How did Native Americans’ view of land use differ from that of Europeans?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Basically, Native Americans viewed land as something that was to be used communally by all the members of a tribe.  There was no idea among the Indians that land was something to be divided up, sold, and owned by individuals.

This view of land ownership can be seen in a speech given by the Indian leader Tecumseh, in which he is addressing William Henry Harrison, who would later be President of the United States.  Tecumseh is quoted as saying that Indians needed to

...unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was at first, and should be now -- for it was never divided, but belongs to all.

By saying this, Tecumseh is laying out a much different understanding of land use than we have now.  He sees the land as a communal resource that is to be used by all.  He does not see it as Europeans saw it (and as we see it now), as a resource that could and should be owned by individuals who could keep it as their own and exclude others from using it.

This tension between Native American and European views of land use and ownership was a major source of conflict between Natives and Europeans for much of the history of what is now the United States.

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