How did life change for Native Americans from pre-European settlement to the late 1800s?

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As other answers have said, life changed dramatically and became much for the worse for Native Americans after the arrival of the Europeans. First, the Native American population was rapidly reduced by the introduction of European diseases for which the people had no immunity, such as smallpox, cholera, bubonic plague,...

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and whooping cough. Some estimates run as high as a ninety percent mortality rate among some tribes—a devastating figure.

These very high death rates had a disruptive effect on Native American societies, and this was followed by having to contend with increasing numbers of foreigners who possessed a superior weapons technology and yet little to no understanding of native cultures. Native Americans had to adapt to survive, and they did so in a number of ways, which included merging tribes, attacking settlers, allying with one group of settlers against another, entering into treaties with Europeans, and adopting Western technologies when feasible. Other survival attempts, once the United States was established, including petitioning Congress or the White House for redress of grievances and trying to persuade people in power that their native cultures were behaving according to white expectations.

Another devastating effect on Native Americans were forced relocations from their ancestral lands. Not only did many people die due to the rigors of the journeys, but cultural trauma followed, especially as most Native American religions were tied to a particular piece of land whose gods were understood to offer protection to that group only so long as they remained there.

Culture clash did not go well for the Native Americans, who were badly outnumbered by hostile invaders with lethal technologies and a vastly different idea of social organization.

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The change was complete and completely disastrous. Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Native Americans freely occupied the land where they'd lived and hunted for centuries. But all that changed when the newcomers set foot on American soil. Because now the native tribes were in direct competition for food and natural resources with a more technologically-advanced race of people.

Slowly but surely, European settlers began to take over more and more native land, resorting to unscrupulous, underhand methods to deprive Native Americans of their patrimony. Tens of thousands of Native Americans perished, by war, disease, and famine, in what some historians have called a genocide against the indigenous population. The most notorious atrocity inflicted on Native Americans was the Trail of Tears, a forced relocation program which resulted in the deaths of somewhere in the region of 4,000 men, women, and children.

By the late 19th-century, the takeover of native land was almost complete, with the few remaining tribes driven off their land and onto Federal reservations, where they endured poverty and discrimination.

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Life changed dramatically for the Native Americans from the time before the Europeans came until the late 1800s. Before the Europeans came, the Native Americans had the continent mostly to themselves. They were free to move from place to place and develop their own ways of life and culture without interference from others.

Once Europeans came, things changed significantly. At first, they tended to help the Europeans who really didn’t know the land well. They also traded with them and shared meals of thanks leading to the national holiday of Thanksgiving. 

Most Native Americans got along well with the French. The French respected them, converted them to Christianity, and married them. They had a lot of trade with the French. The British presented a more ominous threat, however. Things began to decline after the British became established in North America.

The British wanted their land and the lucrative fur trade. After France was defeated in French and Indian War, there were battles between the Native Americans and the British. Eventually, once the colonists became free from Britain, they moved onto lands of the Native Americans.

Through deception, thievery, and harsh government policies, the Native Americans lost their lands and eventually their freedom. They were forced to move from lands east of the Mississippi River to lands west of the Mississippi River. They were put on reservations, and then later told to assimilate into American society. As a result of these policies and actions, a once proud and fiercely independent people became a very dependent and underprivileged group.

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