European Contact Effects

Essay by theforward1 October 2006

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On October 12, 1492 a cannon was ordered fired from the Spanish Pinta by the leader of the expedition, Christopher Columbus. The reason, the sighting of land. Little did Columbus know, he had embarked upon something greater than he believed existed. He had found what was called by Europeans, the "New World", a new beginning for mankind. His discovery of thousands of miles of new, free, and untouched land has made his name one of the most widely recognized to this day.

What Columbus failed to recognize was that many cultures had existed on this "new land" for untold thousands of years. According to historians, across what is now North and Central America existed a population of around five million natives, more than Europe in that time. Untold amounts of human societies, languages and dialects, advanced knowledge of astronomical observations and solar calendars, natural medicine, and sacred tradition were developed and passed down from ancient generations, yet, what Columbus and his men saw were mere savages in need of reform.

They believed the natives to be inferior and in need of education, religion, and European law. In the centuries following, this view would have a huge impact on the Native American way of life. They would be pushed from their land, tortured, enslaved, and forced to abandon their way of life and reform to the ways of the new settlers. Their lives would be forever changed, and because of their lack of technology there was nothing they could have done to prevent their fate.

For thousands of years before the Europeans began to explore and colonize North America, hundreds of different Native American nations with different languages and customs wandered the country. Though there were hundreds of different tribes, there were several beliefs and ways of living that they...