Colonization process undoubtedly brought considerable changes into the life, outlook and habits of Native Americans, let alone the environment. What was the attitude of Native Americans towards newcomers? To answer this question, it is important to say that at the beginning of the colonization there were a lot of conflicts between different tribes. Some of them hoped that newcomers would somehow improve Indians’ life standard with the help of more effective tools and innovative ideas.
Other tribes kept to the point that everything new brings new troubles. They believed that new life values and philosophy would have a negative influence on their culture and could even destroy it. Both were eventually right. On the one hand, Native Americans received new advanced tools for agriculture, which greatly contributed into the development of their culture, particularly farming. On the other hand, they had to pay too high a price for such conveniences. As an expression of gratitude, Native Americans taught colonists how to grow corn, potatoes, sunflower, tobacco and other plants. They shared knowledge concerning farming, hunting and proper organization of household.
In fact, the first colonists much depended on Native Americans. The newcomers took advantage of Indians’ knowledge about farming in order to survive. But once they felt themselves owners of the land, they began to suppress indigenous people. Indians were also cheated by Englishmen in bargains and it were Englishmen, who first introduced alcohol to Indian tribes (Horn, 1996). Apart from numerous conflicts between Native Americans and English colonists, which eventually resulted in the absolute victory of the latter, there were also some uncontrollable affects of colonization. One of them is spread of continental diseases among indigenous population, which resulted in deaths of numerous innocent Native Americans. But probably the most destructive consequence of colonization is expulsion of Indian territories (Williams, 1990). It proves that in return to their hospitability, Native Americans were done irreparable harm. What right did colonists have to intrude upon the Indian lands and deprive Indians of their habitat? At first sight, no one would argue that it was an unfair treatment of Indians. But what was the right of Indians to those wild prairies and forests, which were invaded by colonists? Probably, at some point, new settlers felt themselves superior to native inhabitants and staked off the claim for the land. The colonists considered the tribes of Indians fierce savages, and they tried to civilize them (Pearce, 1988).
Englishmen settled with the intention of occupying new lands. Their first encounter with indigenous population was quite friendly and satisfied interests of both sides. Indians were mainly interested in material values, which were provided by Englishmen in abundance. They included guns and gunpowder (Horn, 1996). But soon the relations began to spoil, and Indians understood the true intentions of newcomers and considered it a disrespectful attitude to their culture. Thus, it reveals the change of Indians’ attitude towards English settlers. Englishmen also changed their friendly attitude for hostility. They pushed Indians off their habitat and slaughtered major part of them. Greedy English settlers strived for more lands and were indifferent to sufferings of Native Americans. Perhaps, at some point, Native Americans understood that they ought to be more careful with newcomers, but it was too late. Indians greatly values their own culture and wanted to preserve it.
In such a way, the process of colonization negatively affected the course of development of Indian culture. A great number of Indians were eliminated by newcomers; others were forced to live in reservations in Canada and the USA. Most Indians assimilated with Americans. Only a small part of them managed to preserve cultural peculiarities of their ancestors during the time of their fierce struggle for survival and independence.
Horn, James. Adapting to a New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. The University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
Pearce, Roy Harvey. Savagism and Civilization: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind. Berkley: University of California Press, 1988.
Williams, A. Robert. The American Indian in Western Legal Thought, the Discourses of Conquest. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
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