colonization of North America had a devastating effect on the native
population. Within a short period of time their way of life was changed
forever. The changes were caused by a number of factors, including loss
of land, disease, enforced laws which violated their culture and much
When the Europeans arrived they brought with them diseases unknown to the
natives. The natives, having no immunity died from diseases that the Europeans
thought of as commonplace. They also brought guns, alcohol and horses. The
effect of these was to change the way of life for the Native Americans. Horses
and guns changed their way of hunting for food. Since the cultural groups had
been based on their method of subsistence, changing this changed the groupings.
Some major groups moved. Once they started to move fights over territory broke
out. Groups who had had plenty of food, now didn’t have enough.
Missions were introduced, and Natives were aggressively encouraged to convert
to Christianity. Most of the groups had had some form of ancestral worship, and
this enforced change in religion altered their culture identity. On top of all
of these factors was the Europeans need for land and food. Native groups,
because they were nomadic, didn’t see land as belonging to one person. The idea
that someone could come in, claim a piece of land and ban them from it caused
many problems. Wars broke out over the fact that they could no longer hunt or
forage for food in places they had always done so.
Some of the effects that colonization had were unintentional. No one thought
much about immunity to diseases, or that they would kill off the entire bison
population. These effects were a side effect of the Europeans greed and attitude
that they could take anything they saw. Later however, things changed, and a
determined effort was made to completely suppress the Native culture. This
active suppression took many forms. Certain tribes were freely supplied with
guns, so that they could wipe out their neighbors. Old problems between tribes
were brought back into the open, causing wars. The army and many settlers
treated the Natives as nothing more than pests to be got rid of. Laws were
introduced that banned certain ceremonies, forced the children into the European
education system, and tied whole groups to land that was useless and could not
sustain them. The intention was to deny them of their cultural identity, which
has the same effect as wiping them out.
Here is a very brief look at the effects colonization had on the different
|Sub arctic Hunters and Fishers
Initially the introduction of Europeans and guns affected the eastern
|Northwest Coast Fishermen
Many European ships visited the Northwest coast, beginning in 1741.
|Interior Plateau Foragers
Here fights over land led to bloody battles with huge loss of life
|Great Basin Desert Foragers
Basin Foragers had a very hard time surviving, even before the
Europeans first came to this area in 1542, and missions were
|Plains Prairie Bison Hunters
The introduction of guns and horses initially caused an increase in
|Eastern Woodlands Cultivators
Not much is known about the effects of colonization n this group.
|Southwest Cultivators and Foragers
Although the Apaches and Hopi managed to keep the Mexicans out, they
It took Europeans, disease, guns and horses less than 300 years to destroy a
way of life that had been going on for at least 20,000 years. Although many
Native American groups are trying to regain their cultural identity, it will
never be the same.