Warfare and the Cultural Divide Between Settlers and Natives in America Moral Judgment and the Demise of the Native American Culture

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, United States Pages: 9 (3265 words) Published: June 23, 2013
Warfare and the Cultural Divide Between Settlers and Natives in America Moral Judgment and the Demise of the Native American Culture

SSC 101 Human Behavior Perspective
February 26, 2012

Warfare and the Cultural Divide Between Settlers and Natives in America Moral Judgment and the Demise of the Native American Culture

The difference in values and traditions between Native American cultures and the Europeans who settled in America served to spark a cultural divide that ultimately lead to the demise of Native American civilizations. Whites and Indians in conflict began with the landing of the first settlers in what became the first colonization of America and continued through the late 1800’s; some would say it continues today. The differences in the ways war was traditionally waged between the two cultures contributed to the European idea that Indians were Godless savages whose genocide was justified by their failure to assimilate to European culture on their own land and failure to embrace Christianity. Native Americans were at a disadvantage militarily. They were severely outnumbered and out armed, yet they managed to hold their ground for a surprisingly long time against an onslaught of incoming invaders. Morally, their response to having their lands invaded and their people oppressed was equivalent to how Europeans might have responded militarily to an invasion, but the tactics and strategies were much different. While the lack of organization and age-old tactics used by the Indians served as an advantage, it also allowed the settlers to condemn them as savage murderers rather than warriors defending their land and people from an invasion. “During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Indians…conducted a protracted and often successful military resistance against what many historians now perceive to have been a series of European invasions of North America.” (Starkey, 4) Christian European settlers did not consider themselves to be invading. The natives did not have a civilized society nor a government; no organization, no armies. The settlers viewed the idea of spreading their culture and values in this New World as a responsibility to advance civilization and Christianity. They did not see these advances as an attack on the native culture and they did not see their settlement on the land as a seizure of another civilization’s property. The settlers viewed the Indians as Godless savages. They viewed the cultural differences in the natives through their own lens of culture, religion and morality. This ignorance of the differences in moral values and social structures allowed the Europeans to justify the genocide that took place over the next century. “Most successful in dealing with the Indians diplomatically and militarily were those who made an effort to understand them. But Europeans often avoided such an effort when they relegated the Indians to the status of “savages”, a people without government, laws, social mores and cultural values. European conquest could thus be justified as a triumph of civilization over barbarism.” (Starkey, 6) In contrast to European standards, Native American motivations for waging war centered around exacting revenge and capturing women and children who would then join their tribes. Tribes frequently conducted raids on each other and had been doing so for generations. The raids were conducted with an element of surprise and usually consisted of several of the men being immediately slaughtered violently, the capture of some men, but mostly women and children who accompanied their attackers. The captured men were usually tortured to death and mutilated. The captured women and children were then treated as members of the capturing tribe. Territory and conquest were not motivation for warfare as with Europeans and by European war standards, these raids were small and were not considered to be sustained conflicts. The differences in values among the two...

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