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Main Features Of Indigenous Culture Prior To Colonization

Info: 2005 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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Native Americans, colloquially called as ‘American Indians’, were the very first civilisation on what is today known as the United States. There has been much evidence to prove that these indigenous people have inhabited the United States from coast to coast thousands of years ago. Prior to European contact, more than 2000 languages were spoken. Although Native Americans lived in tribes and had different cultures, languages, clothing, and customs, they shared certain traits. Hunting and gathering food was one of the similarities because of the few methods they had. Men hunted mammals such as bison, mammoths, and elephants with common tools like spears and clubs. Women normally farmed and gathered food. In addition, maize was one of the earliest crops the Native Americans grew. However, roles for each gender differed depending on the tribe. When food became scarce, tribes often migrated to new areas. Unlike European societies, tribe members had much freedom and rights. They had the right to elect and dispose chiefs, obligations to marry whom they wanted, rights to inheritance and many others. They were also very religious and believed in magic and the supernatural. Ceremonies and rituals were held for special events and important moments of one’s life. Time was developed from observing the moon. This was due to the moon’s easy visibility and daily changes in appearance. Many Native Americans used this as the basis of their calendars and such, yet it was the Maya civilisation that created the most accurate calendar.


They basically lived all over the United States.



Reasons Behind Colonization of America

Europeans in general colonized America. Many countries such as France and Britain’s attempts in colonization failed; however, it was the Spanish who succeeded. Although they accomplished this, they were not the first as the Vikings were one of the groups before them. In 1492, the Spanish fleet, led by Christopher Columbus, arrived in America. Columbus was a navigator, colonizer and explorer during his lifetime. At first Columbus had thought that they had arrived in India because he was originally on an expedition to find a western route to Asia. At that time, the land route to Asia became difficult and made sources of valued goods scarce. In response, Columbus had endeavoured to go on a journey to Asia via the Ocean Sea. After discovering the ‘New World’ and taking natives and other ‘exotic’ items back to Spain, Columbus was sponsored by Spanish monarchs for another voyage and the expansion of Europe. He played a huge role in the initial contact between Europeans and indigenous Americans. As a result, Columbus forced native slaves to mine for gold and silver. This was because the Spanish wanted more wealth and wanted to expand their trades. They also desired to spread Christianity to the Native Americans and built missions all over America. Because of the massive land available, the Spanish took advantage of this and claimed the land to be territory of the Europeans.

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Nature of the Arrival of the Non-Indigenous People

The arrival of the Europeans marked the beginning of the ‘new world’. Upon their arrival, they were curious as to all the unique items they had never seen. When they came in contact with the first Native American tribe, it was not peaceful. They even considered them to be Indian because of a misunderstanding. It can be said that Columbus enslaved up to 250,000 natives of a whole tribe on first encounter. This group was then extinct by 1650. However, they soon learned to show each other objects from their homelands and there was quite a bit of contact. Although contact was maintained a friendly level, it wasn’t very trusting. They had intermarriages and business relationships, but these were not conducted because they wanted to, but because they did not have a choice. Even though there seemed to be quite a lot of contact between the two races, there wasn’t all friendly contact. There were accounts of the European burning down a tribe’s village and forcing them to relocate. This, of course, was done on account of confiscating the land from the natives. In the end, the arrival of the Europeans can be seen as unfriendly; however, some sources prove that not to be true. Some cases might be seen as friendly, but in general, it would be classified as fierce.

Response of the Indigenous People

Upon their first steps ashore on the “New World”, the Europeans were greeted by the Natives Americans. The indigenous tended to look at the “lighter-complexioned visitors’ with marvel and awe. This was not due to their peculiar appearances, but rather for their technology. Their technology included items such as steel fighting equipment, fire arms, mirrors, accessories, and copper and brass utensils. These items were unfamiliar to the indigenous people as it presented a mystery for them. Nevertheless, the Native Americans soon acknowledged the fact that the Europeans were also human beings. Indeed, early records have shown that the earlier Native Americans perceived the Europeans to be despicable specimens. While being accused of having a stingy behaviour for their insatiable desire of riches, the white Europeans were not the greatest people in the indigenous’ mind. Similarly, Native Americans were taken aback with the European’s intolerance for the native beliefs, traditions and customs. The natives were also disgruntled at the Europeans who started constructing buildings made of wood and stone. This meant that meant that they would have to move. Towards the Native Americans, Europeans were condemned and considered as somewhat mechanical-soulless creatures who wielded ingenious tools and weaponry to accomplish their wishes.

Comparison of Colonization Experience of Native Americans and Aboriginals

The colonization experience of Native Americans and Aboriginals had many connections. Although the first contact was of different nature, the contact afterwards had similar intentions. Both indigenous groups tried to make alliances and treaties with the colonizers, but turned to banding up with traditional tribal enemies against the invaders when treaties were violated. Nonetheless, the colonizers did not realise that a treaty with a certain tribe or group of natives didn’t have hold over the entire indigenous nation. As a result, the colonizers attacked relentlessly because they believed they now had even more right to take the land. Another similarity was that because of the common contact between them, words from the indigenous groups were added into the English language. Even though there were many similarities, there were also differences. The Native Americans were left with horses and this assisted them greatly. Unfortunately, the Aboriginals were not lucky enough to be left with such items. The Aboriginals did not receive anything that life changing and as a result, continued to live with what they had. It is evident that, these colonization experiences have left a print on the life of both of these indigenous cultures forever.

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Results of Colonization for Indigenous People

The indigenous Americans had both good and bad outcomes from the colonization but they were mainly unpleasant. The Europeans had presented to them a variety of new foods. These foods included: sugar, wheat, rice, citrus fruits, tea, coffee, bananas, okra, barley, oats and wine grapes. The Native Americans were also given new weapons and tools like guns and iron tools. While they received many things, the land itself was introduced to new animals. Animals such as horses, chickens, pigs, cows, goats, sheep, rats and oxen were brought in. These animals greatly helped the indigenous to do many practices. For example, farming was easier because of the horses which helped them travel. Europeans also converted the natives into Christians. While wanting to spread Christianity, Europeans robbed the natives of their traditions and culture. Some of the punishments they enforced on the natives were taking children away from their families to attend missionary boarding schools. However, the worst consequence from the colonization was the diseases. These epidemics were due to the large scale contact with the Europeans which spread germs. The indigenous Americans had no immunity to these foreign diseases whatsoever. The main diseases, smallpox, measles, and the influenza, had killed nearly 90% of the original population after 75 years. As a result, this aided the effort to colonize America.

Results of Colonization for Non-Indigenous People

The Europeans were in much more benefit from the colonization than the Native Americans. While presenting some of their foods, they received some in return. These foods were: corn, white potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, cacao, strawberries, quinine and tobacco. Since it was exported back, tobacco made huge profits back in Europe. New animals were also exposed to them. These animals, turkeys, guinea pigs, rattlesnakes, buffalos and raccoons, were seen as exotic creatures. Unlike the natives, the European population did not come crashing down from new diseases. Although they did catch some diseases, such as syphilis, they had a much stronger immune system. The Europeans also obtained their main goals – more territory, increasing their wealth, exploring the world, spreading Christianity and expanding trade. During that time, most nations only wanted superiority. They achieved this by colonizing any land they could find. With the colonization of America, Europe was brought to wealth and power but with that they also created the birth of several new cultures, people and identities. Even when the natives formed a resistance and rebelled against them, the European still dominated. The main factors of their victory were guns, horses and steel. This goes to show how powerful Spain was.

Comparison of the results of the Colonization of America and Australia

The colonization of the United States and Australia were similar in many ways. One of the similarities was that the government used the colonies as prisons. When American Revolution began, they no longer took in any prisoners. That meant that the English government needed a new place to send its prisoners. In 1788, England sent a crew to Australia and began building prisons. This marked the beginning of the fall of the Aborigines. Like the American Indians, Aborigines were forced off their land. They also contracted foreign diseases and as a result, since their immune system could not fight these illnesses off, many people died. Aboriginals were also introduced to new foods, animals, clothing etc. Likewise, Native Americans also received many things from the European. Both American and Australian indigenous tribes rebelled against their colonizers. This led to the death of many indigenous people and the fall of the native population. There was also evidence that both colonizers enforced Christianity onto the indigenous. Missions or missionaries were built on the land and natives were forced to attend. Even though the natives were treated as slaves, the way the Europeans tried to get rid of them was different at times. It was originally planned to breed out the Aboriginals; however, that didn’t work and they eventually tried to make them fit in with the British culture and people. After being treated as slaves, Native Americans began to rebel. When the rebellion ended, the Europeans also tried to give them a place in the European society. All in all, the colonization of both lands had similarities and differences between them.


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