European Exploration of America

Start Free Trial

What effect did the European settlement have on the Native Americans?

European settlement had overwhelmingly negative consequences for Native Americans. Though Native American tribes did occasionally form positive relationships with European settlers, permanent European settlement in America eventually led to disease and displacement. Native Americans had no immunity to European illnesses and their population was devastated by the (sometimes deliberate) introduction of diseases like smallpox. Over time, most surviving tribes were forcibly relocated from their traditional lands to make way for expanding European settlements.

Expert Answers

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

The effect of European settlement in the Americas was devastating to the indigenous populations. It is thought that the native population was reduced by as much as ninety percent in the first century after first contact as the result of diseases inadvertently introduced from Europe. Whole civilizations vanished and societies crumbled.

The survivors of these plagues were left with little of their old ways of life to hold on to. Many native peoples were too weak and disorganized as a result to put up much of a meaningful resistance to European encroachment on their lands. Many of them were enslaved, particularly in Spanish controlled areas but also in some of the English colonies. Others were pushed aside and marginalized. Many were forcibly brought to education centers that sought to remove any vestiges of their traditional ways of life.

To this day, Native Americans continue to be marginalized in society. In the United States, Native American unemployment rates are significantly higher than the population in general. Rights to their lands are still being denied to them in some places. Child and maternal mortality rates tend to be higher than average. All this can be traced back to European settlement that did much to destroy the way of life of countless native peoples.

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

European settlement was devastating for the Native Americans.  From the time the first Europeans came, the American Indians could never have imagined how negatively they would be affected by the Europeans.  At first, Europeans brought diseases to which the American Indians had no immunity.  Thus, many American Indians died from these diseases.  As more Europeans came, the Europeans eventually wanted more land.  This land belonged to the American Indians.  Thus began a long series of conflicts and war between the Europeans and the American Indians.  In most cases, the American Indians lost their land to the Europeans.  Either through conflict or deceit, land was taken away from the American Indians.  Eventually, American Indian ways of live were destroyed, and they were encouraged to assimilate into European, and later American, ways of life.  Over hundreds of years, the Native Americans were negatively impacted by the arrival of the Europeans to the Americas.  That negative impact continues to this very day. 

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

European settlers to "the New World" had a major, and mostly negative effect on the indigenous populations across North and South America.  Whatever the motivations, those who settled North America left in their wake a legacy of poverty, domestic, drug and alcohol abuse, and an impenetrable sense of hopelessness among Native American communities.  European settlement resulted in the displacement of native tribes, the wholesale destruction of cultures and the implementation of genocidal policies that decimated Native American tribes.  The deliberate contamination of Native communities with diseases alien to North America like Small Pox wiped out large numbers of Native Americans, affecting subsequent generations.  The usurpation of the most productive grazing lands and the expulsion of Native tribes from their historic territories and onto inhospitable reservations scarred those communities for eternity.

In short, the effect of European settlement on Native Americans was profound and devastating.  Hundreds of years after those settlements began, the effects are still being felt in the extraordinarily dysfunctional cultures that replaced the ones that were destroyed.

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

European settlement in the New World had a number of impacts on Native Americans.  Mainly, though, settlement pushed Native Americans off their lands.  It led to them either dying or being forced onto reservations.

When the Europeans first came to the New World, they had two main effects.  First, they brought germs that spread through Indian populations, killing huge numbers of them.  The germs even killed Indians who had never seen whites because they passed from Indians who had been in contact with whites to others.  Second, they brought new technologies and they brought horses.  These things changed the Native American ways of life tremendously.  For example, we think of the Plains Indians as horse people, but they of course had no horses until Europeans came to the Americas.

As European settlement expanded, Indians were pushed farther and farther west.  Some fought wars to try to prevent this and were killed.  Those who were not killed were eventually put on reservations, typically on land the Americans did not want. 

In these ways, European settlement had a tremendous, and often devastating, effect on Native Americans.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial