How did French relations with the Indians compare with those of Spain?

4 Answers

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Another important aspect of relations between these two empires and the Native Americans of the New World had to do with religion.  Both France and Spain were Catholic countries, and both were concerned with converting the natives to their religion and saving their souls, but they went about it in much different ways.

France's presence in the colonies was both more recent and on a smaller scale than Spain.  The Spanish had conquered all of Latin America and had adopted strict conversion requirements on all natives, wth the goal of not only saving souls, but reducing the native populations.  Those that did not convert were denied everything from access to food to their very lives, the result being that Latin America today is overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking and Roman Catholic. 

France at its height had about 70,000 total settlers in the New World, scattered across colonies from Haiti to Quebec to present-day Montana.  In these inferior numbers, they had to apply a softer touch than the Conquistadors, and learned the language and customs of the Natives in a more passive attempt at conversion.   Their long range cultural impact, then, has been much less than Spain's.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The major difference between the way that the Spanish and the French treated "their" Indians was based on the respective economic and societal needs of the two European nations.  The French used the Indians as economic partners, but did not really try to integrate them that much into a colonial society.  By contrast, the Spanish used the Indians economically and integrated them into the colonial society.

The reason for the difference is that the Spanish wanted to create more of an agricultural and mining economy while the French economy was based on fur.  Therefore, the Spanish needed to keep much closer control over the Indians than the French did.  This is one reason why they integrated them into their society, making a society that was largely Indian with a small layer of Spaniards on the top.  Meanwhile, the French largely left the Indian alone.

So France's relations with the Indians were less intimate and controlling than those of Spain.

geosc's profile pic

geosc | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Here is an "off the top of my head" answer to your question.

Frenchmen, I think embraced Amerindians as trading partners, readily married Amerindian women, lived with them, traded with them, married them, but did not so far as I know attempt to make Frenchmen out of them.

The Spanish enslaved many of them, and many more they rounded up and put into programs of cultural conversion at big haciendas and monestaries.  The Spanish attempted to eradicate the Amerindian culture and make-over the Amerindians into cultural copies of Spainiards.

Spain conquered and converted; France coexisted--such are my impressions.

I did not research this answer; I merely passed along the facts or myths (I know not which) that I have absorbed incidentally along the way through out my life.

User Comments

user5772624's profile pic

user5772624 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The French had better relationships because they respected the ways of the native Americans

They learned the native Americanslanguage, didn't try to change their customs, and advanced slowly to not push the native Americans off of their own land.