How was the traditional lifestyle of the Native Americans affected when the Europeans colonized?  

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this really depends upon the time frame that you are talking about.  The impact of European colonization was much different in the short run than it was in the long run.  In the short run, European colonization changed Native American traditional lifestyles in relatively small ways.  In the long run, European colonization destroyed those traditional lifestyles almost completely.

In the short run, European colonization did not do that much to most Native American tribes’ lifestyles.  When the Europeans came, those tribes gained some new technologies.  They got metal and firearms and woven cloth.  They incorporated these things into their lifestyles but continued to live more or less as they had before.  A few tribes were displaced by the early colonists, but there were not many colonists so the tribes did not have to move very far.  The coming of these first colonists would have changed the Indians’ way of life a little, but it did not bring about radical changes to their lifestyles.

As more colonists came, they impacted the Native Americans’ lifestyles more dramatically. They pushed more tribes off their lands, bringing tribes into conflict with one another as displaced tribes were pushed onto the territories of other tribes.  Native Americans became involved in wars between the French and the British.  However, even at this point, colonization did not prevent the Native Americans from living their traditional lifestyles for the most part.  It did force many of them to leave their lands, which is a very important and very damaging thing, but it did not force them to completely abandon their traditional ways.  Instead, the “only” had to live in traditional ways in lands that were not their ancestral territories.

In the long run, however, the impact of the colonists was huge.  The colonists came to fill the land, pushing Indians into smaller and smaller enclaves of Indian land.  Many tribes were decimated by war and disease.  They were eventually herded onto reservations where nomadic tribes could no longer follow traditional ways.  On the Plains, the buffalo that the Native Americans had lived on were destroyed, taking away the chance of living with their traditional economy.  Eventually, the government even tried to directly destroy the Native Americans’ traditional lifestyles by banning their religions and trying to prevent them from speaking their languages.

When the Europeans first came to what is now the United States, their impact on Native Americans was limited.  As more and more Europeans came, however, the impact grew until eventually the Native Americans could no longer live their traditional lifestyles.