Native Americans and the Colonists

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How did the French's relations with Native Americans compare to Spain's?

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Here is an "off the top of my head" answer to your question.

Frenchmen, I think embraced Amerindians as trading partners, readily married Amerindian women, lived with them, traded with them, married them, but did not so far as I know attempt to make Frenchmen out of them.

The Spanish enslaved many of them, and many more they rounded up and put into programs of cultural conversion at big haciendas and monestaries.  The Spanish attempted to eradicate the Amerindian culture and make-over the Amerindians into cultural copies of Spainiards.

Spain conquered and converted; France coexisted--such are my impressions.

I did not research this answer; I merely passed along the facts or myths (I know not which) that I have absorbed incidentally along the way through out my life.

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Another important aspect of relations between these two empires and the Native Americans of the New World had to do with religion.  Both France and Spain were Catholic countries, and both were concerned with converting the natives to their religion and saving their souls, but they went about it in much different ways.

France's presence in the colonies was both more recent and on a smaller scale than Spain.  The Spanish had conquered all of Latin America and had adopted strict conversion requirements on all natives, wth the goal of not only saving souls, but reducing the native populations.  Those that did not convert were denied everything from access to food to their very lives, the result being that Latin America today is overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking and Roman Catholic. 

France at its height had about 70,000 total settlers in the New World, scattered across colonies from Haiti to Quebec to present-day Montana.  In these inferior numbers, they had to apply a softer touch than the Conquistadors, and learned the language and customs of the Natives in a more passive attempt at conversion.   Their long range cultural impact, then, has been much less than Spain's.

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The major difference between the way that the Spanish and the French treated "their" Indians was based on the respective economic and societal needs of the two European nations.  The French used the Indians as economic partners, but did not really try to integrate them that much into a colonial society.  By contrast, the Spanish used the Indians economically and integrated them into the colonial society.

The reason for the difference is that the Spanish wanted to create more of an agricultural and mining economy while the French economy was based on fur.  Therefore, the Spanish needed to keep much closer control over the Indians than the French did.  This is one reason why they integrated them into their society, making a society that was largely Indian with a small layer of Spaniards on the top.  Meanwhile, the French largely left the Indian alone.

So France's relations with the Indians were less intimate and controlling than those of Spain.

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How did the French relations with the Native Americans compare with those of Great Britain and Spain?  

The French, British, and Spanish encountered the Native Americans when they established colonies in the Americas. However, only the French had a good relationship with the Native Americans.

The French treated the Native Americans well. They traded with them. They made it clear they didn’t want to take away their land. They also learned the languages of the Native American tribes. In addition, they married the Native Americans. There was respect between the French and the Native Americans.

The British and Spanish didn’t have a very good relationship with them. These countries wanted to take away the land of the Native Americans. The Spanish enslaved them and exploited their land for minerals. They also tried to convert them to Christianity. The Native Americans resented these actions. The British viewed the Native Americans as inferior. The British tried to impose their laws upon them. This also led to poor a relationship with them.

The French had a good relationship with the Native Americans because they treated them well, unlike the British or the Spanish.

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How did French relations with the Indians compare with those of Britain?

Basically, the French had better relations with the Indians than did Britain.  This is not because the French were morally superior -- it is because they needed the Indians economically where the British did not.

The British needed to get the Indians out of the way.  There were lots of British settlers coming to the New World and they needed the land the Indians were on.  By contrast, the French needed the Indians.  They needed the Indians because the French economy in North America was based on furs and it was largely the Indians who provided the furs.  Without the Indians, no furs.

So the French needed the Indians and therefore treated them well.  The British needed the Indians out of the way and therefore had wars against them.

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