Indians in the United States and Canada: A Comparative History

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

Introduction

In 1513, when Europeans first reached North America, between five and ten million native people lived in what are now the United States and Canada. During the next several centuries American Indian populations fell drastically because several million Europeans invaded, overrunning and often destroying the tribal societies. This long-running multiracial encounter brought violence and warfare that alternated with periods of peace. Whatever the circumstances, the interlopers seized land and resources that the Indians considered their own. Often trade, cooperation, and goodwill coexisted with greed, brutality, and violence. In these circumstances ethnocentrism, misunderstanding, miscalculation, incompetence, and criminality all played central roles as they poisoned relations between tribal peoples and the intruding Europeans.

From the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, similar things happened in many parts of the world as the Europeans penetrated parts of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America as well. In each place the specific events varied, but generally the invaders strove to take physical control of the region and to subjugate the local populations. Indigenous peoples, however, resisted the newcomers with great skill much of the time. Plainly what happened in North America resembled similar events elsewhere. Frontier encounters became common. 1 In most cases the Europeans prevailed and came to direct the societies that emerged from these conflicts. That certainly describes the results in North America, Australia, and New Zealand.

Disease marched well ahead of many European interlopers, felling thousands, perhaps millions, of the indigenous people. Higher levels of technology, includ

-xiii-

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