First European Contact With Native Americans

1608 words - 6 pages

First European Contact with Native AmericansCasey Dean RisingerHistory 1301Rob RiskoJuly 31, 2013Risinger 1Casey Dean RisingerHistory 1301Rob Risko31, July 2013First European Contact with Native AmericansEuropeans were completely unaware of the existence of the Americas before the expeditions of Christopher Columbus. The first contact between Native Americans and Europeans was the beginning of many radical changes for both sides of the world. The Indians suffered catastrophic consequences during this contact with the strangers. These consequences included the spread of deadly diseases previously unknown to Indians, European goods for trade, loss of land, and loss of freedom. Do these actions constitute genocide, or were these occurrences destined to happen?Europeans came from Europe to the newly found continent of North America throughout the 1500's. This "New World" was actually very old. Indians had inhabited the continent of North America for thousands of years. Natives found ways to survive on the coast, in wooded areas, in the mountains, and in desert areas. Native Americans were productive farmers and skilled hunters who traded with each other over long distances. These creative people with diverse languages and lifestyles had never before been encountered by Europeans (Kincheloe III). They hunted animals such as deer, caribou, bear, rabbit and moose. Farming consisted of growing crops such as corn, rice and squash. Indigenous North Americans clothed themselves using skins from the animals they killed and used the rest of the carcass (bones and such) to make tools. The coastal natives that the Europeans first encountered typically made their homes out of bark and mud (Native, 1-4).Risinger 2It is difficult to really know what Indian life was like since these people groups did not have a written language, but the arriving Europeans made observations and many reported what they saw in journals. The Indian political system was quite simple. Tribes were usually divided into lesser groups known as bands. Each band was controlled by a chief who had authority when it came to making political or military decisions. These extraordinary people were clueless to the death that would soon rock their world due to contact with Europeans (Native, 1-4).The Europeans brought an invisible secret weapon with them when they made contact with the Indians. Native Americans had no prior contact with, nor immunities to the viruses that Europeans brought over the sea. Indians were exposed to horrible illnesses like measles, chicken pox, influenza and small pox. These diseases were mainly spread through direct contact, but also through trade (Kincheloe III). Thomas Hariet recorded his observation of the spread of these diseases on his English expedition to Roanoke Island in 1585;"There was no towne where we had any subtile devise practiced against us, wee leaving it unpunished or not revenged…but that within a few dayes after our departure from every such...

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