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The assimilation of the Native Americans
Many people immigrated to the United States in the 1800s which caused the culture clash between the Native Americans and the Euro Americans. The Europeans came to the United States with a completely different culture, than the one of the Natives. However, it wasn't until the Europeans began settling in the West where the Natives lived, that the problems began.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America. In the 1500s the Spanish explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabezca de Vaca followed Columbus' lead, and explored North America. He was part of a royal expedition to conquer North America. The expedition didn't go as planned, and Cabezca de Vaca and about eighty other people from the expedition that had survived a hurricane, diseases, thirst and starvation, ended up living with the Natives, in what is now Texas. After four years, only four people of the original expedition, including Cabezca da Vaca, had survived. During these four years, Cabeza de Vaca discovered that the Natives where actually nice people, as long as they were treated with respect. He became a trader and a healer, and lived in harmony with the Natives. Later when he returned to Spain and saw how Spaniards treated the Natives, he wrote an account of his experiences with the Natives, to try and persuade people to treat the Natives with more respect.
What Cabezca de Vaca saw in the 1500s, was something not many immigrants saw in the centuries that followed. The 1800s was a time of rapidly increasing immigration to the United States, but the immigrants who came hadn't learned from Cabezca de Vaca's accounts, and almost all of them were convinced that they were better than the Natives. When the immigrants moved West to become farmers, they invaded the land of the Natives, which led to many confrontations, some more violent than others. All of these confrontation happened, because the Europeans believed that their culture, religion and way of life, was better that those of the Natives. The Natives were seen as wild savages, they were actually often called Wild Savages. The Europeans didn't just try to get rid of the Natives, however. Many Europeans tried to assimilate the Natives into the American lifestyle. There are several examples of this, but two that stand out are the missionaries that tried to convince Natives Christianity was the right religion, and the schools that were established to assimilate the Natives' children.
The Whitmans were an example of missionaries who lived with the Natives. They were true European Americans, i.e. had no idea how the Indians actually lived, and what kind of people they were. They believed the Indians were very susceptible to the American culture and religion. The Whitman couple was very devoted to Christianity, and they were both raised by Presbyterian parents. They decided to become missionaries, and in 1836 they travelled west to the Walla Walla river, which is located where Oregon and Washington is today. Narcissa Whitman was, along with another woman in their group, the first white women to ever cross the Rocky Mountains. The Whitmans decided to stay with the Cayuse Indians, who lived by the Walla Walla River. The Whitmans were very optimistic in the beginning, and believed their mission would succeed. They hadn't bothered trying to figure out how the Natives were. They just ignorantly believed that as soon as they came along, and told the Natives that the Native way of living was wrong, and the American way of living was right, the natives would believe them. As time passed, the couple realized that their mission hadn't been as easy as they'd made it seem. This was partly due to the fact that the Whitmans had so little knowledge of the Natives, and weren't willing to meet them halfway. They weren't willing to compromise in any way, which led to the failure of the mission.
The Whitmans then ended up assisting at the first “Great Migration”, which just made the Cayuse even more suspicious. They saw the migration, where more and more white people moved into their territory, and blamed the Whitmans for it. This migration also brought diseases along, that the Natives weren't immune to - another reason why the Natives didn't like the Whitmans. In 1847 a particularly bad measles epidemic came to the Walla Walla River, and because the Natives weren't immune to the European diseases, many of them died. This resulted in a riot, where the Whitmans were killed. Later the riot was retaliated, and the Natives who didn't die either surrendered or joined another tribe of Natives.
The mission of the Whitmans failed disastrously. It resulted in the death of the couple, and also the extermination of the Cayuse. The Whitmans never succeeded in converting a single Native in the 11 years they lived with the Natives, and furthermore they helped along migration to the West. The migration wasn't bad in itself, but it brought more ignorant and inconsiderate euro Americans to the land of the Natives. Sacred places were taken, misunderstandings led to unfair battles where the European Americans were superior due to their technological advantage. The Natives were put in reservations where they could learn to assimilate.