October 12, 1492 - Native American and European Relationship

By: Grace Cowell

“They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion” – Christopher Columbus


Ever since Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas back in 1492, the relationship between Native Americans and Europeans has had its ups and downs.  As more Europeans crossed the Atlantic to come to the New World, these relationships had to become further developed.  There have been moments of conflict, war, and peace.  Even today, over 500 years later, these relationships are prevalent.

On October 12, 1492, Columbus landed in the Bahamas where he came across the native people.  He immediately thought they were, poor and ignorant with no religion and “should be good servants.”  He captured six and brought them back to Spain where they were paraded around.  After his second voyage, Columbus sent back more natives to be sold as slaves.  In 1514 the Spanish conquerors adopted “The Requirement” which forced the natives to convert to Christianity and accept it as their ruler or they would be persecuted.  The conquerors often read this without translation and before they reached land.  This clearly gave the relationship between natives and Europeans a rocky start.

In 1607, Jamestown was founded.  When they arrived, the Europeans stole the Native Americans land, food, and murdered many of them.  In response, the Powhatans attacked them.  They were extremely threatening because they were the only tribe who had proven to be capable of forcing the English off their land.  John Rolfe and Pocahontas got married in 1614 with the blessing of Pocahontas’s father, the chief of the Powhatans.  Their relationship helped make peace between the Powhatans and English.

More English settlers arrived and founded the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620.  This was home to a few Native American tribes including the Wampanoags and Pawtuxets.  Stephen Hopkins was the only person on the Mayflower who had been to the Americas before.  He had been a castaway in Bermuda and then sailed to Jamestown where he learned some of the Algonquian language.  Although the languages were different, Hopkins’ knowledge helped the pilgrims communicate with the Native Americans there.  With the help of Squanto, an English-speaking Native American, the English learned how to plant corn and where to fish and hunt.  This led to the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621.  Squanto also helped mediate between native leaders like Massasoit and the pilgrims.  After Squanto’s death in 1622, other tribes became angry that the English and Native Americans relationship was interfering with the natives’ relationships with each other.  This ultimately led to further conflicts like King Philips War in 1675.  The war was between Metacom (King Philip), son of Massasoit, and the English settlers.  In proportion to the population, this war is the deadliest in American history with the Native Americans losing 60 to 80 percent of their population.

Between 1756 and 1763, the French and Indian War happened.  This was a war between the French and British over land.  Both sides had Native American allies.  The British won which created more conflict between them and the natives who had fought with the French.  In New France, or Canada, the relationship between the settlers and natives was much better.  This is mainly because the French gave the Algonquians firearms which they used to fight the Iroquois.  Also, there were less settlers in New France and the cold climate prevented them from moving and taking more of the natives’ land.

In conclusion, the relationships between Europeans and Native Americans have varied.  Although there have been many dark and violent moments, there have also been those of peace.  These relationships helped shape the United States.  Early settlers would not have been able to survive without the Native Americans and start the powerful country that is known today.  Also, leaders can learn from the mistakes and violence that occurred in the past to prevent future conflicts.  Overall the Americas would not be the same without the relationships between the Native Americans and Europeans.










A Stranger Among Saints: Stephen Hopkins, the man who survived Jamestown and saved Plymouth