Relationship between europeans and native americans essay

Long before the arrival of Europeans, native people traded items between themselves and with more distant cultures.

Essay on European and Native American Relations - Words | Bartleby

Trade, however, was more than simply an economic enterprise. Before any items changed hands, traders often ate together, smoked tobacco, or practiced other rituals designed to indicate friendship. In such an atmosphere of hospitality the exchange of goods became a means for expressing good will, a vehicle for negotiation, and a way to engage in diplomacy. Native people believed that everything in nature—plants and animals as well as inanimate objects such as rocks and shells—possessed spiritual power.

Consequently, those who hunted animals, farmed, or gathered wild foods had to observe certain guidelines and practice particular rituals designed to demonstrate respect for the spiritual world. One of the most prominent rituals was the Green Corn Ceremony, which coincided with the ripening of maize.

Modern Americans sometimes regard such rituals as evidence that Indians practiced conservation or had an innate understanding of ecology. Though such practices might indeed promote sound environmental practices, they could also have the opposite effect. In all likelihood, their native belief system served a more subtle and practical function.

In the South—as elsewhere in North America—Indians had to rely on and therefore destroy plants and animals that they regarded as spiritual kin. The various rituals allowed them to do so without violating a sacred relationship between people and the natural world. The native world was not a place of ecological perfection. When bad weather led to poor crops, natives had to rely more on game and wild plants. In regions of intensive agriculture, such as along the river floodplains of the piedmont and mountains, Indian farmers sometimes depleted soils and had to move their villages to more suitable lands.

By the time Europeans arrived in the South, old fields, open forests subjected to periodic burns, and local fluctuations in game animal populations all attested to the native presence. Within the context of their culture and belief system, southern Indians simply did what was necessary to subsist and survive. Europeans came from an acquisitive capitalist culture that valued individual wealth and accomplishment. In keeping with their Christian beliefs, most Europeans took literally the biblical admonition to subdue the earth and exert dominion over it.

From their perspective, any land that had not been thoroughly settled and cultivated was useless. Colonists failed to understand that southern Indians used some lands—especially hunting and fishing grounds—without cultivating them. Most Europeans believed they had the right to buy such property even if Indians did not fully understand the terms of sale or simply take the land to use as God commanded. In short, they transformed the land and its resources into valuable commodities that could be sold in the world market.

Explorers from Spain brought about the first critical changes in the southern environment. In , Hernando de Soto, a Spanish conquistador, led a three-year expedition from Florida into the southern interior in search of the most valuable commodity: gold. While in the South Carolina piedmont, de Soto saw several deserted Indian towns, large communities whose populations had apparently been devastated by infectious diseases introduced from Europe.

De Soto also had some hogs, brought along as a mobile meat supply, which had the potential to spread diseases such as anthrax which affects both animals and people among native wildlife. Though the exact effects of these early Spanish incursions remain to be discovered, one thing seems certain. Old World diseases might have reduced some southern Indian populations by as much as 90 percent by the mids.

Spain remained a strong presence in Florida and parts of the southeastern interior, but farther north English settlers began to reshape the landscape in their image. French colonists also established an outpost at Mobile on the Gulf Coast in As it became clear that southern soils would yield few precious minerals, all three nations turned their attention to other products from southern forests.

Animal hides, especially deerskins which could be fashioned into leather breeches, gloves, and bookbindings , found ready markets in the Old World. Because native people were already well versed in the rudiments of commerce, European traders initially encountered Indians eager to swap deerskins for metal knives, pots, utensils, jewelry, guns, and ammunition. Trade between Europeans and Indians, however, was not of equal benefit to both cultures.

European traders encouraged native warriors to trade captives taken in battle with other Indians as slaves. As a result, thousands of southern natives were sold to masters in New England and the Caribbean. Europeans also supplied Indians with alcohol, an intoxicant with which the natives had no previous experience and one on which many became dependent.

Worse, the trading paths from the coast to the interior continued to be conduits for pestilence. Serious smallpox epidemics struck the southern interior in , , , and , killing thousands of Indians during every outbreak. As Indian numbers declined and demand for trade goods soared, native people became enmeshed in the European economy. Instead of killing animals primarily for food, Indians hunted to obtain deerskins for the overseas market. Native people often insisted that European traders engage in traditional practices such as preliminary gift-giving and smoking tobacco , but native rituals associated with hunting probably became less important as Indians engaged in market hunting.

Southeastern Indians, Precontact to the Present: Introductory Essay

Only when Indians went to war—either against each other or against one of the European powers—did deer and other get a prolonged respite from native hunters. Because deer reproduced quickly during such interludes, the animals never became extinct, but by , the once-plentiful animals were noticeably scarce throughout the region. Though the French and Spanish were powerful players in the Indian trade, the transformation of southern agriculture was largely an English enterprise. In addition to corn and other foodstuffs, English colonists planted cash crops—tobacco in the region surrounding Chesapeake Bay, rice and indigo in the Carolina low country—for the European market.

Whereas native people had hunted deer and other animals for meat, colonists relied on cattle and hogs raised on the open range in southern forests. For the most part, planters who raised cash crops engaged in monoculture, the practice of planting only a single crop per field. Tobacco, rice, and indigo—all of which are extremely demanding of soils—quickly exhausted colonial plots.

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Without the tangle of food plants typical of Indian gardens, English fields were also more subject to erosion and attracted insect pests such as grasshoppers, tobacco flea beetles, and rice worms. Free-roaming livestock had to be protected from native predators, especially wolves. By the s wolves were extinct in the settled regions, though other animals—such as crows and squirrels—for which officials offered bounties, continued to thrive. English colonists eventually found ways to turn trees into commodities, too.

Lumber from live oaks became important to the shipbuilding industry. Barrel staves made from white oak helped sustain the international trade in molasses and rum. Bald cypress and Atlantic white cedar became the preferred woods for shingles and clapboard. The resin was then distilled into turpentine, tar, and pitch, products all used in the shipping industry and collectively known as naval stores. North Carolina, which—unlike South Carolina and Virginia—never developed a single-crop economy, led the southern colonies in the production of naval stores.

Agricultural clearing and the various forest industries had the overall effect of reducing the forest cover and altering drainage patterns along major rivers.


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By the mid-eighteenth century, spring floods spawned by excessive runoff, annually threatened coastal communities. Those trees most in demand, including longleaf pine, disappeared from settled regions, to be replaced by scrubby oaks and less valuable loblolly pines. In the years immediately before the American Revolution, firewood became increasingly scarce and expensive in Charleston, Baltimore, and other burgeoning southern towns.

Dams constructed to provide waterpower for sawmills also restricted the annual runs of fish up coastal rivers. Virginia established a closed hunting season on deer in Other colonies outlawed night hunting and the killing of does, two measures designed to relieve some of the pressure on the deer herds. Such laws, however, were almost impossible to enforce and in , Virginia decided to invoke a four-year moratorium on deer hunting in an effort to save the lucrative trade in leather products.

Wringing money from southern soils and forests required an extensive labor force, a need England first met with white indentured servants and, by the early eighteenth century, with African slaves. The shift to slaves resulted from several factors including a growing shortage of white labor, English racism, and the profitability of the slave trade , but the cash crop economy and the southern environment also played crucial roles in the changeover.

In Virginia and Maryland, as tobacco fields became exhausted, planters eventually developed a system of field rotation in which laborers first cleared a plot in the Indian manner by girdling trees and burning off the underbrush. The first year, planters grew corn and beans on the new tracts, then as the land became more open and fit for cultivation several crops of tobacco, followed by wheat. Fields then lay fallow—sometimes for as long as 20 years—before they recouped enough fertility to produce more food and cash crops. As a result, any planter actively engaged in growing tobacco had a constant need for labor to clear new fields.

The shift was gradual, but between about and , most Chesapeake planters seem to have concluded that environmentally sustainable tobacco farming went hand-in-hand with slavery. The southern climate and disease environment figured into the shift as well. The mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria might have been present in North America before Europeans colonized the South; anopheles mosquitoes capable of carrying the organisms flourished in the swampy environs of the Atlantic coastal plain. However, because southern Indians lived in relatively small villages and frequently moved in conjunction with the seasons, malarial outbreaks were rare before European settlement.

As the English became established along Chesapeake Bay and in South Carolina, they seem to have brought malarial parasites with them. By the s, vivax malaria a comparatively milder form of the disease began to afflict colonists in Virginia and Maryland; by the s, it was present in the Carolina low country.

In the first decades of the eighteenth century, falciparum malaria a much more virulent form of the disease became prevalent in both regions. Because many of the slaves imported to work on tobacco and rice plantations came from West Africa where malaria was common, they brought with them both acquired and genetic protection against some of the more virulent strains of malarial parasites, another trait that, in the eyes of English planters, made Africans better suited to work in tobacco and rice fields.

Colonists paid a high biological price for their decision, however. They had the superior weaponry, and were thought to have a superior intellect. After all, they were just bringing "civilization" to the new world, right? It sounds nice when you are learning about Columbus in grade school, but the traditional story is pretty far from. Calloway surveys this intriguing story with illustrative and detailed ways that offer a pertinent starting point for any individual wanting to know more about how the European people and Native Americans cooperated or interacted with one another.

The colonization of Europeans into the North America had considerable impacts on the Native American lives.