Native Americans and the Colonists

Start Free Trial

Name and describe the major advantages that the European colonists had over the Native Americans.

The major advantages that the European colonists had over the Native Americans included immunity to the diseases that came with them from Europe, superior weapons, and, over time, greater numbers.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The biggest advantage that the European colonists had over the Native Americans was immunity to the diseases that they brought with them. The microbes that arrived with the colonists caused widespread illness and death among the Native Americans, with mortality rates being high among infants and the elderly. The diseases...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The biggest advantage that the European colonists had over the Native Americans was immunity to the diseases that they brought with them. The microbes that arrived with the colonists caused widespread illness and death among the Native Americans, with mortality rates being high among infants and the elderly. The diseases that took hold among the Native American communities included smallpox, influenza, measles, and chicken pox.

Another significant advantage that the newcomers had was that they had in their possession a number of materials and products that were of great interest to the Native Americans. Weapons such as guns, axes, and knives were among such items. As a result, the Native Americans became overly reliant on the European colonists. In addition to this, rum became a firm favorite beverage among Native American men.

A third advantage that the settlers had was their ability to sow division among the Native Americans. By offering goods like tools and weapons to certain American tribes, those tribes would bring the Europeans slaves from other tribes, who would be required to undertake land-clearing and construction jobs.

The fact that the Europeans had better weapons and better means of transportation made them a formidable opponent in battle. Lastly, as the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers, and the Europeans soon greatly outnumbered the Native Americans.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There were several advantages that the Europeans had over the Native Americans. One advantage was the Europeans had immunity to the diseases that they brought with them to the Americas. Since the Native Americans did not have immunity to these diseases, many Native Americans died from them.

The Europeans also had technological advantages over the Native Americans. The Europeans had advantages with better and quicker methods of transportation, and over time, they had better weapons. This helped the Europeans in battles against the Native Americans. It also helped the Europeans move products and people faster.

The Europeans also greatly outnumbered the Native Americans. Many Europeans came to the Americas because they were in search of land, religious and political freedom, wealth, and a desire to start life over in a new area. As more and more Europeans came to the Americas, they greatly outnumbered the Native Americans.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Europeans had a major advantage of being immune to the diseases they brought to the New World. These diseases wiped out ninety percent of the Native American population and made the remainder easier to subdue. The Europeans in the New World could also unite and use what would become their superior numbers to drive the Native Americans off the land. While there were some pan-Indian movements, most famously with the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, the Native Americans could not present a united front to keep the whites off the land. The Europeans had gunpowder and were willing to build in fortified areas, while Native American fortifications were not nearly as strong as the ones found in European-style settlements. Finally, the European style of land ownership would ultimately prove to be an advantage. European livestock destroyed native crops. European fences affected the wild game in an area. While the Native Americans modified their environments through planting crops and creating open areas in forests, they were not prepared for how Europeans were willing to use the land and quickly move on to the next tract.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a number of advantages that the European colonists had over the Native Americans when the Europeans came to settle in the New World.  Let us look at some of the most important.

First, the Europeans carried infectious diseases that were new to the Native Americans.  These germs caused “virgin field” epidemics that killed huge numbers of Native Americans.  The Native Americans did not carry any diseases that could wreak equal havoc on the Europeans.  The deaths of large numbers of Native Americans weakened their societies badly.

Second, the Europeans could draw on a much larger population base than the Native Americans.  The Native Americans were relatively few, particularly after the diseases decimated them.  By contrast, Europeans could simply keep coming and coming.  This meant that the European population of North America soon outstripped the native population, particularly in areas where the two groups came into contact.

Third, the Europeans had a tremendous technological advantage.  The Native Americans did not have things like metal and woven cloth.  The Europeans had steel tools and weapons.  They had guns and ships.  Their technological advantages helped them dominate the Native Americans both militarily and economically.

In these ways, among others, the Europeans had great advantages over the Native Americans.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team