Colonial America

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How did the English colonists and Native Americans adapt to each other's presence?

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The relationship between the Native Americans and the English settlers was a mixed one. When the English settlers first arrived, some Native American tribes welcomed them and showed them how to survive. One example of this was the efforts of Squanto and the Wampanoag tribe. Squanto showed the English settlers where to farm, what crops to grow, and how to survive the rough New England winters. Squanto also helped smooth relations when misunderstandings developed.

However, these friendly relations didn’t always exist between the Native Americans and the English settlers. The Native Americans feared the British presence, as the British had advanced weaponry and technology. In many cases, the British viewed the Native Americans as a threat, because they believed the Native Americans were holding back the spread of the British way of life and hindering British expansion. Unlike the French, who married Native American women, converted the Native Americans to Christianity, and demonstrated that they didn’t want their lands, the British often attempted to take Native American lands by force and tried to enslave the Native Americans. Additionally, many Native Americans died from diseases as a result of their exposure to the English settlers. As a result, a very hostile and contentious relationship existed between many Native American tribes and the English settlers, especially after the settlers were less dependent on the Native Americans for survival.

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The relationship between the English colonists and the Native Americans they encountered when arriving in North America was a troubled and complicated one from the start. When the colonists first landed in Jamestown in 1607, the Native population initially reacted with hostility due to their prior experience with Spanish explorers. This aggression, however, gave way to welcoming efforts, with the Native Americans offering up food to the colonists, who were neglecting their planting and farming duties in favor of seeking out wealth.

Unfortunately, the colonists were quick to take advantage of their native neighbors; when food was no longer freely offered by the Native Americans, colonists would take what they needed by force, subscribing to the notion that the native population ought to be forced to engage in "drudgery, work, and slavery."

Native Americans responded to this affront to their dignity by attacking the settlers, killing their livestock, and burning their crops; the colonists lashed back by destroying Indian villages and their crops. Although temporary peace was established with the marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe, the encroaching settlement of colonists on native land resulted in greater conflict. An attack in 1622 left 350 colonists dead, followed by acts of revenge from the colonists, and so the cycle of violence and hostility continued.

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