The cultural differences between Native Americans and European Americans caused frequent clashes that often led to destruction of land and people. These differences include religious practices and ruling practices, among others. Unfortunately, these cultural differences resulted in blood shed during war or captivity, which ultimately forced the Native Americans to be assimilated into European culture or migrate west to reservations.
Upon arrival to the New World, the European Americans adhered to a governmental monarchy, yet the Native Americans held to a tribal form of government. These structures were ingrained into each society so that the very practice was one of deep cultural practice. The Europeans believed in an absolute commitment to the crown of England. However, the Native Americans devoted themselves to each other and had no central ruler. Nonetheless, they did have many chiefs among the tribal chiefdoms that regulated relations among the tribal members.
Relationship to Nature
The Native Americans embodied the environment. Although they hunted and farmed the lands, they rarely stripped the land of resources. In addition, Native Americans implemented forest burning for regrowth and limited hunting in areas where animal reserves were depleted. On the other hand, the Europeans practiced environmental depletion by cutting trees in large numbers, damming streams for water reserves and killing any and all animals in a wasteful manner. The Native Americans were spiritually connected to the land and practiced culturally distinct methods to stay one with the land. The Europeans, on the other hand, saw the land as an unending right.
The Native Americans worshiped sun gods, corn gods and nature spirits of birds, bears and wolves. The Native Americans were considered barbarous by the Europeans because they worshiped wooden images or carved and painted images. The Europeans came as messengers from God to convert the Natives to Christianity, as they saw it. Spanish missions converted many Natives. However, those who would not convert were killed or imprisoned. Later in the 19th century, most all Native Americans were forced onto reservations because of their religious differences.
Native American women held upstanding positions among the tribes. The Cherokee women ruled and controlled certain factions within the tribe, with many making important economic decisions for the entire tribe. On the other hand, Europeans subjected their women to childbirth and house chores only. When the Europeans saw that Native American women were strong willed and spirited, they fought against the tribal nations to suppress the Native cultures into submission.
- Indian Country Media Network: The Power of Cherokee Women
- National Humanities Center: European Americans and Native Americans View Each Other, 1700-1775
- National Humanities Center: Three Worlds, Three Views: Culture and Environmental Change in the Colonial South
- History.com: Native American Cultures
Billy McCarley has been freelancing online since April 2009. He has published poetry for Dead Mule, an online literary publication, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University Of Alabama where he is also a first-year graduate student in history.