What was the effect of discovery of the Americas by Europeans on Native Americans?

Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The effects of European "discovery" of the Americas on the people who already lived there were dramatic. First, and most obvious, the introduction of European diseases (for which native peoples had no immunity) led to massive epidemics that ravaged Indian peoples across both North and South America. Smallpox, typhus, malaria, measles, and plague carried off millions of Native Americans in the wake of European contact and exploration. This was the reality faced by most Indian peoples, and it was, in many places, followed shortly thereafter by conquest. But in most of North America in particular, the process was more complex. Natives were not simply pushed aside in places like the Great Lakes, the Southeast, or the Southwest. Rather, Indian people traded, formed alliances, and made war on Europeans, all in an attempt to manage the presence of the invaders to their benefit. In almost all cases, this process ended in the taking of Indian lands, but this sometimes took a very long time. In the short term, Indian peoples married whites, they used (often repurposed) European trade goods, they converted (often on their own terms) to Christianity, and they generally tried to make the best of what we can now see was a dire situation.