An Analysis on Native Americans

Updated April 19, 2022

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An Analysis on Native Americans essay

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As is expected with anything that comes to an end, especially that of great importance such as a way of life, the end of tribal life for native Indians, the true Americans is nothing short of painful. If anything is certain in American history is that, the relationship between American Indians and white settlers during the western expansion movement was riddled with difficulty and hardships. For the newly arrived settlers, American Indians posed a threat to Manifest Destiny, the belief that the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was inevitable. Conquering empty lands for the settlers would have been easy, conquering a land that was already widely inhabited posed an unforeseen threat to an already dangerous, new world. This would be the beginning to the end of tribal life. Instead of living in harmony, and cultural exchange occurring between both groups, contact led to the destruction of Indian life. Much of it being purposely destroyed such as important, and sacred goods, like buffalo and other important livestock. Many treaties would also be passed by the settlers that were cruel and unjust against natives. Violent acts would of course follow, on both sides, but the greatest atrocities would be caused by the whites. With their technically advanced weapons and great numbers, the Indians did not stand a chance, and would cause but a dent on the settlers. The death, both metaphorically and in the literal sense, of the Indian way of life would forever be etched in the hands of white settlers.


The harmonious tale told to us as children between that of the settlers and Natives is for the most part fictional. The relationship between both groups, especially the treatment of the natives is often looked upon as one of Americas greatest shames. The legacy of that mistreatment is in fact still very much alive, with Native Americans now living in secluded areas and an ethnic group that is now sadly followed by many statistics. As settlers arrived to the new world, and moved westward, they would soon come in contact with the natives that had long been there, conflict would be inevitable. And when conflict did arise, it would be nothing short of brutal, thanks in part to the settlers’ militias and then later the federal government. This however would not stop from the natives being branded as “savages”. With a bias against natives, and them inhabiting the lands the settlers so deeply desired, the natives would become nothing more than an obstacle that would be easy to overcome. The result would be devastating for natives and their way of life. Manifest Destiny brought the beginning of the new world in exchange for the end of the natives’ way of life, and in most their very lives as well.

The questions that will be explored are:

  • How did European colonization affect tribal life for natives?
  • What as the relationship between the European settlers and natives, were there any tensions?
  • In what ways did Europeans affect the Natives Economy and everyday day to day tasks?
  • Were there any acts/treaties passed by the Europeans that directly affected the Indians?
  • Were the well-intentioned reformers negatively affect the Natives?

How did European Colonization Affect Tribal Life for Natives?

Much can be said about the mistreatment of the natives caused by the settlers, but to the natives’ defense, for a time were able to hold their own in the beginning, for the first decades of European settlement to be exact. In the seventeenth century, the still powerful natives would be abled to retain control of their lands against the invading Europeans, and in some cases successful enough to drive the newcomers off. But the Europeans would make their presence known and start infiltrating the natives lives through goods that Natives would soon become fond of and adapt into their way of life. some of the earliest objects Europeans introduced to Indians were glass beads, copper kettles, and metal utensils. All would be refashioned by the natives to conform to their lifestyle, for example many goods were used to create new jewelry that signified status in the tribe and a connection to the Europeans. But soon natives would begin to use the goods in the same manner that Europeans did. Many natives would go so far as to replace their traditional clothing, typically made of animal skin in favor of the European textiles. Indians would also find metal cooking tools much easier to use and would abandon their clay cookware.

the Europeans arrival would also bring along forth the arms race for these that were forced to live arm to arm with the Europeans. Indians refashioned European brassware into arrow points and turned axes used for chopping wood into weapons. The most prized piece of European weaponry to obtain was a musket, or light, long-barreled European gun. In order to acquire these, the natives commercialized many of their practices, taking a cue from Europeans, like harvesting of beaver, and would later trade with the settlers. The influx of European materials would change authority among tribes. What once was a strong tribe could now be defeated by a weaker one, if they had access to European metal and weapons. This would be the case for the Iroquois who would who would be defeated by the Algonquian, who famously traded with the settlers. Natives would too then use the weapons provided to them against the Europeans when the time came. With the arrival of new weapons, warfare would forever be changed in American soil.

What is considered by many the greatest change brought along by the Europeans that would negatively affect the Natives, was the introduction of new diseases, Microbes, to which the natives had no immunity towards, proved deadly. Death followed would soon follow an area where the Europeans settled. Along the New England coast between 1616 and 1618, epidemics claimed the lives of 75 percent of the native people. In the 1630s, half the Huron and Iroquois around the Great Lakes died of smallpox. Sometimes whole villages perished at a time. As is the case with any disease, the most vulnerable age groups would be the very small and the very old, with the highest mortality rates. The death of elders meant the death of tribal leaders, and the death of traditions and valuable information only practiced and known by them. The death of children would leave scars on the tribes that would lead to generational trauma.

A common misconception regarding slavery in the new world that is still prevalent today is that only those brought through the middle passage were the only people enslaved in America. As stated, before many natives became dependent on European goods, which the Europeans would soon realize. In exchange for goods, natives would bring other natives captured in tribal wars. The captured Indians would be sold and used for the construction of housed and clearing fields. It is surprising to learn that before 1700 in the Carolinas, one-fourth of all enslaved people were American Indian men, women, and children. Before 1700 the port city of Charleston shipped out many Native slaves to work in the Caribbean or to be sold in northern cities like Boston. Slavery led to warfare among tribes and much hardship. Many tribes had to move to escape the slave trade, which destroyed some tribes completely.

What Was the Relationship Between the European Settlers and Natives, Were There Any Tensions?

As stated prior, tensions between Natives and Europeans quickly arose due to irreconcilable beliefs and differences. Many battles and outright massacres between both groups would quickly transpire. Most notably, is the Sand Creek Massacre. Peaceful Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians were violently massacred by a band of Colonel John Chivington’s Colorado volunteers at Sand Creek, Colorado. The cause behind the massacre would be rooted behind the control for the Great Plains. According to the Fort Laramie Treaty pf 1851, the rightful owners to the area north of the Arkansas River were the Cheyenne and Arapahoe. But settlers would soon come in search of gold, and temperaments quickly arose. Later, The Civil War would make matters worse, and violence would break out on both sides. n June 1864, John Evans, governor of the territory of Colorado would invite “friendly Indians” to camp near military forts and receive provisions and protection. Evans would later invite several military chiefs to forge peace. The meeting would end with everyone in accordance. Black Kettle, a Cheyenne delegation, and company would move to Fort Lyon, Colorado as per recommendation by a commanding officer. In what can today now clearly be called treason, the commanding officer, Chivington, would move his troops to the great plains and massacre 148 of Black Kettles followers, more than half of them were women and children.

Although the Sand Creek Massacre has embedded itself as one of Americas greatest atrocities against our own, this event was not a one-time occurrence. Injustices towards natives were many, and The Sand Creek Massacre showcases at what lengths white settlers went to eradicate any who posed a threat. Unfortunately for natives, white settlers would acquire Indian land, through any means necessary.

In What Ways Did Europeans Affect the Natives Economy and Everyday Day to Day Tasks?

Having occupied American soil for hundreds of years, natives had their own standardized way of living. The arrival of the Europeans would bring forth change, in more ways than one. One unprecedented change was the environmental effects that resulted into a once unscathed land in a matter of couple decades. Not only were landscapes affected, but animals that had occupied the areas would become victims as well. The popularity of beaver trimmed clothing in Europe led to the overhunting of beavers in the northeast. Soon, beavers were extinct in New England, New York, and other areas. With their loss came the loss of beaver ponds, which had served as habitats for fish as well as water sources for deer, moose, and other animals. Furthermore, Europeans introduced pigs, which they allowed to forage in forests and other wildlands. Pigs consumed the foods on which deer and other indigenous species depended, resulting in scarcity of the game native peoples had traditionally hunted.

What is now considered the final blow to Plains’ Indians was the extinction of the buffalo. Following the Civil War, after deadly European diseases and hundreds of wars with the white man had already wiped out untold numbers of Native Americans, the pressures of Manifest Destiny deemed those actions as not enough. The construction of rails in the west, would be the next step towards achieving a complete colonization in the new world. To the dismay of the white Americans, that area was occupied not only by natives, but millions of buffalo as well. After depleting the beaver population up north, trappers would arrive to the west for a new pursuit, buffaloes. an estimated 200,000 buffalo were killed annually. The coming years would bring even more death, as the white population would kill the buffalo for sport. The devastation of the buffalo population marked the end of the Indian wars. What possibility of winning a fight did natives have after their food, clothing, and shelter was so violently taken from them.

European ideas about owning land as private property clashed with natives’ understanding of land use. Native peoples did not believe in private ownership of land; instead, they viewed land as a resource to be held in common for the benefit of the group. Colonizers established fields, fences, and other means of demarcating private property. Native peoples who moved seasonally to take advantage of natural resources now found areas off limits, claimed by colonizers because of their insistence on private-property rights.

Were There Any Acts/Treaties Passed by the Europeans That Directly Affected the Indians?

Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was plenty of treaties passed that directly involved Natives, all for the most part having a negative effect. And even the treaties that were designed to “help” the natives, would ultimately have little part in doing so. As stated, prior the Fort Laramie Treaty did little to secure the land of the natives. Most noticeably of all treaties that would bring the doom to natives is The Dawes Act. The natives since the beginning caused a huge unforeseen problem for the settlers, referring to it as “the Indian problem”. The Dawes Act of 1887 would authorize the government to break up lands that had long been inhabited by American Indians into small pieces. The treaty was in one way or another coercion, accept these rules given to you and become a U.S citizen, or remain part of a group that was considered as “other”. The object of the Dawes Act was to assimilate Native American Indians into white society and erasing their heritage and traditions. As a result of the Dawes Act, more than ninety million acres previously owned by natives was sold to non-natives.

Were the Well-intentioned Reformers Negatively Affect the Natives?

As stated with Dawes Act, there were many people who sought to change the natives’ ways. As with any group in history, when one is completely different from yours, they are often deemed as backwards, and in this case savages. Many Indian practices were deemed barbaric. Assimilation could be the only acceptable route that Indians could take, if they wanted to be accepted into the new American public. Even those well-intentioned reformers would ultimately hurt the Indian, perhaps not physically, but damage would be done through the destruction of their rich heritage.

“Kill the Indian in him, and save the man” would be the mindset of many white settlers. The U.S government would force tens of thousands of Indians to join boarding schools whose main objective was to completely erase all traces of their culture. These boarding schools would be prevalent throughout the country in the nineteenth century, but none as the infamous Carlisle Indian School. Native American children would be forbidden to use their own language, names, and practice any religion that wasn’t Christianity. New names, clothes would given to the children. To live a full live at home, only to be forced to relocate into a completely new place, and to throw away your identity, is as much a battle as any physical one.

Critical Analysis

A way of life for any culture cannot be so easily destroyed from one day to another, especially one as rich as that of Native Americans that have to our knowledge, been inhabiting this land for thousands of years. And yet that happened due a wide set of factors beginning with the arrival of white settlers. The legacy of that mistreatment natives received at the hands of white settlers still lives on today, with many Native Americans now being forced to live in trailer park homes due to being economically, and socially disadvantaged.

In my opinion, it is our responsibility to continue remembering all the hardships that Native Americans had to endure. It is human nature to sometimes turn our heads away from the ugly side of history that we do not want to remember, but forgetting means not retaining any past events, and history repeating itself becomes not such a far-fetched idea. It is especially our duty to remember as it is something that happened in our home country. It is especially vital now, because as stated prior Native Americans to this day are being taken advantage of. We have secluded them into small reservations, and as we speak, endangering their water system. Just recently there was protests over the contamination of their water reserves due to the oil mining by the Keystone pipes, and others. Natives warned corporations, and they failed to listen. We must stand by them and help as they have been taken advantage of continuously throughout history.

With the arrival of white settlers, and their idea of manifest destiny, many hardships were brought upon the natives. War was brought to their doorstep by people that wanted their lands, and ultimately winning. Death through battle, death through disease, and death of culture, the natives would fight a losing battle.

An Analysis on Native Americans essay

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