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Native Americans: Impact of European Colonization


With the arrival of European colonists to North America, its native residents had to face a plethora of unique problems related to their social, economic, and even physical well-being. Being motivated primarily by the need to expand the range of Europe’s influence, colonists neglected the needs of local residents. Since European colonists had only their personal interests at heart and viewed Native Americans as lesser people, the effects of European colonization were deplorable, leading to the genocide of Native Americans.

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European settlers brought multiple concerns and challenges into the lives of Native Americans, yet the exposure to new diseases was the most devastating and fatal one. Since the environments of North America and Europe were strikingly different in regard to the microbes and viruses inhabiting each continent, the diseases such as smallpox, chickenpox, influenza, and measles, which the colonists brought into the North American setting, represented a deadly threat to Native Americans (Edwards and Kelton 52). As a result of the exposure to the microbes that were not endemic to North America, numerous Native Americans contracted the specified diseases and, having no resistance to them, inevitably died (Edwards and Kelton 54). Therefore, a tremendous health threat to native residents of North America was the key effect that European colonization had on Native Americans.

In fact, exploring the issue further, one could assert that the pace at which the diseases infiltrated and spread across the Native American community warranted the status of an epidemic. Indeed, reports show that a total of 75% of Native American died as a result of exposure to the diseases that colonists introduced into their environment (Edwards and Kelton 61). Thus, the toll that the epidemic caused by European colonists on Native American people was immense.

Moreover, the sociocultural trauma that the development of the epidemic among Native Americans caused deserves a mentioning as one of the especially adverse effects of colonization. Namely, it should be noted that aging Native Americans and young Native American people were two risk groups that were affected particularly strongly by the epidemic (Edwards and Kelton 72). Therefore, with the elderly dying, Native Americans experienced the loss of generational wisdom and tradition, whereas with the death of young people, the hopes for the future were largely suspended.

Overall, the health-related outcomes of colonization were the most egregious ones. Since the development of immunity required additional healthcare services that colonists could not provide to Native Americans, the exposure of the latter to deadly diseases could be considered a form of genocide (Edwards and Kelton 73). Thus, it must be marked as the essential and the most notorious effect of colonization of Native American tribes by European settlers.


However, health-related problems were not the only ones that European aggressors introduced into the Native American community. Apart from deadly microbes, Native Americans also experienced cultural subjugation that quickly escalated to slavery (Bialuschewski and Fisher 1). Specifically, the existing accounts of Native Americans being enslaved by colonists show that the described atrocious practice was ubiquitous: “The end result was that a large number of Native Americans were forced into a wide variety of slaveries and unfreedoms in the early modern period” (Bialuschewski and Fisher 2). Therefore, slavery remained one of the major effects of colonialism for Native Americans.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the concept of slavery was not merely an extra layer of cruelty added to the strategy that colonialists chose in their attitudes toward local residents. Instead, there is strong evidence that slavery s a concept was baked into the very core of colonialism of European settlers (Bialuschewski and Fisher 4). For example, Smallwood explains that “In this sense, we can understand territorial conquest and chattel slavery as twin tools of settler colonial dominion across the hemispheric Americas, where nothing conferred personhood more securely than property in seized land and enslaved humans” (413).

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The specified assumption implies that colonialism inherently denied Native American their humanity and suggested that settlers saw them as lesser beings. The described attitude resulted in the emergence of the infamous Trail of Tears, which implied the forced relocation of Cherokee people and entailed numerous diseases, hunger, and, eventually, deaths for hundreds of thousands of Native Americans (Gomez and Vega 21). Therefore, the sociopolitical changes that European settlers introduced into the lives of Native Americans were also unspeakably cruel and inhumane.

The attempt at using Native Americans as chattel and enslave them were undertaken without any prior considerations or ethical concerns. The impact that colonialists left on Native Americans in terms of the latter’s political and personal agency was deplorable since colonialism implied viewing any nation other than the European one inferior, which led to the atrocious practices of slavery and subjugation of Native American people. The resulting loss of personal, political, and social agency created a generational trauma that the remaining representatives of Native American culture would inherit.


The attempt at exploiting Native American people and forcing them into slavery also led to a giant rift within the Native American community, between tribes, and among tribe members. Specifically, while some Native Americans chose to confront the enemy and fight relentlessly despite being clearly disadvantaged, some attempted at negotiating and suggesting collaboration (Kaharudin and Asyrafi 57). As a result, conflicts within tribes became disturbingly common (Kaharudin and Asyrafi 61).

The described outcome can be considered particularly egregious since it suggested that the very fabric of Native American society and the core of the community were torn apart by disagreements and friction within the tribes. Culminating in confinement and extermination, the colonialist politics of European settlers had a massively deleterious impact on the lives of millions of Native Americans.


Since European colonialism in North America was supported primarily by the urge to expand the geographic range of Europe’s reign and suggested that any other race is inferior, the effects of colonialism on Native Americans were deplorable. Leading to what can be described as the genocide of Native Americans, the impact of colonialism included a health catastrophe, economic aggression, and cultural appropriation. Depriving Native Americans of their land, culture, and freedom, European colonialism virtually annihilated their community, agency, and, ultimately, their lives.

Works Cited

Bialuschewski, Arne, and Linford D. Fisher. “Guest Editor’s Introduction: New Directions in the History of Native American Slavery Studies.” Ethnohistory, vol. 64, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-17.

Edwards, Tai S., and Paul Kelton. “Germs, Genocides, and America’s Indigenous Peoples.” Journal of American History, vol. 107, no. 1, 2020, pp. 52-76.

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Gomez, F., & Vega, L. A. (2020). “Discriminated Individuals: Others’ Dispositional and Situational Attributions by Time and Place.” Universal Journal of Psychology, vol. 8, no. 2, 2020, pp. 19-26.

Kaharudin, Hendri AF, and Muhammad Asyrafi. “Archaeology in the Making Of Nations: The Juxtaposition of Postcolonial Archaeological Study.” Amerta, vol. 37, no. 1, 2019, pp. 55-69.

Smallwood, Stephanie E. “Reflections on settler colonialism, the hemispheric Americas, and chattel slavery.” The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 76, no. 3, 2019, pp. 407-416.

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