Native Americans and the Colonists

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How did the Spanish, French, British, and Americans differ in their interactions with Native Americans between the 1500s and 1800s?

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The Spanish, French, British, and Americans differed in their interactions with Native Americans between the 1500s and 1800s first because the Spanish subjugated the Incan and Aztec Empires for resources and labor, the French made Native Americans into trade partners, the British manipulated Native Americans into harassing the Americans and French, and the Americans eventually took a great deal of North American land from Native peoples.

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The Spanish were the first European group to have extensive contact with Native Americans. Spanish conquistadors subjugated the Aztec and Inca Empires, took their gold, banned their native religions and languages, and made them into Roman Catholics who were forced to work for Spaniards. In time, the Spanish and natives...

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intermarried. The Spanish were criticized for their cruelty by both Spanish missionaries and other Europeans.

The French sought to make Native Americans into trade partners. French traders used rivers in order to claim the land of North America, though many French preferred to stay home rather than to come to the New World. The French missionaries converted the Native Americans to Catholicism but were willing to translate the Bible into their native languages. The French also used Indian allies against British and American holdings in the New World.

The British traded with Native Americans and used them to harass the French and eventually the Americans. British traders signed treaties with Native Americans concerning the Oregon Territory and the land around Hudson Bay in order to gain exclusive trading rights to furs in the region. While the British claimed that the Proclamation Line of 1763 was meant to reward their Indian allies for their work during the French and Indian War, in reality it was probably meant to avoid another world war caused by American encroachment on foreign land.

The Americans had the most extensive contact with the Native Americans. The Americans initially had friendly relations with most tribes, as the tribes saw them as potential allies against rivals. This would change as the Americans took more native land, thus causing wars along the frontier. Colonial and eventually national governments fought wars and signed treaties with the Native Americans that they were not able to keep as the Americans occupied land designated for natives.

There were attempts to create reservations. such as in Oklahoma for the Five Civilized Tribes, but American encroachment soon turned this into a violent no-man's land during the nineteenth century. The Americans sought to Westernize native Americans by taking their children to white schools such as Carlisle Indian School and by providing buffalo hunters discounted ammunition. All of this led to the Americans owning the continent at the expense of the tribes already living there.

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The Spanish were brutal towards the Native Americans while the French tried to co-exist with Native Americans peacefully. The English and Americans varied in how they approached Native Americans but were, in general, also brutal.

The Spanish forced Native Americans to work on plantations called encomiendas in return for "saving" the natives' souls by converting them to Christianity. The Spaniards' harsh treatment of Native Americans as well as the transmission of diseases from the Old World caused the decimation of many native tribes. Many of the English settlers, including the Puritans in New England and the Englishmen who settled in Jamestown, saw the natives as savages.

However, some English groups, and later some Americans, tried to co-exist peacefully with natives. One such group was the Quakers in Pennsylvania. Therefore, the English and the Americans varied in how they approached natives; however, after the American Revolution, Americans' desire for westward lands led them to claim native land and push them onto reservations.

The French were the exception. Settling in what is today Canada and along the Great Lakes, they sought to exist peacefully and trade with Native Americans. As many of the French arrived in the New World without women, they also tended to intermarry with native people. Many French people learned native languages and learned about native cultures.

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Spain: The spainish were the first European power to interact with native american populations. When they arrived in the new world, they began they found amazing new trade items which they began growing in bulk. To make sure they had the labor pool they needed, they enslaved the native peoples of the carribbean, working them to death, then replacing them with Africans eventually. Most of the islands of the carribbean were totally depopulated of natives by the year 1550. Spain also made a point of seeking riches from the larger empires in the interior of South America, destroying both the Aztec and Inca utterly. Spain's ruthless policies were the subject of much debate amongst the missionaries and church officials that ministered to the natives, eventually being brought up at the Vatican for debate.

France: France never really attempted to settle the lands of New France as extensivly as Spain, England or America, and therefore had a much better relationship with the natives in their area. Instead, the engadged in trading, partnering with the natives instead of enslaving or killing them. French trappers would strengthen these bonds through marriage and language. French missionaries did try to convert some of the Huron, but not extensively, fearing forced conversion would disrupt business dealings. This partnership would pay off during the French and Indian war, which, althought the French lost, showed the benefit of treat the indians well.

England - The land-hungry English were constantly at odds with the Indians of the colonies. England's political and religious situation made colonizing very appealing, and as the settlers streamed west the natives pushed back. King Phillips War and the Pequot War are both examples of the types of fighting that continually fouled the English/Native relation. After the French and Indian War however, the English line changed. Not wanting to have to fight another costly war with the powerful tribes of the Ohio River Valley, the English began preventing American colonial expansion. The Proclaimation of 1763 was one such law that indians applauded and american colonist loathed. The English stance on expansion helped cause the eventual revolution, where many tribes joined the British because of their fears regarding American expansion.

Americans - After independence, the unspoken policy of the American government towards natives was "force them to move or kill them." Fronteir settlers, who had no love for the natives who raided and fought back against the westward movement of the Americans, were never discouraged by their government from treating natives inhumanly. Some presidents tried to sign treaties, most of which were ignored by later generations of statesmen. Some encouraged indians to "adopt white customs" hoping that they could be assimilated. The Cherokee, Chickasaw and other southern tribes in Georgia did so, modernizing in the hopes that they would be left alone, which for a time seemed to happen.Then Andrew Jackson, hoping to score points with southern whites who were hungry for Cherokee lands, forced them out in an episode known as the Trail or Tears. From this point on, American policy towards indians was one of conversion and forced confinment onto reservation, a policy which was deeply flawed and never truely managed effectively. Some tribes fought back, such as the Apache and the Sioux, but most were eventually wiped out or forced onto crowded reservations.

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How did Spain, France, and England treat Native Americans differently?

The Spanish conquerors brutally abused and exploited the Native Americans, many of whom died from mistreatment at the hands of their Spanish masters. They forced Native Americans to work for them as porters, in the fields, and in gold and silver mines; to convert to Catholicism; and to pay taxes to the Spanish colonial government. While the Spanish colonial New Laws (1542) formally forbade enslaving Native Americans, they still permitted the colonists to enslave Native American populations that rebelled against Spanish domination. The Spanish government allowed most Native Americans to live under their own chiefs and took absolute control over their Native American neighbors away from the colonists. The Spanish authorities even appointed special officials to “protect” the Native Americans, but despite this “protection,” tens of millions of Native Americans died within the first century of Spanish colonial rule from mistreatment and European diseases, such as small pox. Since Native Americans frequently lacked the money to pay the new Spanish taxes, many of them became indebted to the neighboring Spanish settlers, lost their land, and became hereditary peons (indebted laborers) on the estates (haciendas) of Spanish nobility.

The Catholic Church sometimes tried to establish an exclusive hold on Native American communities and preserve them from the vices of colonial society. In South America, the Jesuits governed hundreds of thousands of Guarani Indians in an orderly and rather authoritarian fashion. At the same time, they trained and armed them to fend off attacks of Portuguese slave hunters from Brazil.

Spanish colonial society was very race-conscious, but it was also religiously relatively inclusive. Native Americans and people of mixed race (castas) occupied the lower ranks of the colonial social hierarchy, but they were nonetheless accepted as an integral part of this society.

This was not the case in the British North American colonies, where the settlers gradually drove away those Native Americans who did not die in military conflicts with them. Mixed race marriages remained an exception rather than the rule, as they were in Spanish America. There was less emphasis on forcing Native Americans to work for the whites or to convert to Christianity. The British settlers engaged in a thriving trade with the neighboring Native American communities. The British authorities established alliances with some Native American peoples who took part in their wars against the French.

The French settlers’ approach to Native Americans was midway between that of the British and that of the Spanish. French missionaries did their best to convert Native Americans to Catholicism. There was more acceptance of mixed-race marriages, and the descendants of these marriages played an important role in the history of European expansion. At the same time, there was little effort to integrate Native Americans into the structure of colonial society and they remained socially and culturally marginalized.

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How did Spain, France, and England treat Native Americans differently?

The three major European powers on the American continent—England, France, and Spain—had different Indian policies.  Spain tended to treat the Indians worst.  The Spanish destroyed Native American religious sites and subjugated tribes into slavery.  They also did not take care to preserve cultural artifacts; the Spanish conquistadors who conquered the Aztecs melted down priceless golden sculptures.  While there was some protest over the treatment of the Indians, most notably from a Dominican friar named Bartolome de las Casas, this was the exception rather than the rule.  

The French saw the Native Americans as valuable trading partners.  French traders often married into tribes for diplomatic and economic reasons.  While there were never many French living in the New World, the French were able to claim a large swath of territory due to these trading networks.  French officials in the New World were also able to exploit tribal rivalries for their own benefit.  

English settlers saw the Indians as being in the way of their farms.  Other than in Pennsylvania, where the land was bought mostly fairly from the Indians, the Indians faced harsh wars and punitive treaties when dealing with the English.  During times of war, the English would make treaties with tribes who were allied against the French, but they would not honor these treaties after the war was over.  Wars between the English and Native Americans were quite fierce, most notably in King Philip's War.

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How did Spain, France, and England treat Native Americans differently?

France, Spain, and Great Britain all dealt with the Native Americans as they colonized the Americas. Each country treated them differently.

The Spanish, for the most part, treated the Native Americans poorly. The Spanish were interested in the riches of the Americas, and they had no problem in forcing the Native Americans into slavery so they could mine the gold and the silver for Spain. The Spanish also viewed the Native Americans very negatively regarding their religious practices. The Spanish wanted to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. There were, however, some marriages between the Spanish and the Native Americans.

The French had a better relationship with the Native Americans although initial some manipulation occurred. The French traded with the Native Americans. They also converted them to Christianity. The French and the Native Americans often married. There was much less competition between the French and the Native Americans that led to a better relation between them.

The British didn’t treat the Native Americans well most of the time. The British and later the Americans felt the Native Americans were holding back progress. They want to take land away from the Native Americans. The British viewed the British ways of life as far superior to those of the Native Americans. The British had few negative thoughts of the Native American way of living.

Each country had different interactions with the Native Americans. France seemed to have the best relationship with the Native Americans.

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