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Effects of European Exploration on American Indians

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Effects of European Exploration on American Indians

Effects of European Exploration on American Indians

The Capitalistic dreams of the Europeans and the natural anarchy of the Indians; never before has a clash of cultures had such a great influence on the future of the world. The Indians were one with nature and shared a kinship with all living as well as nonliving things on earth. They respected each other and flourished under these ties of mutual reverence. The Europeans sought similar refuge in America(1). They longed for freedom from the overpowering monarchies of Europe which, by the 1640s were experiencing overpopulation of cities accompanied by devastating disease and religious indifference. The European settlers of America also faced hardships throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Plagued by disease and lack of nourishment, the Europeans found themselves greatly dependent on the Indians for survival. The Indians were more than welcoming of their new neighbors, lavishing them with gifts and performing rituals as a show of equality. Equality was a major theme throughout the Indian culture as they accepted the newcomers as they would their own family. This initial exchange of gifts would eventually lead to trade practices that would prove to be a pivotal element in the relationship of the Indians and the Europeans in the near future(2).

The seventeenth century was marked by the consumer revolution of Europe and Colonial America. The consumer revolution was the product of a drastic increase in per capita wealth, which gave rise to an unprecedented purchasing of goods. These goods were manufactured as a result of the rapid enhancement of technology. With mass production came great demands. These goods were imported from Europe and became great value to colonists and Indians alike. Improvements were made in farming tools, clothes, and luxury items during this time. Colonists, for the first time, began to make purchases based on luxury rather than solely on necessity. The Indians were not left out of this trend. They too experienced a rapid influx of wealth due to the great demand of furs. The beaver furs brought immense wealth to the Indians. These furs, although relatively useless to the Indians, were of great value to the Colonial settlers as well as an important export to Europe. By the late 1600s the Indians became dependent on the trade goods of which they received from the colonists. Metal tools made for more effective farming and hunting, and the European cloth was lighter, and more colorful. Vanity also began its takeover of Indian culture in the late 1600s; the acceptance of jewelry marked the Indians adaptation to the traditions of their European counterparts. In addition to these novelty goods, alcohol was of great importance to the Indians. Alcohol came to be a horrible cancer to the Indians, and to their culture as a whole. Drunken brawls and alcohol related disease resulted in several deaths amongst the Indians. It has been observed that alcohol may have been one of the leading causes of death amid the Indians of the time(3).

The Indian's dependency on the Europeans was a direct result of years of trade. The Indians began to adopt the customs of the Colonists. A large portion of the Indian population had now converted to Christianity and several of them moved from the wigwam to the English framed houses of Colonial America. It is needless to say that Capitalism had taken its toll on the Indian's once sacred

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