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The “discovery” of America

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1. The “discovery” of America was one of the “most important events recorded in the history of mankind,” according to Adam Smith. With Columbus arriving, immense changes arrived with it too. Columbus arrived in 1492. No one else has been to the Americas before that except the people from the Bering Strait. The hunters and fishers from the Bering Strait arrived between 15 and 60,000 years ago. While they were here, so were the natives. When Columbus set foot on America, the natives were terrified but not because of them. They were terrified because of the horses they brought with them. They have never seen horses before and didn’t know how to react. When Columbus saw the different foods in America, he decided to trade with them and take the food back home. Thus beginning the Columbian Exchange. Europe got potatoes, corn, and peppers etc.

Even though potatoes are indigenous to South America, it’s also a main food source in Ireland. When the other countries heard about the trade, they wanted a piece for themselves too and came down. The French set up in mostly Canada and they had a fur trading business with the Algonquians. Europe had all these new items being sent to them and they just wanted more and more. With that came the Trans-Siberian trade that was with Russia and the triangular trade. Business was now booming and countries were being overpopulated. Europeans were coming over to America and setting up colonies and people who didn’t want to move yet paid people to set up their lands for them. That was known as Indentured Servitude.

Flash-forward to present day America and you can see the buildings we have and the exotic foods we have and just about everything else. This was all made possible because of the “discovery” of America (page 6). 2. North America became the location of where the East and West came together. You had people from the West migrating because of the new space and resources. You also had people from the East migrating because they were following the animals. The people from the East were from Asia mostly but also the Pacific Islands. They used the Bering Strait to come to America. They were nomads. They didn’t settle until they got to America and the weather started changing which led to the glaciers melting and their main food sources going extinct.

From there they wandered to South America and found new food sources. The natives in South and Central America are the Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs. Mainly everyone from both the East and the West migrated to America because of food (page 8). 3. One of the most striking feature of the Native American society at the time of European discovery was its sheer diversity. When the Europeans arrived in North America, they were surprised by the fact that the natives there were different from the natives in South America. The natives in South America had complex civilizations, jobs, large structures, extensive trade networks, roads, and irrigation systems. North America Indians did not develop the same centralized organization that South America did.

They lacked in technology compared to the Europeans. They also lacked wheeled vehicles and the Europeans thought they were “backwards”. When the Europeans came here, they did not expect to see the beauty of South America or the less centralized North American Indians (page 9-10). 4. The Europeans belief in religion was Christianity. They were Christians and believed in God and Jesus and the Bible. The Native Americans though were not like them. They were not monotheistic. They believed that spiritual power suffused the world and sacred spirits could be found in all kinds of living and inanimate things. Every little thing had its own spirit. The Europeans thought that was crazy and tried to force conversion on them. They wanted the natives to become Christians like them and the Europeans thought they were doing them a favor.

When the Europeans arrived in America, they thought all the land was theirs and there was no need to share. You could have all the land you wanted because it is now your property. The natives didn’t think this way. They thought the land was free for everyone. Even though the native families were assigned land and their family owned it doesn’t mean they get to keep it. They “owned” the right to use the land but they didn’t really own it. The land wasn’t theirs, “The Great Spirit” gave them the land to live upon but not keep as they thought it wasn’t rightfully theirs. In most Indian societies, the women played an important role. They were part of certain religious ceremonies and the female elders often helped to select male village leaders and they took part in tribal meetings. In Europe though, this wasn’t the case. A wife in Europe had no legal identity. The married man controlled the family’s property. A wife was expected to bear the children and do housework.

They had no real role in society. The Indian women owned dwellings and tools and their husband generally moved in with the wife’s family. The Indians had their freedom but since it wasn’t the way the Europeans were used to, they considered the Indians as barbaric. The Iroquois allowed no kind of superiority over one another and they banished all servitude from their territories. The Europeans quickly noticed that the word “freedom” was alien to them. It’s not the same meaning for both so according to Europeans the Indians were barbaric because they didn’t appear to live under established governments or fixed laws. Unlike the Indians, this was the Europeans lived (14-18). 5. One of the main factors for the European age of expansion was that they desired to eliminate Islamic middlemen and win control of the lucrative trade for Christian Western Europe.

That combined to inspire the quest for a direct route to Asia. Another factor was the overpopulation of the countries. They were running out of space and they had a bad economy, so they went exploring for new land and came across America. Another factor was the all the explorers were in competition with another. You had to be ahead of everyone else to be considered the strongest and bravest. The countries had to prove they were not to be messed with. Another factor was they got new technologies to help with navigations and were going to test it out. This resulted in possibly getting lost and finding new areas that have not been conquered (page 20-23). 6. The Spanish were motivated by a search for wealth, national glory, and the desire to spread Catholicism. The Spanish heard about Columbus’s voyage and wanted to be like him. They wanted to get the most land.

The countries with the most land were more powerful than the other countries. Also, whoever had the most colonies were also pretty powerful. The colonies would also create economic resources because there was new goods that were available. These “goods” could include labor in the form of slaves, as well as raw goods and agricultural things like sugar, coffee, bananas etc. Religious motivations were often fueled by racism. The Spanish wanted to convert people to save their souls. They considered the other peoples religion was the devil. They wanted to get rid of all religions and show the one true religion which to them was Christianity (page 24-28). 7. Spain, the most powerful monarchy in Europe and the Americas, wanted to enrich themselves with the New World’s natural resources.

After enslaving indigenous peoples in the Caribbean and the southern parts of the Americas to grow crops and mine for gold, silver, and other valuables, the Spanish moved into North America where they concentrated their efforts in what is now the southwestern and southeastern United States. Catholic missionaries labored to convert the Indians to Christianity. The most cooperative Indians continued to maintain their own religious and cultural traditions, and many priests concluded that the Indians were inferior and incapable of understanding Christianity. Indigenous populations declined over the seventeenth century as epidemics brought by the Spanish killed large numbers of natives. Like the Spanish colonies in North America, New France did not attract many French settlers.

Instead of enslaving Native Americans in farming and mining operations, the French exploited existing inter-tribal alliances and rivalries to establish trade relationships with the Algonquians along the St. Lawrence River and further inland toward the Great Lakes. Although Native Americans did most of the work, tracking, trapping, and skinning the animals and transporting the pelts to French traders, they drove hard bargains for their furs. French traders exchanged textiles, weapons, and metal goods for the furs of animals such as beavers, bears, and wolves. The trade strengthened traditional clan leaders’ positions by allowing them to distribute these trade goods to their clan members as they saw fit. Jesuit missionaries managed to convert considerable numbers because the priests learned the local languages and exhibited bravery in the face of danger.

In the eighteenth century, the Dutch competed with the French for trade and territory, which gave local Indians continued economic, diplomatic, and military leverage as Europeans competed for their trade and military alliances through the seventeenth century. Unlike the French and Spanish, the Dutch did not emphasize religious conversion in their relationships with Native Americans. Instead, they focused on trade with American Indians in present-day New York and New Jersey. They established a fur trade alliance with the Iroquois confederacy, the most powerful Native American empire in 17th-century North America. Although smallpox and other European diseases drastically reduced the Iroquois population, the confederation remained strong because they negotiated an advantageous alliance with the Dutch (page 40-45).

The French had prided themselves on adopting a more humane policy than their rivals. They lacked the appetite for land of the English colonies and relying on Indians to supply furs to trading posts, the French worked out a complex series of military, commercial, and diplomatic connections, the most enduring alliances between Indians and settlers in colonial North America. The Dutch had come to America to trade, not to conquer. They were less interested in settling the land than in exacting profits from it. The Dutch determined to treat the natives more humanely than the Spanish. From the beginning, the Dutch authorities had recognized Indian sovereignty over the land and forbade settlement in any area until it had been purchased.

The Spanish forced the natives into labor and set up their own encomienda system in which the natives were at the bottom. They weren’t treated humanely. The natives were treated the worse by the Spanish than by the French and the Dutch (page 41-47). 9. The European settlers would explain their superiority to Native Americans and justify both the conquest of Native lands and terminating their freedom by bringing Christianity, new forms of technology and learning, new legal systems and family relations, and new forms of economic enterprise and wealth creation even though they did also bring savage warfare and widespread disease. They each studied and borrowed from one another, each lauding itself as superior to the others. From the outset, dreams of freedom for the Indians, for the settlers, for the entire world through the spread of Christianity, inspired and justified colonization (page 48).

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