American Indians and European Colonists Essay

In the early seventeenth century, relations between American Indians and European colonists were often characterized as much by collaboration and cooperation as by competition. However by the mid to late seventeenth century, brutal wars between Indians and colonists broke out in nearly every colonial region, from New England down to New Spain. While nearly all colonial regions endured worsening relations between the Indians and Europeans, the disputes occurred due to different reasons depending on the colonial region.

In New Spain for instance, harsh treatment, enslavement, and the spread of pandemic disease among the Indians were the primary reasons for conflict between Indians and Spanish colonists.

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Yet in New France, the major reason of conflict between the Indians and French colonists were due to trade disputes and alliances. In English and Dutch regions of colonization war broke out between the Indians and Europeans due to Jurisdiction, Land, and Labor issues.

Although different reasons contributed to the breakdown of relations between native populations and Europeans depending on region, there were also some problems which made relations between Natives and Europeans much more difficult, these problems occurred throughout the entire continent regardless of region.

Such problems included language barriers, culture clashes, and general distrust towards opposing factions. In New Spain corruption among local administrations and weak links to imperial officials back in Spain, only made it harder for the Spanish colonizers to defend massive territorial claims across North America (Jones, 78).

During the period of Spanish colonization in New Mexico and Florida, dissent spread among Indian populations due to harsh treatment by Spanish colonists. Pandemic diseases that were associated with Spanish contact also contributed to resentment towards the Spanish (Jones, 79). This triggered several Indian rebellions across Spanish colonies. The Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico is the epitome of such a rebellion. Among the factors that sparked the revolt in 1680, was a drought in 1666 that lasted 5 years.

Another factor was the failure of Spanish colonists to fend off attacks on both Spanish and their Pueblo allies by neighboring Apache and Navajo tribes, this lead to the loss of Spanish credibility among the Pueblos. Finally the failure of Spanish missionaries to heal diseased Pueblos sparked the return of old Pueblo customs. These revived Pueblo customs caused Spanish colonists to panic and resulted in the hanging of three Pueblo Indians who practiced these rituals. This was done in order to set an example of what should be expected by anyone practicing these ancient Pueblo rituals which contradicted with the Catholic faith.

Among these Pueblos who were imprisoned was Pope. Pope was rescued by his fellow Indians, and withdrew to another Pueblo town (Jones, 79). From there he coordinated a massive surprise attack on New Mexico which involved all Pueblo villages. This revolt caught the Spanish off guard and lead to the slaughter of 350 settlers and the destruction of Spanish churches. The revolt was a success and kept the Spanish colonists out of Pueblo regions for more than a decade (Jones, 79). In New France trade disputes and alliances with warring Indians brought on the worsening relations between Indians and French colonists.

For instance the military and fur trade alliance between the French and the Hurons ultimately caused the Iroquois Wars of the seventeenth century between the French and Iroquois Nation. The French went to war with the Iroquois because not doing so would jeopardize their alliance with the Hurons, who perceived the Iroquois as their enemies. Another factor that led the French colonists to wage wars against Native Indians was to insure that their prosperous fur trade would expand. In the New England region dissent towards the English among the Native populations had grown considerably by 1675 (Jones, 88).

Around the 1660’s when Metacom, a Wamapanoag Indian, assumed leadership he accused the English of poisoning his brother who was the previous sachem. Metacom also grew increasingly skeptical of the English, and accused the English of taking advantage of drunken Indians. He also detested the idea that Indians who shot or seized English cattle that trespassed on Wampanoag land should be punished by English courts. The final factor that ignited the conflict between the Wampanoags and New Englanders was the execution of three Wampanoags accused of killing a Christian Indian convert.

This was the beginning of Metacom’s War, known as one of the major conflicts between Native Indians and English settlers. In the Virginia colonies war was sparked by a rather strange way. The corrupt rule of Sir William Berkley spread social unrest among Virginian colonists. When in 1676 officials in Virginia raised taxes to support the funding of fortifications against nearby Indians, such as the Susquehannock, social unrest among the colony reached its top. Angry colonists led by Nathanial Bacon on the frontier suffering from poor wages and corrupt officials turned to occupying nearby Indians both friendly and hostile.

Nathanial’s army grew in size and continued to over run local Indian tribes one after the other. Sir William Berkley however refused to sanction these attacks on neighboring Indians fearing a massive blowback from all surrounding Indian tribes (Jones, 90). Sir William Berkley reinforced with English soldiers from England put and end to the rebellion eventually, however the rebellion left vast numbers of Indians dead or enslaved. In conclusion the relative cooperation and collaboration between Indians and European colonists in the early seventeenth century did not endure past the mid century mark.

Numerous factors contributed to the downfall of relatively peaceful relations between Europeans and Indians, with each geographic region growing its own unique set of problems that set off many wars for years to come. This left the Native Indian population to greatly diminished by the end of the seventeenth century. This also meant that by the end of the seventeenth century Native Indians were no longer a threat to the colonizing powers of the Old World. The simple lifestyles of the Indians could not match up to the encroaching powers of the Old World.

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