Native Americans and the Colonists

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How did Native Americans' view of land use differ from that of European colonists?

Native Americans viewed land as a connection to ancestry, a spiritual foundation, and a nurturant source, whereas European colonists viewed land as a currency of power and as potential material wealth.

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Coming from a feudal society, Europeans had long-held beliefs that land equaled power. To control land was to control the resources and the people on it. Land could be bought and sold, exploited or left fallow. Wars could be fought over the right to land. Those who did not own land were essentially powerless.

When they first arrived in the Americas, Europeans were confronted with a seemingly endless amount of land that they felt was ripe for the taking. Part of this belief in land ownership came from Judeo-Christian values that impart the idea that land is given to humans by God for their use. The English, for instance, developed a policy known as vacuum domicilium, which meant that if they felt that a piece of land was not being used in a way they saw fit or appeared empty, they could occupy and develop it, without concern for the other people there.

Native Americans, on the other hand, usually did not believe that land could be owned in the same sense as Europeans did. They had...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 965 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 14, 2019
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