Conflicting Conceptions Of Ownership Essay

1249 words - 5 pages

Alicia TsaiDr. HoggeU.S. History I (H) - Period 22 October 2013Conflicting Conceptions of OwnershipThroughout the age of exploration, Europeans found themselves in conflict with the native peoples of the Americas. This was no exception to the English. When the English first arrived in the New World, they needed to overcome the obstacle of cohabitating with the Native American "savages". The Native Americans, the original owners of the land, were forced to share their property with the European foreigners. The English used military force and sometimes, "negotiations" to gain land from the natives. Violence and conflict often broke out between the two groups over the areas in which each group had possession of. The Native American and English differences in beliefs over the uses of land caused them to conceive of property rights differently and ultimately, caused conflict between the two groups in the 17th century New World.The Native Americans and the English used land in different ways. The Native Americans were mobile and therefore, moved across the land seasonally. This allowed them to take advantage of their land's diversity and aided them in avoiding surplus property. It was easy for natives to be mobile because they had little possessions. It was not difficult to find either a place to store it, or a person to carry it. Also, the Indians used the slash-and-burn technique to fertilize and make use of the soil to grow domesticated crops. This was a successful technique that worked well for the Native Americans because it provided them with enough area for crops to sustain themselves and their village. The English, on the other hand, did not believe this was an effective use of land. They believed that the only way to use land effectively was to improve it. And by "improving it", they were referring to building structures and permanent settlements upon it or cultivating it for a large plantation. John Cotton, an English minister, claimed that "hee that taketh possession of [land], and bestoweth culture and husbandry upon it, his Right it is" (Cronon 56-57). This widespread belief encouraged colonists to seize land from the natives. Although a village or tribe might have claimed the rights of ownership over a territory, because it was unimproved, the English could seize it since they had more useful intentions for the land.Due to the different ways they used land, the Native Americans and English viewed property rights differently, as well. The Native Americans had different territories per season due to their mobility. Each territory was defined by the village sachem, or leader, and acknowledged by other village sachems. Without someone to recognize ownership, that village would not possess the territory in a meaningful sense. Ownership, to the Indians, meant political and ecological power for the village, along with "economic subsistence and political sanctions were most immediately expressed" (Cronon 60). Therefore, the lines negotiated...

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