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Contrasting Colonial And Indigenous Use Of Natural Resources In North America

1088 words - 5 pages

North America was discovered by Columbus in 1492 and colonised by Europeans at the beginning of the 17th century. The colonisers settled on land that belonged to the indigenous who had inhabited the land for more than 10,000 years. The indigenous used the land sustainably as they had a connection with their environment. The English colonisers were pushed from their homeland and saw North America as an opportunity for expansion and wealth but faced difficulties upon settlement. Eventually they would dominate the indigenous culture.

The indigenous people of America had an immediate relationship with the environment. They identified with the land and progressed as the land did. To them, a ...view middle of the document...

The exploration turned colonisation by the British began with the following push factors: unemployment, lack of land, overpopulation, poor working conditions, and religious persecution. The pull factors that led them to colonise were wealth and trade opportunities, land and power, freedom of religious rebellion, vast amounts of land, and a fresh start. Columbus first discovered the continent in 1492, and a year later the Isabela settlement was formed in the (now) Dominican Republic. Larger scale colonisation began in 1607, starting with Jamestown, population approximately 143 upon first landing. The European methods of farming were intensive and yielded little results.

The Virginia colony (Jamestown) relied on the indigenous for corn and fish which were abundant in the area as a result of efficient farming. Though while the colonies adopted some indigenous techniques, their implementation of burning forest undergrowth was used to give cattle grazing area. Because of starvation and disease, the colony was decimated until they were able to use crops of tobacco as a cash source through trade. By the late 17th century their export was composed largely of tobacco, and once wealthier settlers arrived large plantations were built. Slaves were imported to support the plantations. The tobacco was hard on the soil and required a large labour force to sustain, and its success relied on the fluctuating demand of tobacco.

As evident by current day situations, the relationship between the indigenous and the Europeans was not completely amicable. The colonisers had no reservations about taking advantage of the indigenous, stealing their land and enslaving them. As Columbus wrote in his personal log, “These people are very unskilled in arms... with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished.” (Zinn, H n.d.). Though the European colonisers had some advantage with guns, the real weapon was biological. The arrival of the colonisers spread disease which decimated populations of tribes. The colonisers also commenced mass slaughter of bison in the interior plains of North America to push the indigenous away and use the land for their cattle without competition. Many violent conflicts occurred over the centuries, but evidently the colonisers won as today the indigenous are left with small reservations on undesirable land.

The indigenous had developed ways of cultivating the land so they could...

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