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Were the Europeans Correct in Thinking That the Native Americans Were Civilized

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National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763

“You know, we are different Nations and have different Ways.”
European Americans and Native Americans View Each Other, 1700-1775
In British America, there was no greater sense of Otherness than between Europeans and Native Americans. Both Indians and Africans represented the "other" to white colonists, but the Indians held one card denied to the enslaved Africans— autonomy. As sovereign entities, the Indian nations and the European colonies (and countries) often dealt as peers. In trade, war, land deals, and treaty negotiations, Indians held power and used it. As late as 1755, an English trader asserted that "the prosperity of our Colonies on the Continent will stand 1 or fall with our Interest and favour among them." Here we canvas the many descriptions of Indians by white colonists and Europeans, and sample the sparse but telling record of the Native American perspective on Europeans and their culture in pre-revolutionary eighteenth-century British America. All come to us, of course, through the white man's eye, ear, and pen. Were it not for white missionaries, explorers, and frontier negotiators (the go-betweens known as "wood's men"), we would have a much sparser record of the Indian response to colonists and their "civilizing" campaigns.


Royal Library of Denmark

“The natives, the so-called savages”
Francis Daniel Pastorius, Pennsylvania, 1700
Pastorius was the founder of German Town, the first German settlement in Pennsylvania.

Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck “The supreme commander of the Yuchi Indian nation, whose name is Kipahalgwa” Georgia, 1736

The natives, the so-called savages . . . they are, in general, strong, agile, and supple people, with blackish bodies. They went about naked at first and wore only a cloth about the…...

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