How did life change for Native Americans from before European settlement to the late 1800s?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Life changed dramatically for the Native Americans from the time before the Europeans came until the late 1800s. Before the Europeans came, the Native Americans had the continent mostly to themselves. They were free to move from place to place and develop their own ways of life and culture without interference from others.

Once Europeans came, things changed significantly. At first, they tended to help the Europeans who really didn’t know the land well. They also traded with them and shared meals of thanks leading to the national holiday of Thanksgiving. 

Most Native Americans got along well with the French. The French respected them, converted them to Christianity, and married them. They had a lot of trade with the French. The British presented a more ominous threat, however. Things began to decline after the British became established in North America.

The British wanted their land and the lucrative fur trade. After France was defeated in French and Indian War, there were battles between the Native Americans and the British. Eventually, once the colonists became free from Britain, they moved onto lands of the Native Americans.

Through deception, thievery, and harsh government policies, the Native Americans lost their lands and eventually their freedom. They were forced to move from lands east of the Mississippi River to lands west of the Mississippi River. They were put on reservations, and then later told to assimilate into American society. As a result of these policies and actions, a once proud and fiercely independent people became a very dependent and underprivileged group.