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Was Conflict Between Europeans and Native Americans Inevitable?

When the Europeans began to migrate to the New World, problems began almost immediately. These problems consisted of land use, religion, and disease. Owning land was extremely important to the European settlers. In England, and most other countries, land meant wealth and power. Many of the settlers who came to North America could never have owned land back home in Europe because they were too poor.

The first Europeans to settle in the New England area of the Northeast wanted land. There were not many settlers and there was enough land for everyone to use and plant crops. It was easy to live together. The Indians helped the settlers by teaching them how to plant crops and survive on the land, but the Indians did not understand that the settlers were going to keep the land. This idea was foreign to the Indians. As the years passed, more and more settlers arrived, and took more and more land. They cut down trees. They built fences to keep people and animals out. They demanded that the Indians stay off their land. Another problem between the settlers and the Indians involved religion.

The settlers in New England thought Christianity was the one true faith, and that all people should believe in it. The Indians were content with their own beliefs and were not interested in changing them. As a result, many settlers came to believe that the Native Americans could not be trusted because they were not Christians. They began to fear the Indians and think of them as evil. Other events also led to serious problems between the Native Americans and the newcomers. One problem was disease. For example, some of the settlers carried the bacteria that caused smallpox, although they themselves did not get sick. Smallpox had caused deadly epidemics in Europe, but it was unknown to the Indians. Their immune systems had developed no protection against the disease. It killed whole tribes. And smallpox was only one disease brought from Europe. There were others that also infected the Indians.

In the “Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment” by Kevin Kenny, Kenny states that the conflict between Europeans and Native Americans would have been inevitable if the European’s greed for land had not have gotten in the way of the harmonious relationships that were established between the two. There were several things that lead to the destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment. The Paxton Boys were a major contributing factor as their hunger for land caused waves of violence on the frontier, which reached a pinnacle of total war against the Indians(Text pg. 211).

People also didn’t care about treaties that had been signed or agreements that were made before they had even settled in the New World. William Penn who had been given the land by King Charles II, believed that it wasn’t his to give. “In his view the land belonged to the Lenape Indians who had been living there long before the colonists arrived”(Quakersintheworld.org//The Holy Experiment). He wanted to create a world where the Europeans and Indians could live side by side, but conflict got in the way. Kenny also claims that “Violent seizure of Indian land became the norm rather than the exception”(Text pg. 213) to emphasize the violence that prevented Penn’s vision to come to life. The Paxton Boys’ violent acts inspired other settlers to fight against the peace causing destruction across Pennsylvania. If the Paxton Boy’s hadn’t carried out these barbaric acts, the peaceful relationship between Man and Indian may have lead to total harmony and the conflicts between the two would have been avoided.

Cynthia J. Van Zandt who wrote “Brothers Among Nations: The Pursuit of Intercultural Alliances in Early America, 1580-1660” believed that the conflict between the Europeans and Native Americans was inevitable because of the Europeans that were fighting for dominance in the New World. Several Europeans wanted to claim the land as their own, but the land had already been inhabited. Zandt states “The fact that European settlements changed so dramatically in the 1930s meant that European power dynamics often interfered in otherwise flourishing intercultural connections ”(Text pg. 214). She says this in support of her claim that Europeans were so caught up in the battle between each other, that they didn’t see they were killing the civilization of the Native Americans. I believe that the conflict between the Europeans and Native Americans was inevitable because they had conflicting views. Both groups were very different in culture and had traditions they were not willing to change. This caused Much of the responsibility for the conflicts involved leans towards the settlers.

The Native Americans themselves were peaceable and attempted to assimilate and become joined with white culture as much as possible. The settlers themselves began the violence and were the only real problem that kept Native Americans and whites from living together in peace. The Europeans viewed the Natives as “savages” because the way they lived wasn’t as developed as theirs was. They believed that they were superior to the Indians which caused problems to take place between the two groups. These clashes of cultures continued as more and more Europeans arrived. Fear and mistrust began to replace what was once friendliness between the Europeans and Indians.

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