Impact of Colonization of America on Native Americans

The colonization of America has usually been depicted as something positive, whether it be the relationship between John Smith and Pocahontas, or the first Thanksgiving meal shared between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag. The interactions that the Natives and the colonist had may have started off as cordial and good-natured when the Virginia Company sailed into the Chesapeake in 1607. But as the years passed on, their relationship became unstable, and ultimately resulted in King Philip’s war, which ended the lives of thousands innocent Natives.

The colonist who lived in Jamestown initially learned from the Natives- how and what crops to harvest, like corn, beans, squash and pumpkin. They taught them how to hunt, fish, build canoes and how to navigate the peninsula they built Jamestown on (Hunt, pg. 26). Their dependency eventually turned into the Colonist having the upper hand, and they began to impose harsh laws on the Natives, and used them for labor, which affected the economic success of the colonies.

Many Natives ended up becoming slaves and indentured servants. The colonist also started to force the Natives to convert to Protestants, Christians or Catholics. The Puritans and Boston Magistrates especially, saw it as their religious duty to convert the Natives who they considered as “heathens” and “rude and licentious” (Hart). They also wanted to spread their religions to the New World. These “heathens” were actually the key to their survival when they first sailed to the New World. But instead of commending them for their help, they exploited them for years.

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The interactions between the groups ultimately ended in a large amount of deaths for Native Americans, who were punished if they refused to convert and eventually removed from their lands.

Before the colonist sailed to America and colonized the Native Americans, the Natives were self-sufficient. They grew their own food, created their own communities that had their own laws and religious practices. The weapons that they used were not advanced at all, but there was no need for them to have advanced weapons because all of the Native tribes fought with same weapons like bows and arrows, spears, tomahawks etc. They were never exposed to anything that could be potentially detrimental to their society. When the English came to the Americas, the Native Americans were then exposed to illnesses such as measles, chicken pox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever etc. Once the colonist were able to survive on their own without the help of the Natives, they began to trade with them. The “commerce with the Indians was responsible for the creation of some of the first great fortunes in British North America” (Hart, pg 37). The English depended on them so that their trade could prosper, and this is when the Natives were introduced to two destructive things- alcohol and firearms. The Natives drank alcohol, but it did not compare the amounts of alcohol they were receiving from the colonist, and it was not as strong either. They were consuming so much that they started to become alcoholics, and it got to the point where they would “strip themselves of their skin to have their fill of rum and brandy” (Hart). They became dependent on the alcohol which made them more compliant with the colonist and more willing to work. They were given the tools to destroy themselves on their own, and alcohol played a large role in that. This was beneficial for the English, because they had more control over the Natives. They could start to achieve their main goal, which was to push the Natives out of their land so that could focus on expansion, and their “insatiable appetite for land” (Hart, pg 37).

The conflict between the English and the Natives escalated throughout the years, but it became worse once the colonist began seeing the Native Americans and savages who needed to be colonized. Instead of maintaining a friendly relationship with them, they started to mistreat, abuse and exploit them. Once tension arose, the Native tribes were then seen as a “threat to their hopes of creating a godly community in the New World” (Hart 38). The Natives were not a problem when they needed help surviving when they first came to the New World, but once the colonist were able to stand on their own two feet they turned against them, and forced them to abide by their laws and their religion- which the Natives could never comprehend. They punished them for living the only lives they ever knew. This is how King Philip’s war started in 1637, which became the one of the deadliest wars in American history. The Native American’s were now an even bigger threat to the colonist because they had newer weapons which were given to them by the colonist. They used rifles instead of their traditional weapons, which gave the colonist more motive to try to kill them and essentially drive them out of what would soon become the colonies.

The Native Americans lived relatively peaceful lives before the English started to settle into the Americas. The two groups were able to live in harmony for a short period of time, before the colonist started to take advantage of them, and use them for their own gains. They relied on the Natives before turning against them, but during this they gave them the tools that they needed to harm themselves- which was alcohol and weapons. Both of these contributed to the downfall of Native American tribes, who were the reason English settlers were able to survive in the New World in the first place. When looking at the cause of King Philip’s war, it comes back to the colonist and their greed. The English “contributed much to [the] misfortunes” (Hart) of the Natives, and they would continue to be the cause of their misfortune as they pushed the remaining natives out West into what would become reservations.

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Impact of Colonization of America on Native Americans. (2021, Apr 21). Retrieved from

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