Impact of European Imperialism on Native American Indian Nations
Native American Indians –Who Are They?
Theories about the origin of Native American Indians have changed throughout the past several decades. Most recently, genetic and anthropological evidence seem to concur that most Native Americans descended from people who migrated from Siberia across the Bering Strait and walked across the land bridge through Alaska and Canada approximately 15,000 years ago.
There is much controversy about the exact time and route. Other possibilities for the origin of Native American Indians have also been proposed. Some anthropologists believe that they may have been sea men and arrived in boats. Some believe that migration was in several successive waves and then they spread out and moved into various geographic locations of North, Central and South America.
Due to physical traits of human remains that resemble Australian Aborigines, some anthropologists have hypothesized that Siberians were preceded by people from Oceania who sailed across the Pacific Ocean or by other means much earlier.
When Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of San Salvador in the Caribbean in 1492, he believed that he had reached India. He named the indigenous people Indians. Native American is used to describe these populations today.
Generally, the value system of the Native American Indians is expressed in “four commandments from the Great Spirit”:
1. Respect Mother Earth,
2. Respect the Great Spirit,
3. Respect our fellow man and woman,
4. Respect for individual freedom (“Native American Culture”).
Contact Between Europeans and Native American Indians
European colonization of the American continent permanently changed the culture and lives of Native Americans. Some tribes, like the Arawaks of Haiti that numbered over 2,500,000, encountered Columbus and became extinct in less than 100 years. They were enslaved, raped, scalped and lynched. Many were killed in wars. They were ravaged by diseases such as measles, chicken pox and small pox to which they had no immunity. It has been estimated that over 80% of many tribes died from diseases brought by Europeans (“Native Americans”).
When the Indians did not immediately see the advantages of the White men’s ways, children were forcibly removed from the tribes by soldiers and sent to boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their native language. Their long hair and braids were cut off. They wore uniforms and were subjected to discipline that involved verbal and physical abuse (“Genocide of Native Americans”). The children were indoctrinated with colonial ideology, interrupting the generational transmission of cultural values. These strategies resulted in loss of cultural identity, alienation, drinking, loss of control over their destiny and relationships, violence and suicides (“Genocide of Native Americans”).
Two Tribes –The Apache and the Sioux Nations’ Humanitarian Way of Life
The Apache, the Sioux and nearly all other Native Americans take an ecological view of the Earth and perceive man in a sacred relationship with nature. To the Native American Indian, the environment is sacred, home to all life forms. The Earth must be protected, nurtured and worshipped (“Genocide of Native Americans”). Indians, in general, value cooperation, honesty, sacrifice for others, generosity, tranquility, submission and obedience (Solis, 1975). Indian spirituality lacks conflict and dualism. Their languages expresses the oneness of all things...God is Mother Earth, Corn Mother, the Great Spirit nourishes all…an invisible force that permeates the entire universe and orders the cycles of birth and death for all living things.” Further, most American Indians attribute supernatural qualities to animals, dead ancestors, heavenly bodies, geologic formations and the seasons. The world is divine.
Their name “Apache” means “fighting-men”. The Apache were warriors, masters of guerilla warfare tactics. They lived in the desert region of the southwestern United States. They would often band together with other tribes in the area to fight common enemies. The Apache lived an isolated nomadic way of life. Because the arid desert environment was so harsh and resources were scarce, most activities were focused on survival.