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Indian Tribes and Settlers

Introduction

To begin with, there is strong necessity to mention that the relations of the colonists / settlers with the native American population (Indians) have shaped the image of the contemporary America. Originally, most of the contacts were arranged with the aim of trade for the lands, furs, foods etc. The fact is that, Native Americans taught settlers how to survive, nevertheless, most settlers considered themselves superior, basing on the fact that Native People often died from the diseases which were common for Europeans.

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These relations and contacts were mostly featured with the conflicts on the basis of the living territory, as Europeans could not live jointly with Indians, and Indians could not bear the presence of strangers on the lands, which belonged to their ancestors. In spite of this fact, the early settlers enjoyed absolutely peaceful coexistence with Indians. However, during the first war, the Pequot War. The colonists preferred to be at the side of the rivalries of Indian tribes in order to feel secure and for opening the new lands for settlement. It is often emphasized that these wars and conflicts were extremely important from the historical point of view, as rivalry became crucial for the opening of the Native American lands and territories for the settlement and further colonization of American continent. Moreover, these rivalries accelerated the assimilation of the Indians, or forced the allocation process of the tribes.

Historical Background

Taking into consideration that the contacts of Columbus and his expedition with the native American Tribes finished peacefully, there is strong necessity to mention that the first contact, which resulted in a conflict happened in 1541 in Arkansas. This expedition was headed by Hernando de Soto, and included mainly soldiers and priests. They brought war to Indians, and European diseases, which tribes had no immunity against (smallpox, measles or flu). In 1542, de Soto’s army left the American continent and the next invasion happened after 130 years of de Soto’s invasion. Dutton (“American Indians of the Southwest” 1983, p. 392) emphasizes the following: “Archeological evidence suggests that severe environmental changes occurred during this time and affected American Indian agriculture and hunting practices. But, animal populations remained high in some areas during this period. Buffalo thrived in the canebrakes and other animals lived on the secondary vegetation left at deserted American Indian settlements. Despite the effects of climate changes, American Indians shaped the landscape of Arkansas prior to and after European contact in 1541.” In the light of this fact, it should be stated that the next contact started the 100-year presence in the Mississippi Valley. The French came to Arkansas for establishing the trade relations with the North American Tribes. This period was featured with the development of a particular concept of relations, which was called the “middle ground” relations. These presupposed the mutual assistance in the sphere of social and economic cooperation. The instances of such cooperation are the following:

  • Mixed marriages between settlers and Americans
  • Trade relations
  • Joint and peaceful coexistence
  • Military support in the case of necessity
  • Resolving Indian disputes by applying European laws and legislative principles. (Spores Boyd, “Too Small a Place: The Removal of the Willamette Valley Indians, 1850-1856” 2003)

Conflicts

First of all, it should be stated that scholars and researchers often consider these conflicts in the context of genocide. Thus, Maldonado (2008, p. 58) emphasizes the following statement: “Various statistics have been developed concerning the devastations of these wars on both the American and Indian nations. The most reliable figures are derived from collated records of strictly military engagements, which reveal 21,586 dead, wounded, and captured civilians and soldiers for the period of 1850–90 alone. Other figures are derived from extrapolations of rather cursory and unrelated government accounts such as that by Russell Thornton who calculated that some 45,000 Indians and 19,000 whites were killed.” Originally, all the numbers and statistics are essentially doubted and are often debated. Nevertheless, the only thing, which is not disputed, is the brutality and cruelty, which was resorted to by both sides of the rivalry. Indians used their savage customs and traditions of leading war, while Americans arranged destructive campaigns against Indians. (Maldonado, 2008)

In the context of historical necessity, it should be stated that savage Indian traditions of scalping their enemies only aggravated the antagonism between settlers and Native People. This caused the increased transfer of the troops and enforcement of the settlers’ positions. The fact is that, the Indian Wars with the settlers and colonists from Europe incorporated numerous smaller military conflicts. The social structure of the Native Population helped Europeans to conquer them. The fact is that, the Indians were not a homogenous and united people, as various tribes had their own history, culture, language and customs. Sometimes they united for joint resistance. Thus, the Iroquois Confederation appeared. Originally, this was one of the first alliances of Indians, which is regarded as the political and strategic unification of the Indians with the aim of contacting colonizers. On the one hand, these contacts were represented as the warfare; on the other hand, negotiations also took place. Nevertheless, these negotiations could not succeed, as both sides pursued absolutely various aims, and did not realize the aims and motives of the opposite negotiator. The fact is that, the main point of disputes was the land, and Indian concept of the land. Originally, Indians fought among themselves for the lands, as “ownership” presupposed the hunting rights and the rights of dwelling. These rights were quite different from the legalistic representations of ownership, as Europeans regarded it. Prucha (1984 “The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians” p. 245) in his research states the following notion: “The Indians had no concept of “private property,” as applied to the land. Only among the Delawares was it customary for families, during certain times of the year, to be assigned specific hunting territories. Apparently, this was an unusual practice, not found among other Indians. Certainly, the idea of an individual having exclusive use of a particular piece of land was completely strange to Native Americans.” In the light of this fact, it should be stated that Indians practiced the concept of communal land ownership: it means that the entire tribe had the equal rights for the territory.

Thus, all the disputes took place on the basis of lands. The rights and customs of the native population were not respected, which caused the increase of dissatisfaction. In 1838 president Jackson proclaimed that Cherokee people were no longer permitted to live in their homeland – the state of Georgia, and the whole people was forced to move, travelling thousands of miles to the land, where white people did not wish to live. Later, in 1851 the government of the USA agreed that Indians should have a larger area for their living needs; however, this permission was issued only after Indians agreed to exchange some territories for the Europeans. (Bragdon, “The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Northeast.” 2001)

Indians bore such treatment rather hardly, nevertheless, this lasted until 1861, when some brave warriors from the Cheyenne tribe decided to protest the invasion in their lands in Colorado. Originally, these were the gold seekers, nevertheless, Indians did not wish to share their lands and resources. In response, the US army started an essential campaign against Indians, and assassinated lots of Indian men women and children in a Cheyenne village named Sand Creek. This was the “official” start of the first war between Indians and the American government. (Bourque, “Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine” 2001)

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Historical Value

As for the issues of historical value of the conflicts between American Indians and settlers from Europe, and their relations in general, it should be stated that these relations are featured with numerous unique features. The first settlers did not wish to conflict with Americans, and lived peacefully with them. The French colonists got to know of the Indian traditions, customs, and the rules of survival in American forests. The trade relations developed rapidly, and were of great importance for both sides: settlers received furs, leather, foods etc, while Indians got jewelry, sometimes gold and European clothes. Later, when more and more colonists started arriving to the American continent, they required increasingly more living space, thus, they started military actions against Indians. (Dutton, “American Indians of the Southwest” 1983)

Then when the United States of America proclaimed their independence, Americans wished to discover the rest of the territories nevertheless, Indian Tribes, who dwelled these lands, did not wish strangers lived among them. Consequently, numerous conflicts were originated on the basis of land disputes.

Taking into consideration the main reason of the disputes, it should be stated that the long history of wars and disputes between Settlers and Indians helps to realize the contribution of our ancestors in the happiness of the present and future generations. The fact is that, we should highly value and respect the victims of these conflicts, as they aimed to create the happy life for themselves, and for those who would live after them. Originally, the victims from both sides should be respected, as Indians wished to preserve their lands and keep the virginity of the nature, as some of the tribal wizards clearly realized the consequences of coming new settlers, the barbarian treatment towards the nature and natural resources. (Mcavoy, “American Indians, Place Meanings and the Old/New West.” 2002)

As for the global scales, it is necessary to emphasize that North American war Theater was used by European superpowers for resolving their national disputes. These conflicts, which also incorporated Indian Tribes, essentially changed the economic, political, and social relations between Britain, France, and Spain, between the colonies of these powers, and the natives that inhabited the territories they claimed. (Woidat, “Puritan Daughters and “Wild” Indians: Elizabeth Oakes Smith’s Narratives of Domestic Captivity” 2001). The fact is that, France and Britain suffered financially because of the warfare.

The conflicts between Indians and colonists became an essential factor for reconsidering the rights of the national minorities, when the liberalization wave started in the world. The humanity realized, that the rights of American Indians should be defended and extended, as they have more rights for the territories which they occupy, and these rights are explained by the historical origins of those tribes, and the lands they live in.

Personal Attitude

As for my personal attitude towards these issues, and the matters, how conflicts between Colonists and Indians influenced my life, it should be emphasized that the Indian warriors should be regarded as the embodiment of courage, honor, masterfulness and respect of the historical origins. Colonizers, in their turn, pursued only the goal of gain and profit, which did not stop them from killing women, children and old men while conquering new lands. The example of Indians inspired me to study these issues and now I’m going to dedicate my research to studying customs and traditions of some American tribes, their representations of honor and dignity, a man’s purpose in this world and the vision of humanity’s future. The fact is that, some of these issues are not researched at all, and, probably, studying of these aspects of their lives would help to get a clearer realization of the origins and processes of conflicts.

Conclusion

Finally, It should be stated that the significance of the conflicts between colonists and Indians may be regarded from various perspectives. On the one hand, Europeans may be considered to be conquerors of the new lands for the happiness and welfare of the future generations, nevertheless, the brutality, which was resorted to during the military campaigns represents them in a very negative angle. Indians, in their turn, may be regarded as the embodiments of honor, dignity and respect to their traditions, consequently, there is strong necessity to emphasize that it is hard to define the significance of these conflicts for Indians, as they are often represented as the victims of colonizing moods and the wish of profit and easy wealth.

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References

Bourque, B. J. (2001). Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Bragdon, K. J. (2001). The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Northeast. New York: Columbia University Press.

Cowger, T. W. (2002). The National Congress of American Indians: The Founding Years. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Dutton, B. P. (1983). American Indians of the Southwest (Revised ed.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Maldonado, S. (2008). Race, Culture, and Adoption: Lessons from Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians V. Holyfield. Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 17(1), 1

Mcavoy, L. (2002). American Indians, Place Meanings and the Old/New West. Journal of Leisure Research, 34(4), 383

Norwood, F. A. (1980). Two Constrasting Views of the Indians: Methodist Involvement in the Indian Troubles in Oregon and Washington. Church History, 49(2), 178-187.

Prucha, F. P. (1984). The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

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Spores, R., & Boyd. (1993). Too Small a Place: The Removal of the Willamette Valley Indians, 1850-1856. American Indian Quarterly, 17(2), 171-192.

Woidat, C. M. (2001). Puritan Daughters and “Wild” Indians: Elizabeth Oakes Smith’s Narratives of Domestic Captivity. Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, 18(1), 21.

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