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Cultural Incomprehension between Europeans and Native Americans in the Colonial Context - Essay Example

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Cultural Incomprehension between Europeans and Native Americans in the Colonial Context

It is usual for European explorers to use casually terms like "wilderness" and "unknown" to describe homelands of native people. In fact, these regions were the real milieu of Native American homes with their adjoining gardens and hunting lands. The journey of the Europeans and their entourage, bearing the massive inventory of the expedition could not have completed the mission without the co-operation and support of the natives. It is highly doubtful whether they would have survived in the rugged and hostile terrain without heavily relaying on the expertise of the natives for whom it was their home. The wealth of vital topographic knowledge about rivers, streams, hills, and passages might have been invaluable logistic support on their itinerary. Though they co-operated both Europeans and the natives may not have understood the full implications of the unfolding drama.
There are plethoras of motives that goad explorers to brave the tumultuous waves of perilous oceans, to confront the dusty heat waves of the desert and to scale the precipitous cliffs. Nevertheless, social historians have narrowed down the motives of the men to the inordinate craving for gold, God and glory. Those who went for the mundane lure of wealth may not have much reflected on the experience of their contact with the alien people. However, the missionaries who went out to save souls might have been shocked at the sight of natives whose ways were totally unacceptable. They dumped the natives as heathens:
The attitudes of BFM missionaries toward American Indian manifestations of heathenism were thus unremittingly ethnocentric. These Presbyterians could see nothing worth preserving in the rich and varied Indian cultures they entered (Coleman 80).
Many Europeans failed to grasp the close link between health, environmental concerns and cosmology. As Kupperman observed such concept was also prevalent in England and France. (Kupperman 2000). It is somewhat surprising as medical theories in many European societies then, also took into consideration the relation between morality and well being and sometimes attributed illness to witchcraft
While the attitude of the early missionaries were one of disgust at the sight of the savage practices of the natives, early diplomat-explorer could experience a sense of kinship with the savage chiefs. George Percy speaks of his first sight of a Powhatan werowance in 1607 as follows:
His body was painted all with Crimson, with a chaine of Beads about his necke, his face painted blew, besprinkled with silver Ore as wee thought, his eares all behung with fine Copper or Gold, he entertained us in so modest a proud fashion, as though he had beene a Prince of Civil government, holding his countenance without laughter or any such ill behavior. (Bragdon 38)
Kupperman (Kupperman 2000,63) has pointed out, Percy, himself a nobleman understood the nobility of the native but was unwilling to give much importance to his political stature.
The range of the Indians was mainly in their land and their interaction with other cultures was minimal. The Europeans on the other hand with their spirit of expansion and lure for gold and ...Show more


When history is composed by the victor it is impossible to read the other side of story through the eyes of the vanguished. So the truth of history is only partial. However , after the celebration of the victory when the minds are less euphoric it is possible to gauge the truth behind the stories that shaped the American dream over the years.The former chroniclers of explorations cinemetically focussed on what they saw through a single lense…
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Cultural Incomprehension between Europeans and Native Americans in the Colonial Context essay example
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