European Explorers’ Influence on Native Americans

April 20, 2017 History

European Explorers’ Influence on Native Americans As a whole, European settlers and Native Americans were constantly clashing over ‘ownership’ of land, as well as simple quarrelling in general. Between the spread of disease and multiple wars involving the foreigners and natives, the Native American population in the 17th and 18th centuries was on a decline. Additionally, there was a major loss in Native American culture due to the Christianization of the Indians by European missionaries and an increase in trade.

European explorers and settlers had a negative impact on American Indians because of the massive loss of life, whether because of war or disease, and a loss of culture amongst the people. The first Anglo-Powhatan war arose in 1610 when an Indian chief’s wife and child were murdered, and brutal warfare ensued. Peace was restored between the two groups in 1614 with the marriage of an Englishman and an Indian: John Rolfe and Pocahontas. Even in times of peace, tensions were still high across all tribes and settlements, and the second Anglo-Powhatan war broke out in Jamestown from 1622-1646.

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The events that went on during the war in Jamestown is the perfect example of just how hostile, aggressive, and brutal the settlers could be to the Native Americans, especially when considering the fact that most Indian tribes welcomed the travelers at first. Some battles were extremely bloody. For instance, the Native Americans killed one third of the settlers at Jamestown in one, single attack. In spite of this, the English invited the natives in to discuss peace talks, but instead the settlers poisoned the Indian’s wine, and shot and killed them as they lay sick on the ground.

Fatalities relating to disease were also common. Most deaths pertaining to sickness were purely accidental, however, in Georgia, some settlers purposefully gave Indians blankets laced with small pox. Other infections, such as measles and malaria, were also carried into the Americas by the Europeans and wiped out a good majority of the Native population. In European culture, land could be bought and sold, but in Native American culture, that was unheard of.

The Indians didn’t understand the concept of owning land, so they were pushed around by the Europeans, and eventually, years later, Native Americans would be put into reservations. Indians were often tricked into trading large amounts of land for semi-useless items. For example, one Native American tribe traded the entire state of New York for just $24 worth of beads. Moreover, general trade between settlers and natives greatly affected the Indian’s way of life. At first, Indians traded for metal objects and tools, such as axe heads and knives.

Later, the Native Americans began trading the settlers for guns and weaponry, which, ultimately sped up and changed their hunting techniques. Rather than staying with their known ways and heritage, Europeans tainted the Native American’s teachings, customs, and outlook on the world. Furthermore, when missionaries began to Christianize the natives, all of their Indian beliefs and traditions went out the window. For Christianity to grow in the Americas, the Native American culture had to be pushed out. Slowly, the natives were becoming more European.

The European explorers had a negative influence on the Native Americans because of the massive loss of life due to disease and war, and loss of culture. Missionaries Christianized the Indians which, in effect, eliminated Native American culture. Europeans looked at the world and land in terms of money, whereas Native Americans aimed to stay in balance with nature. The two most two important things at this point in history were life and land, and the Native Americans had both of those things taken away from them.


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