Indian European Coexistance

Indian European Coexistance

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It is when an economy is at equilibrium that it works best. The one single point where the supply and demand lines interject that keeps everyone happy and allows the economy to thrive and expand. This is something that any person who has taken an introduction course in economics learns on their first day. But what happens when a person or a group of people is thrown into an elaborate and foreign economic system with no prior knowledge or experience? The result is the complete and total abuse, disrespect, and eventual annihilation of that person or group. This is the case of the Indians at the time of the European settlement of America. Where Indian-European relations were at a constant strain in the backdrop of an epic power struggle which in the end left no chance for Indian-European coexistence in early America. The fact that the Indians had no prior dealings with the European economic system led to their unwarranted demise.
The discovery and subsequent settlement of America ushered Europe into a world economic system. New commodities, many of them imported from recently discovered lands, enriched material life. Merchants, entrepreneurs, and bankers accumulated and manipulated capital in unprecedented volume. This drive for capital did not just stay with the settlers but spread throughout the Americas at a rate that could only be surpassed by smallpox. "During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, everyone in eastern North America- masters and slaves, farmers near the coast and Indians near the mountains- became producers of raw material for foreign markets and found themselves caught up in an international economic network" (Merrell 550).
When the early explorers came to America in the sixteenth century and encountered the Native Americans on the shores of the Atlantic they entered into trade as a sign of goodwill towards each other; with the given exception of those who raided and kidnapped for the slave trade. This "goodwill" was something that the Natives could understand, as they have been doing this type of trade with their neighboring tribes for many years. "Trade among people, while common, was conducted primarily in commodities such as copper, mica, and shells, items that, exchanged with the appropriate ceremony, initiated or confirmed friendships among groups. Few, if any, villages relied on outsiders for goods essential to daily life" (Merrell 551). Yet this is not what the Europeans had in mind. The Europeans came to America for the sole reason of profit and its traders found a new market for their goods.

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"Before long, towns near and far were demanding the entire range of European wares and were growing accustomed to- even addicted- to them" (Merrell 551).
This uneducated jump into such inviting circumstances led the Indians on a path of destruction. As Merrell states "Such an enthusiastic conversion to the new technology eroded ancient craft skills and hastened complete dependence on substitutes only colonists could supply"(551). This dependence on English goods is like that of the old proverb of "a kid in a candy store". The Indians were exposed to so many new and different products that they felt the innate need to posses whatever the colonists offered. Yet the "Natives leaped the technological gulf with ease in part because they were discriminating shoppers. If hoes were to small, beads too large, or cloth the wrong color, Indian traders refused them" (Merrell 549). With different colonies and traders near the Indians original concept of trade as goodwill gave way to consumerism. "As firearms, cloth, and other items became increasingly important to native existence, competition replaced comity at the foundation of trade encounters as villages scrambled for the cargoes of merchandise" (Merrell 552).
With the enthrallment of the natives in this new economic scheme came the loss of their collective power in North America. The more they bartered with the settlers and traders the more they became dependent and passive. With each new exchange of goods the Indians gave up more to receive less. Nothing is more evident of this then the Indians loss of land to the settlers. This loss of land was stated as one of the major grievances of Metacom, or King Philip, against the English. "Another Grievance was, when their King sold Land, the English would say, it was more than they agreed to, and a Writing must be prove against all them, and some of their Kings had dun Rong to sell so much. He left his Peopell none, and some being given to Drunknes the English made them drunk and then cheated them in Bargains, but now their Kings were forewarned not for to part with Land, for nothing in Comparison to the Value thereof. Now home the English had owned for King or Queen, they would disinheret, and make another King that would give or sell them these Lands; that now, they had no Hopes lest to keep any Land" (Easton). The Indians did not recognize the value of land in the English eyes until it was too late. In the beginning Indians traded the land for basic wares such as guns, ammunition, liquor, and blankets. When the English grasped how easy it was to acquire the land they began to take advantage of the Indians hospitality in granting the land. By the mid seventeenth century settlers hungry for more land drove the Indians out of their indigenous lands.
The European acquisition of land was motivated by the need to give grazing grounds to its animals. As early New England settlers discovered quickly, a colony can not become successful without the help of domesticated animals. "Not until 1624- four years after the Mayflower's arrival- did Edward Wilson bring from England "three heifers and a bull…".This date, not coincidentally, marked the end of the Pilgrims' "starving times" as dairy products and meat began to supplement their diet" (Anderson 602). Livestock promptly became one of the biggest commodities in the economic world of the North Atlantic. "The size of a town's herds soon became an important measure of its prosperity" (Anderson 603).
With the expansion of livestock population emerged the dilemma of how the domesticated animals would interact with the Indians. "Indians could hardly undertake winter hunting expeditions accompanied by herds of cattle that required shelter and fodder to survive the cold winter. Swine would compete with their owners for nuts, berries, and roots, and the presence of livestock of any kind tended to drive away deer" (Anderson 606). An added problem would be that the livestock would eat the Indians crops. This led to another grievance of the Indians as stated by King Philip. "… that when they removed 30 Miles from where English had any thing to do, they could not keep their Corn from being spoiled, they never being used to fence, and thought when the English bought Land of them they would have kept their Catell upon their owne Land." (Easton)
Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the equilibrium of the economy in America became more partial to the English rather then the Indians. With trade becoming more and more unfavorable regarding the Indians a loss of control coincided. They became dependent
on the English and allowed them to win the power struggle. The final blow came with the wars that transpired throughout America as can be seen with The Yamasee and King Philip's Wars. As is evident in history coexistence could not occur between the Indians and Europeans because of the lack of knowledge the Indians possessed in surviving in this new world economy.
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