated the gifts due to the fact that they were ill equipped, starving many times throughout the year. In the following excerpt, Cabeza de Vaca says, “They came to us as they had promised and brought us a large quantity of fish and some roots that they eat and that resemble nuts, some larger and some smaller” (De Vaca). In another description, De Vaca describes that him and his people “looked like the very image of death.” The poor level of their preparedness was something that set them apart from the indigenous people and would later cause conflict. Last, the Europeans were very hard-headed and one-sided people....
Cited: “Before They Got Thick”. Literature and Integrated Studies. Glenview, Il: ScottForesman, 1997.
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