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North America experienced a great wave of immigration a few hundred years after its discovery. Inspired by adventure, riches, and the desire to escape political and religious oppression, Europeans came to the continent. Two of the immigrations that took place were those of the French and British. Upon arriving at North America, they did not encounter savages, but rather a skilled and organized people. Both countries took to the indigenous people differently, however. While the French treated the indigenous people with respect and as people with whom they could trade and coexist, the British treated them as an obstacle in the way of their conquest.
The European intruders depended on the help and good nature of the indigenous people, who provided them with food and guides. During this same time period both the Iroquois and the Indian allies of New France suffered great losses of population in the face of epidemics and disease. English colonizers took advantage of this and used this opportunity to push their way west.
Very land hungry, the English showed no respect for the Indians and demanded large amounts of land, as many of them hoped to develop lives as farmers. At one point British troops invaded Cherokee country, burning homes and crops and forcing the Cherokees to surrender. The French were more likely to develop trade relations than to settle permanently on native lands. Their settlement of the indigenous lands in Canada occurred more gradually.
Despite the disputes over land, European settlers helped the Indian economy.
Tribes that traded were at a vast advantage to those who did not. At first, European trade brought advantages such as weapons, cloth, and kettles. The fur trade in particular made many tribes more aggressive. By doing so the Indian nations successfully used the European nations. The Iroquois Confederacy formed an alliance with Britain in which they were to cut the French out of the fur trade. At the same time they negotiated treaties and traded with the French. The Iroquois tried to maintain a neutral balance between the French and British. Both nations feared that Iroquois power might tip the scales in favor of their rivals, so they heeded the threats of the powerful Indians. Many Northeast peoples, however, resented British restrictions on trade. Due to fur trading and the goods they received, many tribes developed more nomadic ways of life based on the movements of bison herds.
The French were open and accepting of the Indians in a social and religious standpoint. During this time period there were a great number of French and Indian marriages. One of the most famous is that of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. By taking the time to learn their languages, habits, and culture, the French made a great attempt to integrate themselves into Indian society. The British were very hostile and made little to no attempt to get along with the Indians. As Anglicans, they did not believe in the Indian’s animistic religion.
One of the aspects of Indian culture that dismayed the British was the fact that the head female had the control over the tribe. This is in direct conflict of the British who were very sexist in their belief that the males were in control and the females were of little importance. While the French put forth an effort, the British simply attempted to rid themselves of their problem.
The Native Americans were at a disadvantage in North America after the colonists arrived; they were outnumbered and outmaneuvered. The European colonists came to North America to fulfill their hopes and dreams, but in reality conquered the indigenous people of the continent. While the French generally respected and coexisted with the Indians, the British treated them as an obstacle with whom they could use for themselves. The conquest of the Native Americans by Europeans forever changed the continent.
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