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The thoughts and perspectives of indigenous individuals, especially those who lived during the 15th through 19th centuries, have survived in written form less often than is optimal for the historian. Because such documents are extremely rare, those interested in the Native American past also draw information from traditional artsfolk literaturefolklorearchaeologyand other sources. Native American history is made additionally complex by the diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds of the peoples involved.
As one would expect, indigenous American farmers living in stratified societies, such as the Natchezengaged with Europeans differently than did those who relied on hunting and gathering, such as the Apache. Likewise, Spanish conquistadors were engaged in a fundamentally different kind of colonial enterprise than were their counterparts from France or England.
The sections below consider broad trends in Native American history from the late 15th century to the late 20th century. More-recent events are considered in the final part of this article, Developments in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Scholarly estimates of the pre-Columbian population of Northern America have differed by millions of individuals: the lowest credible approximations propose that somepeople lived north of the Rio Grande inand the highest posit some 18, In anthropologist James Mooney undertook the first thorough investigation of the problem.
He estimated the precontact population density of each culture area based on historical s and carrying capacityan estimate of the of people who could be supported by a given form of subsistence. Mooney concluded that approximately 1, individuals lived in Northern America at the time of Columbian landfall. In A. In ethnohistorian Henry Dobyns estimated that there were between 9, and 12, people north of the Rio Grande before contact; in he revised that upward to 18, people.
Dobyns was among the first scholars to seriously consider the effects of epidemic diseases on indigenous demographic change. He noted that, during the reliably recorded epidemics of the 19th century, introduced diseases such as smallpox had combined with various secondary effects i.
He then used this and other information to calculate from early census data backward to probable founding populations. Some of his critics fault Dobyns for the disjunctions between physical evidence and hisas when the of houses archaeologists find at a site suggests a smaller population than do his models of demographic recovery.
Others, including the historian David Henige, criticize some of the assumptions Dobyns made in his analyses. For instance, many early fur traders noted the approximate of warriors fielded by a tribe but neglected to mention the size of the general population. This group notes that severe epidemics of European diseases may have begun in North America in the late 10th or early 11th century, when the Norse briefly settled a region they called Vinland.
Yet another group of demographers protest that an emphasis on population loss Looking for my native queen the resilience shown by indigenous peoples in the face of conquest. Most common, however, is a middle position that acknowledges that demographic models of 15th-century Native America must be treated with caution, while also accepting that the direct and indirect effects of the European conquest included extraordinary levels of indigenous mortality not only from introduced diseases but also from battles, slave raids, and—for those displaced by these events—starvation and exposure.
Looking for my native queen perspective acknowledges both the resiliency of Native American peoples and cultures and Looking for my native queen suffering they bore. Determining the of ethnic and political groups in pre-Columbian Northern America is also problematic, not least because definitions of what constitutes an ethnic group or a polity vary with the questions one seeks to answer. Ethnicity is most frequently equated with some aspect of languagewhile social or political organization can occur on a of scales simultaneously.
Thus, a given set of people might be defined as an ethnic group through their use of a common dialect or language even as they are recognized as members of nested polities such as a clana village, and a confederation. Other factors, including geographic boundaries, a subsistence base that emphasized either foraging or farming, the presence or absence of a social or religious hierarchyand the inclinations of colonial bureaucratsamong others, also affected ethnic and political classification; see Sidebar: The Difference Between a Tribe and a Band.
The cross-cutting relationships between ethnicity and political organization are complex today and were equally so in the past. And both the hypothetical Germanic speaker and the hypothetical Iroquoian speaker live or lived in nested polities or quasi-polities: families, neighbourhoods, towns, regions, and so forth, each of which has or had some level of autonomy in its dealings with the outside world.
Recognizing that it is difficult to determine precisely how many ethnic or political groups or polities were present in 15th-century Northern America, most researchers favour relative rather than specific quantification of these entities. The outstanding characteristic of North American Indian languages is their diversity—at contact Northern America was home to more than 50 language families comprising between and languages.
At the same moment in history, western Europe had only 2 language families Indo-European and Uralic and between 40 and 70 languages. In other words, if one follows scholarly conventions and defines ethnicity through language, Native America was vastly more diverse than Europe. Politicallymost indigenous American groups used consensus-based forms of organization. In such systems, leaders rose in response to a particular need rather than gaining some fixed degree of power.
The Southeast Indians and the Northwest Coast Indians were exceptions to this general rule, as they most frequently lived in hierarchical societies with a clear chiefly class. Regardless of the form of organization, however, indigenous American polities were quite independent when compared with European communities of similar size.
Just as Native American experiences during the early colonial period must be framed by an understanding of indigenous demography, ethnic diversityand political organization, so must they be contextualized by the social, economic, political, and religious changes that Looking for my native queen taking place in Europe at the time. These changes drove European expansionism and are often discussed as part of the centuries-long transition from feudalism to industrial capitalism see Western colonialism.
Many scholars hold that the events of the early colonial period are inextricably linked to the epidemics of the Black Deathor bubonic plaguethat struck Europe between and Looking for my native queen Perhaps 25 million people, about one-third of the populationdied during this epidemic. The population did not return to preplague levels until the early s. The intervening period was a time of severe labour shortages that enabled commoners to demand wages for their work.
Standards of living increased dramatically for a few generations, and some peasants were even able to buy small farms.
These were radical changes from the era, during which most people had been tied to the land and a lord through serfdom. These conflicts created intense local and regional hardship, as the roving brigands that constituted the military typically commandeered whatever they wanted from the civilian population. In the theatres of war, troops were more or less free to take over private homes and to impress people into labour ; faminerapeand murder were all too prevalent in these areas. Further, tax revenues could not easily be levied on devastated regions, even though continued military expenditures had begun to drain the treasuries of western Europe.
As treasuries were depleted, overseas trade beckoned. The Ottoman Empire controlled the overland routes from Europe to South Asiawith its markets of spices and other commercially lucrative goods. Seeking to establish a sea route to the region, the Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator sponsored expeditions down the Atlantic coast of Africa. Later expeditions attempted to reach the Indian Oceanbut they were severely tested by the rough seas at the Cape of Good Hope.
Christopher Columbus had been a member of several such voyages and proposed an alternativetransatlantic route; in he requested the sponsorship of John IIthe king of Portugalwho refused to support an exploratory journey. Iberia was a hotbed of activity at the time. Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castille had begun to unify their kingdoms through their marriagebut they were soon forced to resolve bitter challenges to their individual ascensions. Eventually quelling civil war, the devout Roman Catholic sovereigns initiated the final phase of the Reconquista, pitting their forces against the last Moorish stronghold, Grenada.
The city fell in Januaryan event Columbus reportedly witnessed. The seemingly endless military and police actions to which Ferdinand and Isabella had been party had severely depleted their financial reserves.
Having lost so many of its best minds, Spain faced a very slow economic recovery, if it was to recover at all. Although Columbus did not find a route with which to sidestep Ottoman trade hegemonyhis journey nonetheless opened the way to overseas wealth. Spain used American resources to restore its imperiled economy, a strategy that was soon adopted by the other maritime nations of Europe as well.
Native American. Fast Facts. Videos Images. Additional Info. Load. Native American history The thoughts and perspectives of indigenous individuals, especially those who lived during the 15th through 19th centuries, have survived in written form less often than is optimal for Looking for my native queen historian. Powhatan village of Secoton, colour engraving by Theodor de Bry,after a watercolour drawing by John White, c. Suspected Protestants being tortured as heretics during the Spanish Inquisition.
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