What was early contact like between Europeans and Natives?
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean, unlocking what Europeans quickly came to call the 'New World'. Columbus 'found' a land with around two million inhabitants. He thought he had found a new route to the East, so he mistakenly called these people 'Indians'. Within a hundred years, Europeans were trying to settle in the Americas. With Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the south, English explorers focused on North America.
This lesson examines what happened between early English settlers and Native Americans in North America. Using primary source evidence you will investigate what the early contact was like. Were the Native Americans savage and vicious hosts? Were the Europeans unreasonable and unfair? Or did they all just get along fine? You need to find out what happened.
The evidence comes from 1607. This was the year that the first permanent English settlement was established in North America, known as Jamestown. These first settlers - and those who sent them - were keen to find out about the area, keen to see how they could benefit. These settlers began to explore and they soon encountered the Native people. Using the information they recorded, you are going to examine their initial thoughts and feelings.
- What did the 'Dyscoverers' (explorers) take with them?
- How many people went on the exploration?
1. This is an extract from one of the settlers diaries.
- How welcome were the men made? [Think about how they were 'entertained']
- What was done to show respect for Captain Newport?
- What did the native people give them? [3 things]
- What did the Captain get?
- How do you think these explorers felt about their treatment?
2. This is another extract from the diary seen in Source 1.
- When the loss was reported, how quick and effective was the Native Americans response?
- Why do you think the materials were taken by the Native Americans?
- How is the situation resolved?
- From the evidence so far, how would you describe the relationship between the Europeans and the Natives? Make sure you explain your ideas - use the questions below to help:
- Have both groups shown themselves to be friendly? How?
- Has respect been shown to each other? How?
- How well have problems been resolved?
- Are there any sign of nerves or worries?
3. This extract describes how the explorers were missing two bullet-bags and the contents.
- What are the explorers shown how to do? [Think about what 'manner of setting' actually means]
- If the Natives are willing to do this, what does this suggest about them?
- Which of the following sentences best describes this early contact? Write a paragraph to explain your choice.
- The Natives were warning them off - showing they didn't welcome 'strangers' bringing disease.
- The Natives were enormously friendly to the Europeans - helpful in every possible way.
- The Europeans were extremely scared but had nothing to worry about - they all got along fine!
4. This extract explains the natives showing the settlers how they lived.
- Write as much as you can about the following things:
- Hair / hairstyle
- Differences between men and women
- Using this information, why do you think some settlers felt uncomfortable with Native Americans?
5. This extract describes how the natives appeared to the settlers.
- Write your own journal entry describing your first contact with the Natives.
- Your fears before you arrived
- How you felt about the native people after first contact
- How accurate your fears were
- What you feel you can gain from these people
- What you feel you and others must be careful of doing
Look at the source to get an idea of a journal entry. Make sure you cover: