When it comes to American literature, most people think of only the stories that Americans have written throughout American history. They do not think of the Native Americans or the European explorers and settlers that lived in and explored the land. Many of their stories and literature are hard to find, translate, and research since it was a long time ago. However, the natives, the settlers, and the explorers have literature that is just as much of a big part of American literature than any other groups.
In these stories the three different groups talk about their social, religious, and economic aspects and through these three things, how they lived their lives in America. Firstly, starting with the Native Americans, their stories were completely different then the settlers and and explorers. In the section of the book “Native American Oral Literature” by Nina Baym, unlike the Europeans where they recorded and wrote down stories and information, the Native Americans did everything orally (4).
The Natives passed down their stories through oral presentation and it had been like that until the Europeans arrived, when their stories were finally being recorded. In the section “Stories of the Beginning of the world”, the stories the Native Americans passed down through the generation were supposed to offer “perspectives on what life is and to understand it” (Baym 17). Through these stories, many people can see that their social and religious standpoints were combined and it is meant to teach how to live their lives.
Such as in “The Iroquois Creation stories” David Cusick, they believed in an upper and lower world, where in the upper world lived mankind and in the lower there was great darkness inhabited by monsters (18). In this story, there is a woman who is about to conceive twins but before she can do that, she falls off from the upper world. While she was falling the animals in the lower world helps her, so that she may fall safely without any harm ( Cusick 19). The two boys she gives birth to are Enigoria and Enigonhahetgea.
Enigoria being the good and gentle disposition and Enigonhahetgea being the bad and insolence character. Both Enigoria and Enigohahetgea created social order as it was seen important. In this story, the Iroquois believed religious ordeals such as seen that Enigoria creating the sun from his mom’s head and the moon from her body, then creates stars in addition in order to mark and regulate nights, seasons, and years (Cusick 19-20). He also creates animals and bodies of water, and plants (and forests, of course) and people, which are called Ea-gwe-howe.
Enigonhahetgea creates mountains and falls; tried to create people but they turned into apes Enigonhahetgea tries again with Enigorio’s help and he finally succeeds at making people (Cusick 20). This story teaches the Iroquois people that there is a heaven, hell, and middle ground such as earth. They also know that there is good and evil and what there is an afterlife. Not only does it teach about the religious aspect but also about social aspect as being kind to others. Such as when the turtle helped the women when she was falling and how the good brother helps the bad brother to create humans.
When looking at it in a social way, always be kind to other no matter who they are and what they have done. When it comes to economical perspective, the Native American was not that greedy and did not use money as their currency. They mostly traded and bartered between other tribes and people. Also in the story “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” wrote by Mary Rowlandson, stated that “I was sold to him by another Narragansett Indian” as seen that the Natives did sell other people for their economic purpose (240).
Also the Natives took whatever they plundered from the settlers and used it for food, trading or other economic purposes (Rowlandson 238). The Native Americans economic system was not that sophisticated and they mostly relied on what they had and they were content with it. Secondly. unlike the Native Americans, whose stories was not translated until some time ago, the explorers recorded sever texts about the Americas. All though many of texts were meant for economical and political information, the reader can still see the social, religious, and economic perspective of the explorers.
The first European explorer who was able to come back to Europe with tales of the new world was Christopher Columbus. From him discovering the new world, there was a new wonder with thrusts of exploration, adventure, and a new dream (Baym 31). However many of the settlers who went to the new world began to defy Christopher Columbus’s order and even arrested him and put him in chains. In the letter “From Letter to Ferdinand and Isabella Regarding the Fourth Voyage, Columbus wrote to the king and queen of Spain, proclaiming his innocence and that he was framed for doing the right thing and that he was betrayed by his men.
He wrote “I did not sail upon this voyage to gain honor or wealth; this is certain, for already all hope that was dead” (Columbus 35). As seen that Columbus did not risk his life on these voyages for economic purposes but for social purposes and that him being arrested all the hope was gone. Even though he did find riches and gold in the new world as he wrote in the letter “with great news of gold, being very secure and joyful” that Columbus was very happy to find the gold and give it to Spain for it economic purposes (Columbus 34).
However, he was later accused along with two other people and was arrested without being tried or condemned. As seen in this letter, the social aspect of the explorer was not that great as people imagined as seen they were treated pretty awful. Also, many of the social aspect of the explorers was that they treated the Natives American extremely badly. Such as in the letters La Casa wrote trying to change the explores ways. “He grew convinced that such behavior was contrary to Christian teachings, soon he was urging all masters to renounce the slave system (or encomienda), as he himself had done” (Baym 36).
As a explorer Casa was more religious than other explores and viewed that religious teaching was important. However, the Spanish’s social and religious aspect contradicted each other, such as the way Christians were meant to treat other human beings kindly, but in the new world that was not happening. Also in the story La Casas “From The Coast of Pearls, Paria, and the Island of Trinidad” he mentions that the explorers took more two million natives captive and “Have sent them to do hard labor in the mines, labor that cause so many to die” (Casas 38).
The explorers were robbing the Native Americans off their treasure and killing them in the process just so they could have them for their greedy selves. This was mostly seen as the social and economic purposes of the explorers and the were using the religion to do it. Lastly, When it came to the settlers, they were more religious and put their religious values first above everything else. The settlers who came from these European nations were mostly fleeing from religious persecution. The people who settled in the Americas was mostly from England and a lot of them were Puritans settling in Massachusetts.
Making Massachusetts a Puritan colony and even though they were seeking religious persecution, they themself did not tolerate any other religion and even treated people harshly with other viewpoints. The settlers life and what it was like can be found through the texts they left behind. Such as their social, religious, and economical views can be perceived and how much they valued these three essential things. Such as the story of Roger Williams, in John Winthrop’s journal, he writes that the governor of Massachusetts and his assistants tried to banish Roger Williams from the colony and sent him back to England (Baym 173).
John Winthrop also wrote that the governor of Massachusetts thought that Roger Williams opinion were dangerous and spreading” (Baym 173) When they went to get him, they found out that he had already escaped and fled to Rhode Island. In this scenario, the other settlers are seen hostile toward other religion because they valued their own religion so much that they did not want anything to corrupt it. This also plays a role into their social lives because back then their social life revolved around based on what they did religiously.
In another settlers story, William Bradford is seen as an important person in Massachusetts. When he arrived in Massachusetts, he was elected governor and compared to the duties a governor is held responsible today, his job was much more hetice. “He was chief judge and jury, oversaw agriculture and trade, and made allotments of land” (Baym 104). Social order was very important to the settlers as seen what William Bradford did for the whole community. They knew that social order was important to the colony or else everybody could do what they wanted and everything would be mess.
He provided a model for the whole community and how setter lived back then and how they were suppose to live (Baym 104). Also in another settlement story it is seen that the setters in regarding economic used British Pounds and traded with the Natives. As in the story of Mary Rowlandson, Somebody wrote “she was not released until the second of May, having been ransomed for Twenty pounds” (Baym 235). The setters clearly used a common currency to handle their economic systems and also to trade their materials with the Natives so they both could benefit.
In the end, all three groups and similar and different social, economic, and religious perspectives. With those different perspectives these three groups lived in America and was able to survive, no matter how hard it was. They used their religious and social ways to bring about order and find god through it, even though some people did horrible things in the name of god, but that was their religious and social ways. Other people came to understand each other and tried to benefit off of each other through economically so that group can strive and hope for the better.
If it was not for the hardship and the customs of these three groups, America itself would not exist the way it does now and the readers would not know anything about it. In the story of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford was looking for new lands with his company. They first went to a island but they were attacked by indians and had to leave. They then had to look for a another island and they found an island that was safe from the Indians and satisfied their needs. They tried to establish their own form of government.