The interactions between Anglo-Europeans and Native Americans can be describe laconically in one word – misunderstanding, the misunderstanding of cosmic proportions that was rarely breached by the instances of dialogue between these two highly different mentalities, cultures, and civilizations. What is most sad in this entire history of relations is that it were the Europeans who were mostly in the wrong. They perceived the Indians as savages, inferior beings who were devoid of religion and were as removed from European civilization as humanely possible. They were not considered rightful masters of the lands in the New World. Their interests were never taken into account. Bloodshed between European colonists and the Indians became usual business in no time.
The unjust savage vision of Europeans is apparent with the very first document which contains excerpts from the memories of Alvar Nunez Cavaza de Vaca. “They eat earth and wood, and all that there is … that were there stones in that land they would eat them.” A gruesome impression they make indeed. And yet it were the Indians who were appalled at the instance of cannibalism among colonists to the point that they thought of killing all remaining once for such an atrocious crime. The accent is not made on colonists-cannibals but on savages who eat “dung of deer.” Such an approach explicitly illustrates why there could never be any hope for understanding between the two different mindsets. One curious account of the Indian woman who was about to be given to the carnivorous hound shows that the Indians had remarkable understanding of nature, both flora and fauna. Otherwise, how is it possible to explain the woman’s miraculous, almost Biblical saving from the murderous creature? The phrase “please, my Lord Dog” showcases the amount of piety that the Indians constantly exhibited towards nature, the primary source of food and other valuable materials. All historical accounts present nomadic hunting tribes which were predominant in Northern America and the islands of the Caribbean region.
As far as the relations between settlers from England, they were not as hostile initially due to Puritans being of strict religious upbringing and vision. Unlike conquistadors, they valued hard work and piety towards God first and foremost. Therefore, before the settlers started needing more lands, there were not many conflicts between them and the Indian tribes. As proven by the count from a Journal of the Pilgrims of Plymouth, 1622 the Indians’ local King Massasoit went as far as to make gifts to the governor, captain, and other personas occupying administrative positions. Sharing with the European newcomers was not a problem at the start. In some cases, even in 1622 the relations were far more strained as was the case in Jamestown area, when the Indians “barbarously murdered men, women, and children with no regard to age or sex” according to the Records of the Virginia company. Indians in those areas were far more reluctant to give up their lands and understood the threat that the settlers brought with them – the threat of conquer.
The misunderstanding also continued due to the Europeans’ constant feeling of self-righteousness and superiority. Micmac Indian asked a very uncomfortable question in 1677: “For if France … is a little terrestrial paradise, art thou sensible to leave it? And why abandon wives, children, relatives, and friends?” Many Indians understood that Europeans are in no way superior and in many ways less happy if they had to move from the other side of the world in hope of a better life. Yet Europeans constantly marched on believing that the truth and God is on their side. Christianity was one of the most powerful engines behind the perseverance of European colonists. Religion gave colonists confidence that they could never be wrong.
It is clear that the relations between the Indians and Europeans could never be resolved peacefully due to the astonishing arrogance of the latter, who refused to understand and accept the Indian cultures for what they were without trying to compare them against European ways and traditions. Ongoing misunderstanding was the primary factor, which led to military confrontations and subsequent bloodshed which continued to various capacities until the end of the 19th century.