When the Native American Indians First Met the European Settlers

Updated on June 13, 2016

What Did the Native Americans and the Settlers Expect When They First Met?

When the Europeans began their settlement of the New World, it was both complicated and aided by its indigenous inhabitants. The native people alternately became allies and enemies of the newly arrived settlers from Europe. These two totally dissimilar cultures were hurtling toward each other in a collision that could be the end for one of them. Did either of them expect what was to come when the first Europeans came to America?

What did the settlers expect of the Native Americans when they arrived? Surely there was a sense of dread among the arriving Europeans concerning these mysterious people who had warred with the early Spanish colonizers. What did they think would happen? And conversely, what did the locals think of these strange intruders?

When the colonists set sail for America, they knew that they’d not only have to find a way to survive in the wilderness, but would also have to deal with rival nations that were claiming their own share of this vast new land. There had been long animosity between France, England, and the Dutch. These were obstacles which would be difficult to overcome. The wild card in all this would be the native population who they knew little about. They’d read the stories of Columbus and his voyages, and heard rumors from traders and fishermen concerning the “primitive” people of the continent, but so few clear-cut facts existed. How would they be received? They had some hopes of trading with the natives. Would these hopes be realized, or were they walking into the lion’s den?

The Europeans had a very mixed view of the Indian natives. On one hand, they were told that Indians could be gentle and receptive, helpful and eager to trade. This may have been a true depiction, or the propaganda of the English government and trading companies which had a vested interest in promoting colonization; it was a very positive image and gave intended settlers hope that they would be welcome with open arms and helping hands. They wanted to believe that they were heading to the Garden of Eden.

However, there was an opposing image of these same Indians. Perhaps these came from the Spanish or from visitors to America who’d had bad experiences with the locals.

Whichever the case, Indians were often described in very unflattering terms. Among these descriptions were terms like, “flesh-eating primitives,” “savage, hostile and beastlike,” and “crafty, loathsome half-men.” These various metaphors could not have inspired much confidence in the people who heard them.

The English had an ace-in-the-hole that kept their courage up. They knew that they had the same level of technology and weaponry as the Spanish. Therefore, they knew that if push came to shove, they could defeat the American natives in a fight, just as the Spanish had. Conquest was always in the back of their minds, as an alternative to peaceful integration.

English pessimism due to Spanish experience with the Indians was no doubt exacerbated when a Chesapeake Indian tribe ambushed the first arrivals making landfall. Things didn’t start off well and the settlers became very suspicious of the indigenous people. And the Indians surely felt the same, but they had their own motivations for contact.

Powhattan, leader of the powerful Algonquian tribe of Indians, was a proud and clever man. He saw the newcomers as a source of power. They had things of value, like guns and knives. Powhattan was in the process of consolidating his power in the region. He already controlled 25 bands of united warriors, and was looking for another advantage.

Weapons would be invaluable to him. To this end, he became a friend and benefactor to the new settlement. Although their presence was a potentially destabilizing element and a dangerously double edged sword, he felt they were worth the risk. He brought them food to help them survive their first long, cold winter, known as “the starving time”. He continued to trade with them afterwards, supplying corn and other foods in exchange for weapons.

It was, perhaps, this dependency on the Indians that helped to increase their distrust of the locals. They needed Powhattan’s food to get through the winter and were very much afraid that he would take advantage of their weakness. They expected the local Indians to act as treacherously and heartlessly as Europeans often did. Many rationalized that the Algonquian assistance was really initiated by their Christian God who was looking out for them. It made them feel better to believe that they were in the hands of God, not the Indians. Colony leader John Smith wrote, “If it had not pleased God to have put a terror in the Savage’s hearts, we’d have perished by those wild and cruel Pagans, being in that weakest state as we were.”

Looking at it from the Indian's point of view, they probably had little reason to suspect the horrors that were to come. They’d had limited interaction with the white man. Most tribes probably had no idea what happened down in South America with the Spanish. Up in Canada, the French had made strides in co-existing wit the regional Indians and even advocated inter-racial marriages. So it’s likely the Indians were leery—the unknown is always frightening—but naïve and confident enough not to view the newcomers as anything to fear. The Europeans came bearing gifts to trade, and some tribes did initially profit off their arrival.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      mak 

      21 hours ago

      This was useless

    • profile image

      Annonynomys 

      35 hours ago

      I agree with Not Telling it was pointless

    • profile image

      mr greg 

      12 days ago

      why do we need to do focus assignments

    • profile image

      Not Telling 

      3 weeks ago

      You have not helped me in the least bit. The very important information i needed was absent making my whole read pointless.

    • profile image

      sarah 

      3 weeks ago

      thank you for this! do you have a list of references, especially for the quotes? thanks :)

    • profile image

      Jessica 

      2 months ago

      Do you have the list of references to write this article? It would be very helpful if you would like to share it. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Angimawa 

      3 months ago

      thank for your article its very helpful

    • profile image

      maria visko 

      4 months ago

      thanks for the information

    • profile image

      babyface jay 

      5 months ago

      this is a good site because you can learn more

    • profile image

      dadalitty1234 

      5 months ago

      This is a good app for to get work done

    • profile image

      keiila 

      5 months ago

      this site is really good for school and a project.☺️

    • profile image

      ally 

      5 months ago

      i love to learn about new things

    • profile image

      jayda 

      5 months ago

      this place is a really good place to learn about things

    • profile image

      Bella 

      5 months ago

      Hi,

      I’m a student in high school researching about cultural interaction for social studies. Thanks for this article :)

    • profile image

      ":P 

      5 months ago

      I like this webisite it helps me

    • profile image

      steve bonham 

      5 months ago

      I really like this article / blog I am writing a book about the spirit and heart of America ( albeit from the idiosyncratic view point of an Englishman !) I hope you don't mind if I quote it !

      cheers

    • profile image

      dadalitty1234 

      5 months ago

      This is helping me with my research

    • profile image

      i hate when a computer doesnt ever want to work and it makes u cry in front of the class 

      5 months ago

      this is helpful ....... but im late on my project ....

    • profile image

      sassy uincorn 

      6 months ago

      thxs you helped me with my project!!

    • profile image

      lilfish 

      6 months ago

      Thanks for helping with my geography test studying lol !! THANKS SO MUCH!!

      :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 months ago

      thanks for helping me with my social studies project lol

      ;)

    • profile image

      IndigenousNiji22 

      6 months ago

      This article is racist in the fact that it does not make the all important point that native americans were black and that the people we call black people are the people being spoken of in this article. The Taino were the people we now call Puertoricans, Dominicans and Jamaicans. If youre going to inform people then atleast have the courtesy to dispel the biggest most blasphemous lie of our modern time.

    • profile image

      private man 

      7 months ago

      this was very helpful for my social studies project

    • profile image

      Jessica G. 

      7 months ago

      This was super helpful for my writing project

    • profile image

      E.R. Investigator 

      7 months ago

      Hey I am doing research on this and it is so grate totally awesome.

    • profile image

      Bob 

      7 months ago

      I think with is spelled incorrectly but other than that the article was very informative.

    • profile image

      help 

      7 months ago

      Imagine you were an Native American Indian seeing the Spanish for the first time, describe your feelings.

    • profile image

      Grand ma 

      9 months ago

      the cookies are ready!

    • profile image

      Can't put my name here (privacy issues) 

      9 months ago

      yeah, yeah, yeah super interesting, but i need more info about Native Americans cultivating corn so if you could fix it to be more about that, that would be great.

    • profile image

      not telling you! 

      9 months ago

      this helps a lot !!

    • profile image

      kvic1 

      9 months ago

      this was so very helpful i appreciate everything that is on here and i know that my teacher will give me a very good grade thanks

    • profile image

      STUDENT 

      9 months ago

      when was this written

    • Coral Cane profile image

      Coral Cane 

      9 months ago

      This was very helpful

    • profile image

      GAbby 

      9 months ago

      When was this thing published i need it for an assignment

    • profile image

      Student 

      9 months ago

      Helpful

    • profile image

      student 

      10 months ago

      helpful

    • profile image

      Hot bobby 

      10 months ago

      Good.

    • profile image

      Andi ru 

      10 months ago

      Good

    • profile image

      yay1234 

      10 months ago

      this was super helpful thx!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Farkle 

      10 months ago

      hi lol this info is all fake and not true and unhelpful. people who are reading this for information facts or for a research project for school (which i am and i got bad grade because of this) should not use this. thank you, i am farkle!

    • profile image

      tinivo 

      10 months ago

      need the Sources

    • profile image

      10 months ago

      need more

    • profile image

      Damian.crue 

      10 months ago

      very helpfull

    • profile image

      10 months ago

      kewl

    • profile image

      jennifer 

      10 months ago

      Need more info

    • profile image

      weelee 

      11 months ago

      how did they communicate?

    • profile image

      Lorenzo 

      11 months ago

      Interesting, but it would be very helpful if you cited your credentials and the sources of your information.

      Thank you.

    • profile image

      11 months ago

      this was very helpful thx :)

    • profile image

      Jeff 

      11 months ago

      How did they meet together and how do they speak? English or what

    • profile image

      iyanna 

      12 months ago

      how did the Indians reacted to the European treatment

    • profile image

      cool beans 

      12 months ago

      nice report i liked it

    • profile image

      christian 

      13 months ago

      i used this for a report for school, much appreciated

    • profile image

      Angelie 

      14 months ago

      this site is very helpful to me because it tells me all i need to know about the early life of native americans .....

    • profile image

      Mystery 

      15 months ago

      How come there are so many people that dont like the native Americans today.

      P. S, i am full naive American.

    • profile image

      ustutsin 

      16 months ago

      I am a pipil native and I see how the view of the natives of North America (USA) could be different from my people in El Salvador

    • profile image

      maiya 

      16 months ago

      this really helped with my homework, my teacher was very impressed!

      Thank you so very much.

    • profile image

      Bruh 

      16 months ago

      Couldn't you just give a straight answer

    • profile image

      jeffrey the bin man 

      16 months ago

      what gave them luck

    • profile image

      jacob 

      17 months ago

      great website thanks

    • profile image

      evy 

      18 months ago

      this is life saving

    • profile image

      What was really on the minds of the whites and natives? 

      18 months ago

      What was really on the minds of the whites and natives?

    • profile image

      Hello,hello, 

      18 months ago

      Where is the campion on the picture some people will like the caption

    • profile image

      Joseph 

      20 months ago

      Perfect info for my project

    • profile image

      nishi 

      20 months ago

      very nice

    • profile image

      mimi kl 

      20 months ago

      i like this

    • profile image

      Victoria 

      20 months ago

      What impact had the colonists on the Native Americans?

      Please help, this is for a schoolarticle!

    • profile image

      Ally1o5 

      21 months ago

      Wow this really helped me in my hw thanks robwrite

    • profile image

      lileny 

      21 months ago

      where did you get your imformation ?

    • profile image

      ytusssssssssgn 

      22 months ago

      so cool

    • profile image

      leelee705 

      22 months ago

      This helped me so much! thanks!

    • profile image

      Dave 

      22 months ago

      Amazing I didn't know all of this

    • profile image

      Ello m8 

      22 months ago

      YOU HELPED ME WITH MY SOCIAL STUDIES HOMEWORK AND THATS ALL I CARE ABOUT

    • profile image

      Isaac Lucero 

      24 months ago

      You comment towards the top of this comment thread that Scottish Clans had a lot in common with Native American tribes yet the Scots were a little better at protecting their boarders than the Native Americans were. Your statement seems to me to have a view that one group was apparently better than the other for some unknown reason yet you don't mention anything about the different types of weapons that Europeans had versus the weaponry of Native Americans at the time. I think of steel vs. wood and stone and later repeating arms vs single shot weapons and the impact superior weaponry has in conflict and warfare. You also do not mention the loss of Native American lives due to having immune systems that hadn't previously been exposed to, such diseases as the plaque, cholera, smallpox, etc. Which also understandably explained why Europeans were seen as being of poor hygiene and of fowl oder. As you likely know a significant reason why such diseases spread throughout Europe was because of a common belief that diseases were carried through water, therefor their was very poor hygiene among Europeans involved in those "early encounters".

    • profile image

      mason 

      24 months ago

      thank you had and assinment on this and this helped a lot thanks

    • profile image

      Nekoda Legend 

      2 years ago

      This article helped me a lot in my History essay...thanks for this article I got an A- better than any other of my essays I've ever written for any of my other classes.

      Kody L.

    • profile image

      Qveen Villar 

      2 years ago

      Uhm I'm in class and i have to write about the reaction of the native americans to the European settlers. But i can't do that when I dont know the reaction. What is it ? Any help?

    • profile image

      Thomas Burcher 

      2 years ago

      A lot of people would not agree with me , but I think these reservations need to be closed, and the inhabitants allowed to make their own choices in life, not to be living in a glorified concentration camp, and depending on government agencies to support them. They are no different than the rest of this melting pot. Let the kids go to public schools, and the adults to college to prepare them for the strenuous life ahead. Families with one parent, a disabled family member, or dependant children, could be elgible for state or government assistance. Better living conditions could be of benefit to all, and curtail or end some of the destructive habits some of them have. Some of you mentioned a proud people; where did all that pride go? Every ethnic group has the right to be proud.I've had my say, and maybe I'm wrong, but I'm interested in seeing what others have to say.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      In my early school years I never liked history. I was more into science. But as I grew older I started to appreciate understanding what really went on. And I realized how one-sided the teachings were. It's actually sad how the settlers disrupted the Native American's lives. The Indians were here first and they lost practically everything, including theirs lives.

    • profile image

      kyle 

      3 years ago

      i love this guy

    • profile image

      sara 

      3 years ago

      thank you so much for this! I will be using it in my reasearch paper for sure. you're incredibly smart; i hope to be as smart as you someday!

    • profile image

      Hazen Poutre 

      4 years ago

      this paper needs to have the time that the Europeans came!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      kenneth from nyc 

      4 years ago

      wow... this helped A lot for my hw. thanks!

    • profile image

      gwenn 

      4 years ago

      yea i needed it for my work

    • cathie bridges profile image

      Hamza Arshad 

      4 years ago from Pakistan

      Nice Information !

    • profile image

      lena le 

      4 years ago

      I feel bad for you guys. I feel really lucky to be hear

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      This is a very interesting hub. Unfortunately the White settlers were never fair with the natives and the results were disasterous for the natives who were almost wiped out.

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 

      4 years ago from The World we live in

      Europeans and now Americans are controllers by nature. It was inevitable once they landed that they would wipe out whoever was there. Greed and evil. The victors write history and yet it still looks bad for the Europeans who settled the America's even with their spin on the story.

    • profile image

      COOLONE 

      4 years ago

      really interesting :)

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 

      4 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Interesting.

      I've always loved the Native American culture and I remember always rooting for them while watching the westerns of my youth back in the eighties and nineties.

      Good job. I hope there's more to come like this.

      Richawriter

    • profile image

      blacknight1238 

      4 years ago

      help me

    • Aplethora23 profile image

      Angie Power 

      5 years ago from North Cali

      This was helpful. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      DMHLaney 

      5 years ago

      Does this give good information for a debate, on the Native American side?

    • Robwrite profile imageAUTHOR

      Rob 

      5 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Cathie;

      I'm happy that you're happy.

      Rob

    • cathie bridges profile image

      Hamza Arshad 

      5 years ago from Pakistan

      too good...i am really happy about it

    • Robwrite profile imageAUTHOR

      Rob 

      5 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Thanks, glad you liked it.

      Rob

    • prasadjain profile image

      Dr.S.P.PADMA PRASAD 

      5 years ago from Tumkur

      A 'Useful hub'. This is the result of great study and research.thanks.

    • Robwrite profile imageAUTHOR

      Rob 

      5 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Thanks Bobby.

    • profile image

      Bobby 

      5 years ago

      I thought that this is a great website and that it has lots of information for the paticular subjects!!!!!

    • profile image

      hossaliz 

      5 years ago

      Hey Rob, very nice hub. I enjoyed reading it and it was very interesting. I was hoping to use some of the informatin you provided in your hub on my final english essay and in order to cite my sources properly I need to put the first and last name of the authors name. If you can give me a reply back with your full name I would greatly appreciate it. Again nice hub and have a wonderful day!

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 

      5 years ago from Central Virginia

      Rob, my comment was a bit 'tongue-in-cheek'. I know you know. :-)

      You should link those other hubs to this one and reap the benefits of more readers and clicks. You tell the story well!

      Happy Holidays Rob!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)