Native American
History
Siberian Land Bridge
• At certain periods during
the Pleistocene Epoch, the
temperatures turned cold
enough to freeze much of
the earth’s water into ice.
• The sea level dropped as
much as 90 m (300 ft) and
the shallow Bering Strait
between Alaska and Siberia
became a natural land
bridge on which grazing
animals, and the humans
who stalked them, passed.
• Most archaeologists and
anthropologists believe that
Native Americans descend
from Asian peoples who
moved into North America
by way of this land bridge.
A Clash of Cultures
 European
explorers came to what they
perceived as a “new” world; in fact, the world
they came to was a thriving, complex ancient
civilization.
 With the arrival of Columbus in 1492, two
totally different but bustling worlds of rich,
complex societies and advanced cultures
collided, each with its own distinctive heritage
and view of the universe.
Why did the Europeans Come?
European explorers came to the Americas for various
reasons:
 Gold: fabled riches such as the city of El Dorado or the
Seven Cities of Cibola; later wealth was to be gained by
farming, trade and export.
 Glory: many early explorers hoped to further their name
& reputation through their exploits in the New World
 God: some groups such as the Pilgrims (separatists)
sought freedom from religious persecution; later,
missionaries came to convert the natives to Christianity

Religion in the New World
 For
both Catholics and Protestants,
Christianity was the one true religion.
 People who were not Christian had to
converted by persuasion or by force
 Those who rejected Christianity were
considered enemies of God, suitable only for
enslavement or death.
Eurocentrism
Eurocentrism
An ingrained conviction on the part of those who
first came to the Americas from Europe, as well as
by their American descendants, that their culture,
values, religion, life ways, abilities and achievements
were more advanced and of a superior order than
those of the native peoples.
 Therefore, they viewed the native peoples to be
inferior and uncivilized, savage and subhuman – and
their cultures irrelevant, barbaric and dangerous to
civilized mankind.

Eurocentrism
The ignorance and arrogance of the Europeans is
evident in the fact that they misnamed all the native
peoples “Indians.”
 Native American tribes differ from one another in
language, political and economic organization, family
structure and many other aspects;
 To group them all together in a generic category
such as “Indians” is to not appreciate the uniqueness
and distinction between the various tribes in the
Americas.

Native American Influence
The etymology of 26 of the 50 United
States can be traced to Native American
languages:
 Alabama
Alaska
 Arizona
 Arkansas
 Connecticut
 Delaware
 Idaho
 Iowa

Kansas
 Kentucky
 Massachusetts
 Michigan
 Minnesota
 Mississippi
 Missouri
 Nebraska

North Dakota
 Ohio
 Oklahoma
 Oregon
 South Dakota
 Tennessee
 Texas
 Utah
 Wisconsin
 Wyoming

Disease
 Except
for parasites, occasional malnutrition,
and minor germs, the native population of the
Americas was remarkably healthy.
 The people lived an open, uncrowded life,
knew a great deal about herbal remedies and
medications, and practiced cleanliness in
sweat baths.
Disease
 This
was sufficient to deal with most common
illnesses.
 But this way of life proved no match for the
germs cradled and nurtured in the filth of
European cities and ports.
 Disease was the number one killer of native
peoples in the Americas.
Disease
 Native
American peoples had no immunity to
such horrific killers as smallpox, measles and
cholera.
 European diseases wiped out entire
communities before most of their inhabitants
had actually seen a European.
Disease
 Whole
regions were depopulated.
 Estimates suggest that between the arrival of
Columbus in 1492 and the 17th century
(1600s), more than 50 million natives of North
& South America perished as a result of
disease, enslavement, war and the deliberate
brutality of Europeans – history’s greatest
holocaust by far.
Smallpox
The Exotic Other
The Exotic Other
 The
“other” is one who is different in
appearance, dress, language and culture.
 The “other” is viewed by Europeans as simple,
childlike, innocent and exotic.
 The view of the “other” is colored by
Eurocentrism
 The “other” is seen as a curiosity only, exotic
but inferior.
The
Exotic
Other
The
Exotic
Other
The Noble Savage
The Noble Savage
 The
“noble savage” presented a onedimensional, romanticized view of Native
Americans
 The “noble savage” was admired for
living in unspoiled harmony with nature,
without want, greed, or possessiveness,
untainted by contact with civilization.
“Among these people every man is king unto
himself and no man is above any other.”
 “Intuitively the Indians knew how essential it was
to live in a right relationship with the land and
its resources. They lived in America for countless
generations, in a state of balance, or as a
Christian might say, in a state of grace. Indeed,
one interpretation of the origin of the word
Indian (from the Spanish ‘in Dios’) is that
Columbus, observing natives he encountered
“lived in such blessed harmony with their
surroundings, “he called them “una gente in
Dios” – “a people in God.”

The Noble Savage
 “According
to humane reason guided
only by the light of nature, these people
leade the more happy and freer life, being
voyde of care which torments the minds
of so many Christians…they may be
accounted to live richly, wanting nothing
that is needful and to be commended for
leading a contented life.”
– Thomas Morton, 1637
The Noble
Savage
Savage or Noble Savage
 Indians
were often viewed as savages,
terrorizing the innocent and destroying with a
vicious “uncivilized” disregard for political or
spiritual law.
Savage or Noble Savage


Indians by this view had no idea of “right” and “wrong”
beyond an animal instinct for survival, and thus settlers and
soldiers could justify the extinction of these “heathen”
savages.
The only good Indian was a dead Indian.
Savage or Noble Savage
 The
Indian as “noble” savage is an
equally sentimental and popular
stereotype, though polar opposite the
heathen, amoral redskin.
Savage or Noble Savage

Noble savages live much like
Adam and Eve; innocent of
their own nakedness, they
commune in perfect harmony
with all creatures and at times
walk with the gods.
Savage or Noble Savage

They embody natural wisdom
in a guru-like way, forever
making speeches full of
memorable aphorisms
concerning eagles and bears,
and they would much rather
smoke a peace pipe than
harm any animal or human
“brother.”
Savage or Noble Savage
 Both
stereotypes, the heathen redskin
and the noble savage, are false in that
they portray humans as all “bad” or all
“good,” when in reality each of us—of any
race—is a complex mixture of both.
Savage or Noble Savage
 Sometimes
good and evil are not easily
defined; persons on either side of an issue
see themselves as on the “right” side,
even “god’s” side, and in this way history
is an intricate tale to tell because it must
come to an understanding of both sides.
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
 October
1492: Columbus reaches the
Bahamas, believing he has found the East
Indies.
 He calls the Taino people “Indians”
 He names the island “San Salvador,”
claiming it for the king & queen of Spain.
The Log of Christopher Columbus
 “No
sooner had we concluded the formalities of
taking possession of the island than people began
to come to the beach, as naked as their mothers
bore them.”
 “Their hair is not kinky, but straight, and coarse
like horsehair.”
 “I showed one my sword, and through ignorance
he grabbed it by the blade and cut himself.”
 “I
know that they are a people who can be
made free and converted to our Holy Faith
more by love than by force.”
 “They hung the beads around their necks,
along with some other things of slight value
that I gave them. And they took great pleasure
in this and became so friendly that it was a
marvel.”
 “They ought to make good and skilled
servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever
we say to them.”
Landing of Columbus
The Log of Christopher Columbus
 “I
think they can easily be made Christians, for
they seem to have no religion.”
 “If it pleases Our Lord, I will take six of them to
Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they
may learn our language.”
The Log of Christopher Columbus
October 14, 1492: “though I do not see that it
would be necessary, for these people are very
simple as regards the use of arms, as your
Highnesses will see from the seven that I caused to
be taken, to being home and learn our language
and return; unless your Highnesses should order
them all to be brought to Castile, or to be kept as
captives on the same island; for with fifty men they
can all be subjugated and made to do what is
required of them.”
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Why did the Europeans Come?