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Struggle and Survival in Colonial America - Essay Example

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This paper discusses the various effects of the European settlements on the natives who were so quickly decimated by disease, starvation, forced labor, and unwanted religious conversion. In a nutshell, the decline and transformation due to the white settlements had been mostly negative.  …
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Struggle and Survival in Colonial America
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& Number: Struggle and Survival in Colonial America (European Settler Societies) 14 August (word count – 601)
America before the European settlers arrived had a vast native population of Indians (mistaken nomenclature by Columbus who though he had reached India). The estimates have varied from a hundred million on a continent that was so vast and also generously endowed with all the right natural resources to support that population; the discovery by Columbus that had started the downward spiral of the natives due to greed of the European settlers who were anxious to covet its resources to start out a new life in a so-called “new world” where they can enjoy individual freedoms not available back home in the old world. This paper discusses the various effects of the European settlements on the natives who were so quickly decimated by disease, starvation, forced labor and unwanted religious conversion. In a nutshell, the decline and transformation due to the white settlements had been mostly negative.
The harsh natural environment in which the native American Indians had lived upon at that time required them to band together for their ultimate survival. This communal basis of society in the native Americans had remained, while the settlers disintegrated. Their concept of a community hinged on common ownership of their lands and common membership in the sacred natural order (Sweet & Nash 18). On the other hand, the European concepts of private property (or termed as a private enterprise) and the individual exploitation of nature for ones own profits, did not allow for the collective modes of behavior observed in native American Indians. The settlers forced the natives to adopt to this lifestyle and forgo community living.
The arrival of the first white settlers at the tidewaters of Virginia had divided a tribe of Indians termed collectively as Powhatans. The tribe at Virginia at that time were known as the Algonquian Indians the most famous of which is Pocahantas who had been immortalized in history and literature. Her tribe welcomed the new arrivals, as exemplified by her father but this generosity ushered the decline of their tribe, eventually. It weakened the formerly strong and politically stable Indian settlements of the Powhatan tribes such that they were displaced and marginalized to the point of near extinction (Fausz 21).
Some natives tried to resist the Europeans but were soon defeated by the superiority of the white settlers weaponry. The Algonquians were not unanimous in their acceptance into their midst the new settlers like what Opechancanough did. This was also the case with tribes of the Choctaw nation under Red Shoes known as Shulush Homa. The net effect of the settlers had been to divide and conquer which considerably weakened a formerly united native nation (White 49) although the Indians themselves tried to pit the French against the English. Other effects of the settlements were the forced religious conversions of the natives and for them to abandon their indigenous religious practices; this in turn diluted their native cultures. African slaves were likewise affected when they were kidnapped from Africa and forced to work in all mines and plantations owned by the whites. The case of Thomas Peters who was a black slave became a forerunner in the Civil War when black slaves tried to win their freedoms (Nash 45).
No matter how one looks at it, the white settlements in the Americas had caused the decline and near annihilation of the Native Americans. This historical fact is even evident in todays society where most of them are marginalized, lost their lands and also their culture. It was caused by the white invasion and the genocide of the native Indians that is most painful.
Works Cited
Fausz, Frederick J. “Opechancanough: Indian Resistance Leader.” Struggle and Survival in Colonial America. Eds. David G. Sweet and Gary B. Nash. Berkeley, CA, USA: The University of California Press, 1981. 21-37. Print.
Nash, Gary B. “Thomas Peters: Millwright and Deliverer.” Forgotten Heroes: Inspiring American Portraits from our Leading Historians. Ed. Susan Ware. New York, NY, USA: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1998. 45-56. Print.
Sweet, David G. and Gary B. Nash. Struggle and Survival in Colonial America. Berkeley, CA, USA: The University of California Press, 1981. Print.
White, Richard. “Red Shoes: Warrior and Diplomat.” Struggle and Survival in Colonial America. Eds. David G. Sweet and Gary B. Nash. Berkeley, CA, USA: The University of California Press, 1981. 49-68. Print. Read More
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