Indigenous People of the Americas and European Colonization of the Americas

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The North American continent, in this case, the United States emerged with a cultural background of both Native American traditional tribal culture, and a more modernized European culture, that of the Spanish, English, and French. This culture merger was a result of a prolonged interaction between the Native American peoples and the colonial powers, and had this interaction not have taken place, the country, and the world would have changed as we know it.

During the colonial powers’ first interaction with the Native American people, largely in part to the scarcity of such diseases in the Americas, the Native Americans did not have the necessary immune system to combat common European diseases, thus droves of human life were taken, and entire cultures soon became extinct. When the colonists initially began settling, there was some tension between the Native American people and the European colonists, as the Europeans would often seize the most fertile and favorable land from the tribes.

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Due to this, the Native Americans often made an attempt at stiffly resisting these hostile takeovers with violence, and despite often having a population advantage, the Europeans were vastly more modernized in warfare than the tribes. However, the European militaries weren’t very familiar with Native American “guerrilla warfare” at the time. Perhaps one of the most advantageous (yet benign) aspects of European life that the Native Americans quickly adopted into their own culture is the horse.

The horse was a particularly useful animal for transport and mobility, and was an essential part of the everyday life of the Spaniards. Not long after the colonists arrived, the Native Americans soon adopted the use of firearms as well, as firearms gave one tribe a distinct advantage over the other and this led to an increase in tribal feuds. As such, there soon was feuds between tribes over the prime hunting grounds, as they would trade the fine animal furs with the arms dealers, in order to put themselves in an advantageous position.

In the 17th century, the Spaniards implemented what was known as the “encomienda system”, which L. B. Simpson, author of The Encomienda in New Spain, defines as essentially being “system of tributory labor established in Spanish America. Developed as a means of securing an adequate and cheap labor supply, the encomienda was first used over the conquered Moors of Spain. Transplanted to the New World, it gave the conquistador control over the native populations by requiring them to pay tribute from their lands, which were “granted” to deserving subjects of the Spanish crown. Eventually, this led to enslavement, despite its original intent.

During the 16-18th colonial periods, there was also a large influx of European missionaries who journeyed to the Americas with the intention of attempting to convert the Native American people to Christianity, this attempt, while working minimally, failed on a large scale. Additionally, though the Swedes were relatively unimportant in the foundation of modern day America, they introduced the first log-cabins to the United States in the 17th century.

An environmental change occurred in the early colonization era as Europeans (particularly the English) had a thirst for lumber, and so they increased the amount of deforestation, which as a result, produced changes in the climate, much like what we’ve seen in modern times. The Native Americans weren’t only on the receiving end of the cultural exchange however, as they taught Europeans how to grow corn, perhaps one of the most vital crops in the world today.

Native Americans also contributed herbal medicines and remedies to the colonists that could be attained from nature and used to cure comilments. As a result of the disruption and extinction of certain Native American tribal groups, the amount of polyglot Native American communities began to rise. Polyglot communities are those that have more than one (if not several) written and spoken languages within the community. This is the result of a merger of tribal groups, and the intermarrying of them in order to repopulate their tribes.

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Indigenous People of the Americas and European Colonization of the Americas. (2016, Oct 01). Retrieved from

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