When the British and French were first beginning to settle and expand in the new land, a land which would later become known as America, at first there was elbow room for both the French and the English, but wars that were ignited in Europe spread to the new world and involved the colonist of both nations in a series of bloodshed clashes such as: King Williams war (1689-1697) and King George’s war. Native Americans played a major role in both the culture and economy of both groups of European settlers. Time has since presented us with examples of the results of those relationships between natives and both the French and British such as the decreased population of certain animals like the beaver due to the fur trade. But also, positive results like the result of interbreeding between the French and native women, which contributed greatly to the diversity of the present-day United States.
The French first came to the Americas in the 1530’s to engage in seasonal fur trading, they soon after established strong trading ties with the local Natives they discovered to had lived there. It wasn’t long before the French realized how quickly they could go back to France with furs and they had traded from the Natives with European wares, such as metal cooking pots, horses, weapon, and other goods not accessible to the Natives at the time. “The French in Canada carry on a great trade with the Indians; and though it was formerly the only trade of this extensive country, its inhabitants were considerably enriched by it” (pg.111; The American spirit). The Natives also accompanied the French on hunting expeditions and showed them where the best animals for fur could be found. The French made it very important to learn the Native languages and ways, and they established good relationships that were based on equality with all of the tribes. The French began to settle in the early 1600’s, establishing their first permanent settlement at Quebec in 1608, one year after the English founded Jamestown in Virginia. They did not interrupt any Natives tribes in the establishment of their settlement and continued to work with them closely in the fur trade. The French respected Native territories, their ways of life, basically the French were good all-around allies to the natives. The Natives, in turn, treated the French as true allies. More intermarriages took place between French settlers and Native American women than with any other European group, the French were one of few colonies that were open about race, unlike Spain and Britain.
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The British did not encounter a single Indian empire or nation, of course as we know, the land was inhabited by a plethora of Native tribes, speaking many different languages. These Native nations were not unified and war, mostly in the form of raids, was not uncommon. “Father Isaac Jogues, returning from Quebec to this spiritual vineyard with two French associates and a small band of Huron Indians, was captured in 1642 by a hostile mohawk raiding party.” (pg. 109; The American spirit)
The natives were farmers, growing many different varieties of corn, beans, squash, and tobacco, in fields that were owned by the villages and worked by the women.
Initial contact with the British brought diseases which were deadly to Natives-smallpox, measles, mumps, malaria, and others. As a result, by 1712 the population of Natives on the East coast had been greatly reduced. In addition, with its superior weapons and focus on genocide, Britain had further reduced the Indian populations. Indian populations on the east coast by this time were a fraction of what they had been two centuries earlier. Many tribes had disappeared, their remaining people absorbed into other tribes. Native Americans on the east coast by 1712 had adopted many items from the British, particularly metal objects and cloth, which they had come to rely on. As a result, they were involved in a trade relationship with the colonists to obtain these items.
By 1750, native Americans were no longer self-sustaining, but they were a part of a larger, more global market. Though the colonist response to Natives vary throughout the years, it is safe to say that Native American ways of life have played a pivotal role in the shaping of or present day society.