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Essay/Term paper: Native americans

Essay, term paper, research paper:  American History

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The Indians were the main focus of the history of New France, and



influenced the Europeans in the period before 1663. The Indians, being



numerous compared with the Europeans, came into frequent contact with them.



The Indians and Europeans traded items with one another, which led to



various events and actions that contributed greatly to the history of New



France. The Europeans who arrived after the Indians had already settled



were exposed to the native people's way of life, from which techniques for



survival were acquired. Later, the Europeans depended on the Indians, some



of whom acted as middlemen and who had items which were valuable to them.



Various Indian personalities were also observed and admired by Europeans



particularly the Jesuits.



 



The Native Indians were among the first people to enter North America.



They entered America through the passage of the Bering Strait, a location



which is the midpoint of Alaska and Siberia. As time passed, they settled



on various pieces of land and hunted, fished and grew crops. Alfred Bailey



mentions that, "It had been suggested that Siouans, the Iroquoians and



Algonquians were among the first to enter America."1 Before the Europeans



arrived, there were many native tribes that were already settled. By the



time Europeans arrived in North America, they found natives occupying large



amounts of land.2 The Indians helped start the history of New France.



 



Since the natives arrived early in North America, their population



started to increase quite rapidly. With the combination of migration as



well as the birth rate, the Indians inflated their population to a large



size. "In 1663, there were only still 3000 Europeans living in New France,



no more people than constituted a small Iroquoian tribe."3 The Indians



were in the majority before 1663.



 



Surrounding the area of New France there were two main native groups



who spoke different languages. These groups were the Algonquian and the



Iroquoian.



 



The Algonquians were primarily involved in trading and fishing. These



people remained in groups called bands, which included relatives such as



parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Algonquians



primarily hunted, and so would develop groups to hunt in different areas.



They travelled around frequently and would take everything they needed



while on their hunting journey. In the winter, they used snowshoes; in the



Summer, they used the canoe. The Algonquians were always moving from one



location to another; because of their hunting they never stayed in one



location for a long period of time.



 



The Iroquoians were mainly occupied with agriculture. This group



established themselves near land which could be farmed upon. They remained



in this area until the land was exhausted and nothing more could be



cultivated upon it. After the land was worthless it was abandoned and



another piece of land was selected upon which to plant at another location.



Their villages were known as Longhouses. These Longhouses were quite large



and supported more than five families in them. The men were mainly the



people who constructed the Longhouse. While the men were busy during the



summer, hunting, trading, or engaging in war, the women would care for the



crops. The Iroquoians helped contribute to agriculture by being one of the



first to grow crops.



 



While trading with the Europeans, the Indians were faced with many



instances that were devastating and other cases which helped them profit.



Trade in New France was so prominent that France decided to create a



monopoly to bring the trade under control. Two provisions had to be met:



 



Firstly, the private fur trading company had to



promote colonization. Secondly, it had to send



Roman Catholic missionaries to Christianize the



Indians.4



 



On the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Tadoussac, became the chief trading centre for



the Europeans. The trade route surrounding Tadoussac contained connections



from Hudson Bay to New England. Some negative aspects of the fur trade



were that:



 



The Fur Trade at first enriched traditional



Indian life, but later increasing competition



for pelts generated conflicts that led to the



dispersal of many Indian groups. Indian wars



grew out of long standing rivalries or



developed as a result of Indian disputes over



furs.5



 



An outcome of trading with the Europeans that devastated the Indians,



was the epidemics which the Europeans presented. These epidemics destroyed



a large percentage of the Indian population, which they did not deserve and



which were calamitous to the population.



 



Certain groups, such as the Hurons, abandoned agriculture and focused



on trading. This reveals that trading had an enormous impact on Indians



and their heritage. The Indians were still in control of exchanging furs,



since Indians controlled the supply of beaver pelt sought by the Dutch and



French traders, who waited at ports on Hudson Bay or St. Lawrence River for



Indians to bring them in.6



 



Some Trading relationships continued for a long time and other



affiliations did not last long at all. The trading relationships which



took place included:



 



French and Hurons traded till 1649, trading



between Dutch and Iroquois lasted till 1664,



between the French and Ottawas after 1650, and



trading between the English and Iroquois after



1664.7



 



This illustrates that trading relations involving Hurons were practically



diminished soon after the Europeans had arrived. Regardless of the



misfortunes that occurred, trading benefitted both the Indians and the



Europeans.



 



During the fur trade some Indians played the role of the middlemen,



helping out with the flow of the trade. These middlemen had located



themselves so they could cover the areas where tremendous amounts of the



trading done. The Hurons, who were middlemen, mainly traded with the



Algonquians and the French. The Hurons traded furs and in their canoes



transported native as well as European goods. The middlemen had some



influence on the Europeans, for the reason that after the fall of Huronia,



the Coureurs de Bois took over the role of the middlemen. These Coureurs de



Bois stayed and lived with the Algonquians who helped them carry out their



role effectively. Algonquians at some point also played the role of



middlemen while they were exchanging goods with the Dutch. The middlemen



were helpful in controlling the trading that developed in New France, and



the Indians effectively carried out their roles competently.



 



During the fur trade many items were traded between the Indians and



the Europeans. The main item of trade that the Europeans desired from the



Indians was fur. Conversely, the main article sought by the Indians from



the Europeans were metal goods. In 1534, the fur trade industry became the



most popular and dominant industry in New France. For the Europeans, the



most popular method to accumulate furs was to trade with the Indians. In



return for furs, Indians acquired European tools which made their work



easier and more productive. These tools also lasted longer and could be



transported easily because of their light weight. The particular items



traded that were of use to the Indians were as follows: iron axes,



hatchets, which were useful outdoors and for construction; cooking pots,



steel knives, and needles helped the Indian women who cooked and sew.



Another item which had a large impact was the kettle: "The Kettle was the



most revolutionary article which came within the sphere of the women."8



Foodstuffs and clothing were also acquired from the Europeans. Among the



clothing were summer capes which the Europeans wore, and for the winter,



blankets for beds were traded for furs.9 Other articles which were traded



but did not have a positive impact on the Indians were liquor and tobacco.



In 1640 Dutch traders sold guns to Mohawks, and private traders sold guns



to the Iroquois for furs.10 These items were particularly useful when in



combat against the enemy, and they were more powerful than any other



weapons the Indians were accustomed to. Items that were traded, especially



metal goods, helped the Indians with their way of life and made their tasks



more easy.



 



Christianization of the Indians was a laborious task, but the effort



of the Jesuits led to some successful outcomes. Champlain had considered



that the task of converting Indians was of equal importance as gathering



wealth in the Fur Trade or extending French influence in North America.11



The first missionaries who attempted to convert the Indians were the



Recollets. They tried to make the Indians adapt to the European lifestyles



with great effort, but were quite unsuccessful. A reason for their



difficulty in converting the Indians was that there was a language barrier



which separated the two. To overcome this barrier, the Jesuits who



followed, had to learn the native tongue. Similarities in religious



beliefs between both the Indians and the Jesuits were helpful in converting



the Indians, since these beliefs helped the Indians relate to the



missionaries' sermons, and the Indians were influenced by the lectures that



they addressed. The Jesuits, while staying with the Indians during the



process of conversion to Christianity, were required to adapt to the



Indians' ways of life and saw many qualities of Indians, some of which the



priests admired and found virtuous. In conflict with the missionaries,



some native groups were very fearful of the Jesuits. The reason was that



people who were baptized, fell ill and soon died. This view led them to



believe that the Jesuits were associated with all the misfortunes and evil



which they feared. The Jesuit's endless attempts to Christianize the



Indians were nevertheless a significant gesture which clearly influenced



the Indians and their ways of life.



 



Indians possessed qualities which were superior in helping them



survive and that Europeans found very appealing. The Indians had good



experience in the resources available which helped in adapting to the



country. One articulate characteristic was that they "Highly valued



politeness and good manners in dealing with one another."12 Indians tried



not to force a person into actions because "It was immoral to make someone



do something against his will."13 If there was plenty of food, sharing was



encouraged: "Indians considered it wrong to let someone starve while others



had more than they needed."14 Therefore the Indians maintained equality



among all individuals and tried to conform with other fellow human beings.



On the topic of diseases, A.G. Bailey states, "The early travellers found



that certain ailments which were current among Europeans at the time were



absent from the native society. The diseases suffered by the Indians were



quite few in number."15 This demonstrates that the Indians were healthy and



adapted well to their environment. The Indians could survive the ruthless



climate surrounding them, and even developed snowshoes to help them endure



the terrain when it was covered with snow. R.J. Surtees claims that, "In



virtually all instances, the Indians greeted newcomers with friendship,



guidance and assistance."16 That is a good example of their unselfish and



invitingly friendly attitude to other humans, even if they were of a



different creed. In agriculture, "These natives, even though they seemed



so primitive, had mastered agriculture in corn, melon, squash, and beans.



They had achieved hunting skills with crude weapons and appeared robust



enough."17 Even though they did not have very good tools, they still made



the most of whatever they had and used it to their full advantage. The



natives possessed qualities and traits which are essential for survival in



demanding conditions and for developing strong relationships.



 



While trading with the Europeans, the Indians became almost possessed



by the European goods they desired. "With the decline in food resources in



the country, the Eastern Algonquians lost a measure of self-reliance and



became increasingly dependent upon Europeans for their supplies."18 Since



the Europeans had superior metal items, the craving of the Indians would



force them to go to the Europeans to acquire them: "Indians didn't have



copper, iron, hemp, wood or manufactured articles and resorted to the



French for them."19 The European goods helped the Indians out by making



their tasks easier to cope with so that "They grew dependent on goods and



allied with whites, who could provide for them."20 This explains how the



Indians lost some of their heritage by relying too heavily on the European



goods.



 



The Europeans greatly depended on the Indians as the Indians



contributed to the Europeans survival in a land which was new to them.



R.J. Surtees claims that "Iroquois people probably saved Cartier's party



from complete extinction during the winter of 1535 and 1536, by teaching



the Frenchmen a cure for scurvy."21 The Indians, being the only other



human beings and the most welcoming in New France, were the only ones who



could help the perplexed Frenchmen: "Indians were the only available



teacher who could show the newcomer how to live in a harsh climate, to



forage for food, paddle and build a canoe, to travel on snowshoes and to



build shelters."22 In agriculture, the Indians introduced Europeans to



plants such as potatoes, corn, peanuts, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, and



beans.23 Because the Indians had furs that the Europeans desires so



critically, "Both French and Dutch traders tried to conduct themselves in a



manner that would please the Indians and encourage the Indians to trade"24



This statement clearly displays that the Indians were the main motive for



trading, and without them there would not have been any trade taking place



at all in New France. As the Indians were superior in hunting, the French



needed assistance from the Indians, who did help them. "The French were



dependent on native food supply, especially game, in pursuit of which they



were novices."25 According to some historians,



 



As late as 1643, Quebec was almost entirely



dependent on Indians hunting for its meat



supply. Algonquians taught the French how to



grow corn, beans, pumpkins, and squash. From



the Indians, they learned how to make maple



sugar and gather wild berries. Algonquians



also trained the first Frenchmen how to



survive the interior.26



 



The native people were independent in agriculture as well as survival, but



still helped the disoriented Europeans with some of their skills."The



Indians taught Europeans how to hunt, travel, farm and subsist in their new



environment."27



 



Prior to 1663, the Indians clearly influenced the Europeans and the



history of New France. With fur as their main trading item, they obtained



European goods which they desired that helped make their everyday lives



easier. Using techniques of survival in the outdoors, they clearly set a



trend for the Europeans to follow, so that they could reside in this



unpredictable country. The Europeans, soon after discovering the natives,



depended on them as their source of various techniques which were mandatory



for survival, such as hunting for food. The Indians were the primary,



contributing factor to the history of New France and without their



influence, Europeans could not have progressed to where they are at this



point in Canada.



 



 



Endnotes



 



1. Alfred G. Bailey, The Conflict of European and



Eastern Algonkian Cultures (University of Toronto Press,



1969),p.2.



 



2. Bruce G. Trigger. The Indians and the Heroic Age of



New France (Canadian Historical Review-Booklet 30, 1978),



p.4.



 



3. Bruce G. Trigger. Natives and Newcomers (McGill-Queens



University Press, 1985),p.17.



 



4. R.D. Francis, Richard Jones, Donald B. Smith, Origins:



Canadian History To Confederation (Holt, Rinehart and



Winston of Canada, Limited, 1988),p.41.



 



5. R.J. Surtees, The Original People (Holt, Rinehart and



Winston of Canada, Limited,1971),p.22.



 



6. Ibid., p.19.



 



7. Ibid., p.20.



 



8. Bailey, The Conflict of European and Eastern Algonkian



Cultures, p.24.



 



9. Ibid., p.12.



 



10. Trigger, The Indians and the Heroic Age Of New



France, p.18.



 



11. Surtees, The Original People, p.34.



 



12. Trigger, The Indians and the Heroic Age of New



France, p.6.



 



13. Ibid., p.6.



 



14. Ibid., p.6.



 



15. Bailey, Conflict of European and Eastern Algonkian



Cultures, p.27.



 



16. Surtees, The Original People, ix.



 



17. Ibid., p.1.



 



18. Bailey, Conflict of European and Eastern Algonkian



Cultures, p.56.



19. Ibid., p.11.



 



20. Surtees, The Original People, p.21.



 



21. Ibid., ix.



 



22. Ibid., p.19.



 



23. Ibid., p.19.



 



24. Trigger, Indians and the Heroic Age of New France,



p.22.



 



25. Bailey, Conflict of Europeans and Eastern Algonkian



Cultures, p.117.



 



26. Francis, Jones, Smith, Origins : Canadian History To



Confederation, p.47.



 



27. Surtees, The Original People, p.ix.



 



 



 



Bibliography



 



Bailey, A.G. The Conflict of European and Eastern



Algonkian Cultures. Toronto. 1969.



 



Francis, R.D., Jones Richard, Smith D.B. Origins :



Canadian History To Confederation. Toronto. 1988.



 



Francis, R.D., Jones Richard, Smith D.B. Readings In



Canadian History : Pre-Confederation. Toronto. 1990.



 



Morton, D. New France and War. Toronto. 1983.



 



Skeoch, E. Album of New France. Toronto. 1986.



 



Surtees, R.J. The Original People. Toronto. 1971.



 



Trigger, B.G. Natives and Newcomers. Montreal.1985.



 



Trigger, B.G. The Indians and The Heroic Age of New



France. Ottawa. 1978.



 

 

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