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history of the native American Indians is a long and colorful one. The first Indians arrived on the North American continent subsequent to the end of the Ice Age approximately 15,000 years ago. These early Indians arrived from Siberia as they passed through Alaska and gradually settled throughout what is now the United States. These early arriving Indians were hunter-gatherers and, as a result, they traveled freely across the vast North American continent and by 8,000 years ago had spread as far east as the eastern seaboard.
As indicated, the early Indians were hunter-gatherers and many of the tribes remained such until the early 1900's but a select few tribes began farming. The Indian tribes electing such life style were centered in present day Mexico City and by the time that this area began to be explored and settled by Europeans the farming life-style of these Indian tribes had been well-established as the process of farming transitioned from a mere supplement to the hunting and gathering activities of most Indian tribes and farming developed into a full time activity.
By the time that Christopher Columbus landed in America Indians lived on the full extent of the North American continent but the arrival of Columbus signaled the beginning of the end for the Indians. Never having been exposed to the various diseases that the European explorers brought with them, the Indians had never had the opportunity to develop immunities. The result was a massive extermination of the Indians that drastically reduced their numbers; numbers that they would never be able to replenish.
When Columbus landed, the Indians living in North America were highly diversified. Every tribe, of which there were hundreds, enjoyed their own language, their own culture, their own religious beliefs. Although white culture has grouped them all together and considered them as one, there was more diversification among the Indian tribes than there was among the white settlers that were beginning to dominate the continent.
Relationships between the Native American Indians and the Europeans settling in America were originally quite friendly as the Indians were eager to trade with the Europeans for manufactured goods but as it became obvious to the Indians that the settlers were planning to remain and to do so by occupying land that once belonged to the Indians matters turned acrimonious.
As European migration to North America increases the relationship between the settlers and the Indians continues to deteriorate. By the early 17th century Europeans outnumber the Indians on the continent and the Europeans have begun to push the Indians westward as the Europeans begin to push their settlements closer and closer to the Appalachian mountains. Periodically, the Indians mount attacks on white settlements but, in most cases, the aggression is precipitated by the white settlers. The Indians want to be free to hunt and fish but the Europeans are more interested in procuring more and more of the Indians' land.
The end of the American Revolution did not bode well for Native Americans. The end of the War signaled the beginning of an increased surge of settlement west of the Appalachians and border skirmishes between settlers and Indians. One group trying to obtain more property while the other group attempting to foreclose the westward movement.
The history of the Native Americans as the United States continued to expand is not a good one. The acrimony between the two groups intensified and the white settlers began to characterize the Indians as savage, uncivilized pagans who needed to be neutralized and converted. The proud Indians viewed the situation differently and they fought hard to defeat the westward movement of the white settlers lacking the numbers and technology available to the white culture the Native Indians were fighting a losing battle. By the end of the 19th century, the Indians' struggle to protect their communities and their cultures has come near an end. The tribes that once controlled an entire continent were now relegated to small reservations where their hunting-gathering societies were forcefully extinguished.
The most commonly recognized beginning date for the colonization of the area known as America began with Columbus' landing on the North American continent. There were earlier explorations but Columbus' missions to the New World encouraged the process of colonization. At first, the colonization began slowly and the groups that did venture to the Americas were there seeking agricultural products that were not available in Europe. This early activity was light but as the Reformation began to spread in Europe, there were increased numbers of European immigrants looking to flee religious persecution and the Americas offered an opportunity for these individuals to practice their individual religion freely. Entire colonies were established dedicated to the practice of specific religions. The Puritans in Massachusetts, the Roman Catholics in Maryland, and the Quakers in Pennsylvania founded entire colonies where the practice of their individual religions were guaranteed.
The promise of land also served as a motivation for increased colonization. Most Europeans were unable to own private property due to the class system that had operated throughout Europe for centuries and this factor combined with the newly defined concepts of individual freedom and liberty motivated increased immigration. America offered new opportunities and chances for social advancement that was foreclosed for most in Europe.
The colonization of America had an impact on two other cultures: Blacks from Africa and Native American Indians. Both cultures were essentially destroyed as the white Europeans brought Blacks to the Americas and forced them onto slavery while the white Europeans, at the same time, continued to push the Indians farther and farther westward.
The American colonies were essentially the exclusive province of the British Empire. The British recognized early that the colonies could be used as an economic benefit and, against this background, the mercantilism system was developed. Under mercantilism, the American colonies were used to provide raw materials to the Empire and, in exchange, the Empire provided the colonies with manufactured goods. For the most part the American colonies were self-governing through most of their history and this pattern of self-governing contributed to the political upheaval that would eventually result in the American Revolution. The colonies became used to managing their own affairs and when the British Empire began to apply greater pressure on the colonies in order to finance its military operations throughout the world, the colonies began to balk at the higher taxes and tariffs being applied. The colonies began to question the advantages available to them as British subjects where they were unable to participate in the decision making process. The fact that the colonies had been allowed for several decades to be self-governing entities contributed to the problem and the tension between the colonies and the British crown increased as the British realized that they were losing control over the operation of the colonies.
Although history tends to concentrate on the colonization that took place in the thirteen colonies that boarded the Atlantic Ocean, colonization was taking place in Florida and the Southwest. This colonization was taking place in the Spanish style where large settlements were not established like they were on the East coast but, instead, the Spanish established a small ruling class that used the area as a source for natural resources and allowed the long time native residents to live much as they always had. The Spaniards did not attempt the wholesale displacement that characterized the settling of the Thirteen British colonies. This colonization style would contribute to the eventual demise of the Spanish holdings in the New World.
The Spanish approach of colonizing the Americas was much different than the approach utilized by the British. Like the British Spain viewed their colonizing efforts as a method of increasing trade as the New World provided goods that were largely unavailable on the European continent but the Spanish government, being deeply committed to the Catholic faith, also used colonization as a way of promoting Catholicism and converting the Native Indians who the Spaniards considered to be pagans and in need of saving
The Spanish monarchy was aggressively began its exploration and colonization of the Americas. Within a few short years after Columbus' arrival in the New World, Spain have begun its effort toward colonization and its efforts did not end until the waning years of the 19th century. The Spanish efforts were concentrated in the islands of the Caribbean, South and Central America, and Mexico. These efforts extended northward from these bases and included most of what is the area west of the Mississippi River. In all these areas, despite the fact that the Spanish have been absent for as much as two centuries, the influence of the Spanish and the Catholic Church remains strong.
In sharp contrast to the British and French efforts at colonization, the Spanish style was far more militarily oriented. The reasons for this are several but it must be understood that the areas colonized by Spain were far more civilized and established than the areas colonized by…[continue]
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