Important Topics in American History: The Native Americans and Europeans

Introduction

What was once a peaceful civilization, that settled on the vast majority of the land we now call The United States of America, was challenged by incoming foreigners since the end of the 13th century, including the peak of foreign settlement in the late 17th century. Explore american history topics which are the most interesting and incomplete research. To the European settlers this continent was an unknown new adventure that would potentially lead to great discovery and wealth. Along with new discovery, the settlers were exposed to a completely different race of people who spoke a new language that they had never heard of. Although this was a New World for the Europeans, it was not to the people who already resided there, which according to historical records, have been there for about fifty thousand years. These people had a different religion, different views on land ownership, different gender relations, and understood a different concept of freedom than the European settlers. In thoroughly examining these differences, it is apparent that Native Americans had a much more liberal society than that of the settling Europeans.

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These historical topics are still the most discussed in the scientific community. It is also described in the history essay sample that is available on any student resources. The Native Americans and Europeans were very different in the most fundamental ways, and these differences usually led to many misunderstandings between them. One of the main values that was different between the Natives and the European settlers was religion. The Natives resided primarily in North and South America, and lived in small communities, known as tribes. Therefore, their spiritual beliefs and practices differed based upon which tribe they were associated with. One common belief, that tied them together, was their “lack of distinction between the spiritual world and the natural world, the existence of some type of creative deity, and a general lack of objective, fixed principles.” Native American tribes either believed in one single Spiritual entity or many that is why they could “be categorized as theistic, deistic, henotheistic, polytheistic, or even pantheistic.” The European settlers on the other hand, practiced within different sects of Christianity. Some of these sects were: Puritan, Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc. Unlike the variety that the Natives had from tribe-to-tribe in their spiritual beliefs, all of the Christian settlers had one main belief. That was their belief in one divine being, God. Although the settlers were historically said to be brutal and greedy, they all maintained a strong faith in God. But, due to strong belief in their God, the Europeans thought that the Natives were uncivilized and their religious beliefs were unacceptable. In, “Themes in Native American Spirituality,” the author argues that, since the beginning, the settlers began exhibiting practices of “religious persecution” on the Native people. For example, the settlers organized religious boarding schools for the Natives in order to seperate them from their heritage and attempt to “civilize” and “Christianize” them.

Historical issues

The next major distinction between the two cultures was their views on land ownership. The Native Americans practiced communal land ownership, which meant that the whole community owned the land they lived on, it did not belong to specific individuals. Students find it really cool historical events to write about in their academic papers as part of their college history course. Most land was free and anyone could use it, it was very temporary and not owned by anyone. On the contrary, the Europeans believed that land should belong to specific individuals and not the whole community, individuals would either buy the land somehow or inherit it from family, etc. When the Europeans began to disperse, they began guarding off the Native’s land and said that others can no longer use it; this, of course, led to many problems. The Natives thought they were lending access to the Europeans to use the land but instead the Europeans thought they were buying it from them. Instead of taking action instantly, the Natives remained calm and the Europeans continued to brainwash them into giving away more and more land, until there was nearly no place for them to go. This remains a problem through the 21st century as the Natives are still struggling to reclaim their land. In, “Memory in Native American Land Claims,” the author argues that the Natives were and still are “endangered cultures,” not only because the Europeans brutally killed and used them, but also because they were cast out of their communities and homes. Therefore, they have the right to “regain properties where [there is] original ownership.”

In terms of society, the thing that greatly differentiated the Europeans settlers and the Natives was their gender relations. This is mentioned in the historical research paper example provided by Harvard University. In Native American households, women and men were viewed equally. Both were seen as dominant figures within the household. However, in the homes of the European settlers the women were seen as caretakers. They were not seen as equals, and they had no right to property. While the Natives displayed practices of dominance by both genders, the European women were always subordinate to their husbands. In being viewed as the caretakers, they were responsible for cooking, cleaning, and other general housekeeping. In a Native household, women and men would have equal responsibility. Too, European women never interfered with their husbands work. Conversely, it was common for Native American men and women to work together – especially in developing their households.

As previously alluded to, having more equal gender relations extended beyond the household. In public, it was much more common for European women to either be reserved, or more aggressively, not be seen in public at all. A more inclusive, nurturing, culture found in that of the Native tribes led to women, generally, being more outspoken and carrying more esteem in their day-to-day activities. Women were valued for any contribution that they could make to their families and to society. Any woman’s ability to contribute to the survival of her family was heralded. Knowledge in healing methods and the uses of various herbs and spices would be one of the ways that women were touted in Native Culture. Beyond this, in “Native American Women in Westerns: Reality and Myth,” Maryann Oshana says, “…women also were able to attain the rank of chief in many tribes.” Native tribes cared less about a hierarchy of sexes and more about dignity and an individual’s ability to be a contributing member to the tribe.

Related to the gender relation differences between European and Native society, there were stark differences in the notions of freedom between the cultures. The contrast begins with European women having little, or no, real freedom. Women had many obligations, but no freedom to make their own decisions. Expectations of women were to find husbands, have children, and then take care of them. European women who went against this general belief were chided and ridiculed by their communities, often driven into seclusion. This is radically different to Native societies who were inclusive of women. This inclusion is described well by Mihesuah in Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism, “Most tribes were egalitarian, that is, Native women did have religious, political, and economic power—not more than the men, but at least equal to men’s. Women’s and men’s roles may have been different but they were equally as important.”

Conclusion

There is not necessarily harm in there being such major differences between traditional Native American and European culture. The outcome of these difference is another discussion entirely, but the major differences are clear. Native religious views were often polytheistic and could vary greatly between, even neighboring, tribes. Europeans all believed in a singular God. To Natives, land for the all of the people to use, while Europeans drew clear boundaries between each other’s properties. There was a separation of genders to Europeans, but a much more fluid gender relation between men and women in Native Society. Lastly, and tied closely to gender relations were the two differences in views of freedom. Native men and women were viewed much more equally, where this far from the case in European cultures. In short, these differences exhibit how Native American culture was more liberal than European culture.