3: Religious, Philosophic, Political, and Historical
Views that the Colonists Brought to North America and
to the Revolution, and Cherokee and Other Native American
Views and Responses.
below is divided into three parts, an Introduction poses the question
of whether readers can understand the dual life of American Cherokee
Indians. The second part looks at the European Background that settlers
brought to North America. The third part looks to the Native American
and Cherokee background as they encountered the white settlers.
This part concludes with a further attempt to understand the dual
life and views of Native Americans and Europeans.
How did the
beliefs and philosophies of Europeans predetermine their reactions
to Native peoples in the Western Hemisphere?
and philosophies helped determine Native American responses to the
did Western Hemisphere life ways have on European intellectuals?
How did the
encounter between natives and Europeans shape the views of each
this lesson, students will be able to:
the kind of dual life that Native Americans lead
some of the important beliefs, ideals, and stories that European
settlers brought with them to North America.
some of the ways in which Native Americans were likely to view
their relationship to the earth, to nature, and to a landscape
to The Encounter Between Native Americans and Europeans.
Since I am part
Creek, I would like to begin in my own language, Creek, with its
own name: Mvskoke opvnakv. Next, I’d like to introduce myself:
Holatte hulwvke cehocefkvt (My name is Blue). When I identify myself
as Creek, I say, Hvmken este cute Mvskoke (“I'm Creek Indian”).
Language, of course, is passed down to us. No one is born speaking
any particular language and, so, it is important that my parents,
family, and my nation taught me how to speak in my own language.
It is good to remember this at the beginning of any lecture, so
I say, Mvto vcululke (“My thanks to all that has gone before
When we begin
to talk about Indian history, sooner or later we must confront the
fact that Indians were here first. That means that the Creek, the
Cherokee, the Seminole, Iroquois and many other Native American
nations and tribes were here long before any explorations, intrusions
or settlement by white settlers and later immigrants. For thousands
of years, the Americas had been nearly untouched from outside influences.
The Native populace lived unaffected from isolated African and Asian
contacts. The Norse colony after AD 900 had no lasting impact. Any
European migrations, such as the Solutrean from the Iberian peninsula
in Europe, were many thousands of years in the dim past.
developed without major contact with the Western Hemisphere. European
countries grew in population and developed technologies that expanded
their economies as well as their domains. They only gradually reached
out for overseas empires, first slowly groping their way along the
coast of Africa. Finally, in October of 1492 the Europeans made
contact with the Americas and those initial contacts became long-term
colonization. Eventually, Europeans either built vast empires or
founded new nations, like the United States and Canada, not to mention
all the nations of Central and South America.
In Russia (later
the Soviet Union), China, Africa, India and Australia similar expansions
occurred, with lesser and greater successes. But in Africa, India,
and China, by the mid-20th Century the European empires had disappeared
and many of the Europeans had returned home. By the late 20th Century,
the Soviet Union began to break apart and nations expressing the
names of area ethnic groups formed: for example, Kazakhstan, “the
stand (or place) of the Kazakhs.” Only in the Western Hemisphere
and Australia has this roll-back not occurred.
I say this because
it means that Native Americans live a kind of dual life: like me,
they are inheritors of or surrounded by Western Civilization and
languages and, like me and so many of my friends, they are inheritors
of what was passed down to them from their families and their Native
American nation or tribe. It is best to remember this dual life
when speaking about Native Americans and their encounter with European
civilization and culture. Each side of this encounter brought their
own cultural beliefs, customs, technology and philosophies. That
encounter has had reverberations down to the present. Perhaps if
we consider these, we can all receive a better understanding of
a dual life and the often unhappy history of the encounter between
these two continental peoples.
Background. The Bible is the most widely published book
in the world. Early Europeans, if they could afford to own a book,
would have owned a Bible, first. The Europeans knew their Bible,
though they had many different religious sects with many different
interpretations of it. They brought the ideas and stories of the
Bible with them to the Americas and to Native Americans.
One idea was
the Biblical migration of the Jews, out of the land of oppression
in the Egypt of the Pharaohs to the “promised land”
of Israel. These ideas can be seen if you read the Biblical selections
in the webliography provided at the end of this lesson
Christian idea was the “city on the hill,” the idea
that a new beginning for humans was possible in a new land. The
idea was that people could form a new kind of community. You can
get an idea of this by reading from John Winthrop’s “City
upon a Hill” speech of 1640 (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/winthrop.htm).
These ideas remained very much a part of the American settlers’
experience and religious convictions as the nation grew. And they
had both bad and good outcomes for Native Americans; e.g., Moravians
brought that evangelical spirit early to the Southeast of the U.
S. (1801), particularly in Georgia, where they had a lasting relationship
and influence with the Cherokee.
that does a very good job of describing the ideas that the Europeans
brought with them is by Alexander de Tocqueville, Democracy
in America. Tocqueville visited America in the early 19th Century
when much of European settlement was well established, when a few
of America’s Revolutionary leaders were still alive, and when
the depredations that Native Americans had suffered were still very
evident too. He could visit with Americans and learn of their hopes
and democratic yearnings. He could observe Native Americans, see
how they were expelled from lands that had been theirs, and understand
their despair and beliefs.
most important idea in Tocqueville’s book is the idea of equality,
the basis of democratic yearnings in Europeans. In your readings,
you can see that Tocqueville seems to think that for Europeans,
the idea of equality originated in the churches of the middle ages.
Tocqueville also argued that there were two great influences on
the settlers: “it is not the happy and the powerful who go
into exile [from Europe to America;] poverty with misfortune is
the best-known guarantee of equality among men.” And, “the
soil of America [in its difficulty of cultivation] absolutely rejected
a territorial aristocracy” (translated by George Lawrence,
Harper & Row, 1969.) In short, Europeans soon came to adopt
“a middle class and democratic freedom” even in their
earliest colonies (see the webliography citation below.)
One other important
development in Europe greatly facilitated the expansion of European
peoples. This was the growth of technology. There appear to be three
emphases: transportation, production in both agriculture and simple
technologies that turned agricultural products into finished products
(e.g., the spinning wheel), and military technology. (You might
the latter is a detailed account of steel-making for tools used
in very early colonial settlements.) Of particular importance was
the development of ocean-going ships. (You may wish to get an overview,
with a good bibliography at http://www.baronyofvatavia.org/articles/artsci/medships2005as39-40.php).
Many of these technological innovations were actually imports from
other cultures but their combined effect in Western Europe led to
heretofore unheard of technological advances making exploration,
settling, and conquests a real possibility.
If we look to
the Middle Ages/Renaissance background of Europeans, and if we do
not count the first Viking settlements about 900 AD that had been
withdrawn from the continent subsequently, we see that outward expansion
begins after AD 1200, soon after the time Tocqueville ascribes to
the rise of the idea of equality. We see increasing conflict among
European nations and, with the plague, a population which had declined
in the 14th Century by nearly 1/3. From the Iberian Peninsula, there
was a gradual reaching out, first to islands off the Atlantic coast,
and then down into Africa. Trade was a major motivation for outward
expansion. By the 1490s Europeans had arrived in the Western Hemisphere.
After 1502, Europeans arrived in India and South Asia, opening vast
Asian markets. The Portuguese used force to secure trade with South
Asia. Perhaps the greatest example of European expansionism and
this search for markets is Magellan's circumnavigating voyage in
1519-1522. A sailor on that voyage who brought back a 17-pound sack
of cinnamon from Asia could sell it in Europe for enough to buy
himself a ship and become his own captain.
raiding and trading along the coast of Africa established preconceived
notions about darker-skinned people as enemies and these ideas were
brought to the new world. Shakespeare's final play "The Tempest"
was performed in 1611. In the play, the script raises the image
of a “Brave New World" with Trinculo speaking of kidnapped
native exotic people being displayed in freak shows.
search on find function using ‘brave new world’ and
period there were a series of religious cataclysms that shook European
societies. Martin Luther and John Calvin and the rise of Protestantism
created internal turmoil within Christianity. And this turmoil was
a very important reason that Europeans migrated. They sought a freedom
from persecution for their group. Many settlers came, escaping religious
persecution, while still enforcing orthodoxy within their own colonies,
and, thus, the turmoil was brought to the new world.
argued that no aristocracy developed in America, still the settlers
did bring ideas of rank, privilege, and duty, particularly to the
lord of the manor, with them. These ideas included the notion that
serfs and commoners serve those above them. Behind this ranking
was a hierarchical order: the great chain of being, with God at
the top of the chain. Yet, hierarchical patterning of human society
was not simply a religious set of ideas. Aristotle pointed out that
there are a few leaders and a great mass of followers. European
settlers were, of course, very much aware of lords of the manor
and the economic poverty which being a peasant on a lord’s
land meant. Not strangely, while trying to escape those patterns
of poverty, they did bring with them the sense of hierarchy which
they had lived with so long. Later, paternalism became a persistent
theme emphasized in Federal Indian law in the United States.
Two ideas helped to break old patterns of oppression, while bringing
new ideas and problems with them, too. The idea of individualism
was strongly linked to capitalism. The early trading of mercantilism,
mentioned above, gave way to the development of capitalism by mid
19th Century in America. Behind this, lay the desire for the acquisition
of private property and accumulation of wealth. Philosophers such
as John Locke, who were influential among American Revolutionary
founders, had seen this natural desire as both an opportunity and
a problem for individuals congregating as a people living together.
You may see this problem and Locke’s solution in reading his
chapter, “Of Property” (Chapter V, Second Treatise;
see the webliography, below.)
and some of the problems were evident from the first settlements.
Jamestown was founded 1607 as a venture of a joint-stock company
for profit. (The East Indian Co. followed with tea and other cargo;
its red-and-white-striped corporate flag is one model for the Stars
and Stripes later.) And, while Jamestown was generally a failure,
the seizure of Indian lands was not. This seizure was accomplished
through force, technology, and rationalizations, which will be discussed
below, under Encounter.
American Background. Many of the documents that support
this background, particularly those about the views of the natural
world, can be found in Unit 2, particularly Lesson 2. I encourage
you to use those materials. In addition, one view of the coming
of the white man from a Cherokee perspective can be found in the
Elohi (see the webliography below).
World. Native Americans tended to center on
oneness with the universe. Humans are just another contending species.
Native Americans tended to stress unity with the natural world rather
than separation from it. This leads to seeing a need for harmony
in the universe. The Tonkawas' Gray Wolf, the culture hero of that
central Texas tribe, cautioned them that if they ever took up agriculture,
they would cease to exist, because they were hunters. The implication
is that hunting was more of a oneness than agriculture. On the other
hand, some Cherokee stories do stress the relation of their people
to agriculture. For both views, you might look at Unit 2 materials
on origin stories. You might also wish to compare this to Locke’s
discussion in “Of Property.”
tended to stress living for the community or the group. Individuality
was frowned upon. One served the larger community; if not, the community
would eventually cease to exist. Here, you might investigate evidence
and different expressions of this emphasis on the group in Unit
1, Lesson 2 materials about the organization of Cherokee communities.
The community depended on everyone’s help to survive and the
focus of attention was on the group; conversely, there usually was
not individual, but rather, group training.
and freedom. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher,
was enthralled with his understanding of the utter freedom that
native people possessed in their beliefs and actions. He incorporated
his view of their situation and his conception of their equality
into his ideas regarding political freedom and liberty. He saw their
social organization as having no kings, no hereditary privileges,
no royalty – no onerous king, queen, vassals or serfs. If
we examine the historical records of Cherokee which, though after
contact, nevertheless reflect their traditions of social organizations,
you find a complex historical situation. There is not one chief,
but many, and there is not one Cherokee nation, but many Cherokee
towns. Chiefs are important leaders, but they do not have powers
of a king. (For further inquiry, see Unit
1, Lesson 2.) Throughout these towns there were traditional
ways of deciding important issues such as war and peace. You might
wish to look at Woodward or Mooney (in the webliography
below) on Cherokee council and deliberation practices and weigh
for yourself what made the Cherokee democratic.
Between Native Americans and Europeans
1492 changes everything. It is one of the most important events
on the globe. For one thing, it opens up the Western Hemisphere
for European settlement and exploitation.
until well after Europeans were established in the Western Hemisphere,
there are few Native American accounts of first contacts, cooperation,
and conflict. Still, some of our better records of the encounter
come from the Spanish conquests of Central and South America. The
Spanish had a debate over the nature of these new exotic peoples,
who were not mentioned in the Bible. During the conquest of Caribbean
islands and Central America, reports of rapine by Spanish troops
had upset the Queen. She appealed to the King who, in turn, asked
Gonzalo Fernandez Oviedo y Valdes to argue a defense of the conquest.
He wrote "A General and Natural History of the Things of New
Spain." In it, he noted that when the harquebus (early rifle)
shot a bullet out of the barrel, the smoke rising upward was incense
offered to please God because another sinner (native enemy) had
been killed and that soul sent to Hell. Gonzalo wrote that sincere
Christians were pleased.
The debate prompted
by the Spanish conquest was complex. Bartolome de Las Casas defended
the Indian peoples as innocents, rather than as sinners. Francisco
de Vitoria at the University of Salamanca in Spain formulated in
the 1530s a series of statements that formed the basis for modern
international law. He held that Spain had the right to be in the
New World (called the right to sojourn -- the basis for later free
trade doctrine), to re-supply, and while doing so to preach the
gospel. If parents attacked Spaniards for trying to convert native
children, then the Spanish had the right to defend themselves. (This
position became the basis for just war theory). But, Vitoria also
added that native peoples were human beings who had basic rights.
He also added that neither Spanish royalty nor the Roman Catholic
Pope had any right to claim native lands for Spain or any other
European country since the natives owned the land they occupied.
(For further background on Vittoria’s position and this European
debate, see the bibliography below.)
One factor at
the time played a crucial role in the success of conquest. Because
of imported diseases brought by Europeans, the Western Hemisphere
Native Americans were ravaged during the time which they were actively
fighting off the invaders. In the end, disease and technological
advantages combined with a determination to use force to conquer
so that, at the time, Native Americans could not expel European
occupiers, as Asia and Africa attempted to do later.
A story to be
picked up in Unit 4 is the adjustment of Native American nations
and tribes to the government of Europeans and the steady pressure
upon the lands that they had occupied since time immemorial. One
outcome of European settlement was the expression of Indian anger
at the taking of lands – put into terms of argument that Europeans
themselves used. It is useful, thus, to see the dual life of Indians,
after the Encounter and while they were being evicted from their
land. You might wish to look at Tecumseh’s speech on the “red
men unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land”
in Meredith’s A Short History of Native Americans in the
United States. (For this and other versions of Tecumseh’s
speech, see the webliography, below.) Another illustration
of the dual life, which you might like to compare to Tecumseh’s
view, is found in Cherokee Chief Old Tassel’s reply to colonial
demands for more lands. (See the webliography, below.)
One odd way to see both the differing points of view about nature,
technology, and even parts and wholes of one’s surroundings
is to “role play” in an effort to think like a Native
American and think like a European. The following example is from
the 19th Century. Draw a steam engine pulling cars. Put in the smoke
coming out of the stack, and in the background draw a few hills
and a few trees. Now, when a European looks at your picture, what
does the European tend to see? Or, put differently, if you show
your picture – the whole drawing – to a European and
ask, “what is this?” what answer will you get? How will
a Native American look at and try to make sense of your same picture?
Two such thought
experiments were actually done in the 19th Century as part of a
casual meeting of Cheyenne and some white educators. The Cheyenne
did not see “a train.” Rather, they saw all the surroundings
and tried to make sense of the relationship between the train and
the surroundings. In these encounters, after thinking about it,
Native Americans tended to see technology as mysterious and magical.
On the other hand, at a military prison in the mid-1870s where some
Indians had been detained, several happened to witness a woman teacher
who was pulling out her dentures (her set of false teeth). The Indians
were horrified and complained that the woman was not a “good”
person because she was not whole, she was missing parts of herself.
As it turns out, the teacher had a companion, Harriet Beecher Stowe,
the famous author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who was gagging
with laughter over both her companion’s teeth and the Indian’s
reaction to their removal. If the Indian saw technology as magic,
the Western European saw a complaint about the false teeth as laughable.
We can sum up
simply: Native Americans had no concept of industrial strength;
technological developments like steam engines and false teeth were
magic and mystery. Europeans were used to producing such technological
wonders; they constantly developed new ones and were comfortable
with them. On the other hand, Native Americans had a nearly sacred
sense of both the wholeness of each person, as well as a well-developed
sense of the relationship of each item in a visual field to the
whole of the field. Europeans were, on the other hand, building
railroads that cut straight across the land and cities that not
only rose into the sky but later spread outward to gobble up large
tracts of land, with little regard to the environment’s contours
or its natural development. They developed medical processes and
procedures which helped people, but were hardly natural. These dual
views have not died away since the 19th Century. We are, now, very
much concerned with the environment, what our part should be in
it, how we are to live within it. Not only have natural medicines
come to complement Western medicines, but we work on ways of exercise
and therapy to restore natural functioning as completely as possible.
Such may be part of the dual life that all of us are leading, now.
Oklahoma City University
invited to use not only the lecture but the many textual sources
provided by this lesson to form their views.
Form an opinion:
Is the lecturer saying having a dual vision is an advantage or that
people should have only one view? Are there problems in either position?
stories of origin and wandering (e.g., in the Elohi and
the Bible) that the Cherokee and the settlers knew from their own
traditions. Can you understand why each group might act in certain
ways from the stories they know? You should feel free to use Unit
2 materials as well as the materials in the webliography, below.
Did Native Americans
and European Settlers have similar or different ideas about either
property or freedom? Begin with the lecture and, then, read and
interpret sources provided by this lesson in the webliography below
to answer this question.
How did Europeans
regard Indian rights to land and to protection of person? Was there
one view or many and can you outline and explain one or more views?
What do you
think the point of the stories about the teeth and the picture is?
Does this just have to do with two different points of view that
happened long ago, or is there something deeper about ways of life,
how two people can relate, or how two views can inhabit one person?
Question for Discussion or a Paper: Tying the Units together:
to be a suggestion in Unit 1 and 2 that the Cherokee both changed
over time to adapt European customs and to adopt European practices,
while still retaining their identity as Cherokee. Looking over all
three lessons, it would seem clear that Cherokees came to have their
“dual view” as both a people who are part of Western
Civilization, yet separate and distinct within it. What resources
have the last three units presented that make you think the Cherokee
could have adapted, adopted, and yet kept a dual view?
The texts are
arranged in terms of the approximate time-period of history that
they are treating:
Vision of Elohi. [Origin and Settlement] Ed. Howard Meredith
and Virginia Milam Sobral. Noksi Press, Oklahoma City, pp. 33-34,
which is one Cherokee of the settlement and defense by the Cherokee
of their lands. Link
to Cherokee Vision of Elohi document. Permission by Noksi Press
granted. For this and further titles, see: http://ahalenia.com/noksi/
for Biblical readings, www.sacred-texts.com/bib/index.htm.
Select the King James version, most frequently used by European
settlers during the period discussed.
Exodus and the story of a transition to a promised land
that the colonists brought with them: 1-4, God promises the land;
13:17 – 14:31, the Israelites leave Egypt, Israelite despair,
God’s protection; 19:1-20:21, the Israelites receive God’s
protection in exchange for obeying His covenant, including the Ten
Commandments; Numbers 13:1-28, the Israelites arrive a the promised
land; 33:50-56 the Lord instructs Moses to drive out the inhabitants
of the promised land.
Journal of Christopher Columbus http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/columbus1.html
and widely available online. The journal of Christopher Columbus
from his first voyage in 1492 commends the islands of the New World
as inviting: “… these lands are most fertile, temperate,
level and beautiful countries in the world…”
Fransico de Vitoria available at his entry at Wikipedia:
Students: be aware that Wikipedia articles can change their information
very freely. Therefore, it would be wise to cross-check what you
use and cite from this source with others, e.g.: http://www.bookrags.com/Francisco_de_Vitoria.
For those who read Spanish, http://www.tinet.org/~fqi_sp02/Vitoria.htm
John Locke. Second Treatise on Government,
Chapter 5, “Of Property,” NY: Macmillan Publishing Co,
1952, pp25-39. The Second Treatise is widely available on the internet.
Cherokee Vision of Elohi. [Coming of the White
Beings and Broken Unity of the Cherokee] Ed. Howard Meredith and
Virginia Milam Sobral. Noksi Press, Oklahoma City, pp. 36-38, which
is one Cherokee vision of the coming of the white race, involving
first contacts, trading, and later demands for lands. Link
to Cherokee Vision of Elohi document. Permission
by Noksi Press granted. For this and further titles, see: http://ahalenia.com/noksi/
James Mooney. Myths, pp. 250-252, “The Origin
of Disease and Medicine,” a Cherokee parable illustrating
the part rhetoric played in decision-making in Cherokee councils.
to Rhetoric Origin of Disease file.
Grace Steele Woodward, The Cherokees, pp. 40-45, on
Cherokee war council deliberations and the practices inside the
Council or Town House and the role of oratory. Also, on the role
of women in decision-making in the councils, at the time of contact
with European settlers. Link
to Woodward file.
“Speech of Onitositah” in “William
Tatham Wataugun” by Samuel Cole Williams, Tennessee Historical
Magazine, volume 7, issue 3, 1921, pp 176-178 Chief Old Tassel’s
reply to colonial demands for more lands. Link
to file of Old Tassel’s speech.
The Declaration of Independence. Widely available.
The Constitution of the United States, particularly
in its form around 1830. Most versions will indicate when amendments
were adopted, so determining the 1830 form is not too difficult.
Tecumseh’s 1810 speech on the “red men unite
in claiming a common and equal right in the land” without
rights to sell, in Howard Meredith, A Short History of the Native
Americans in the United States. Krieger Publishing, 2001. Materials
used by permission of Krieger (127-128). For a copy of the book,
. Meredith’s prefatory materials comment that “Tecumseh,
of Shawnee and Muscogee/Creek heritage, spoke to the assembled authorities
of the United States and tribal leaders at Vincennes, Indiana, concerning
the place of the American Indian tribal communities in North America.
In his speech, he challenged the concept of private property as
advanced by the Anglo-Americans in their movement into Indian country.
The encroachment of the Anglo-Americans into the Ohio River valley
region caused consternation among the tribes. Tecumseh sought to
unite all of the Indian tribes into a great force to curtail the
intrusion and better define the tribal right to their homelands.”
After reading either of the website versions of the speech, below,
consider the following: Is Tecumseh opposed to the idea of property?
Does Tecumseh think the idea of property is a settler’s idea?
Does he think Indians do have or should have a concept of property
For two textual versions, see:
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America,
available at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/toc_indx.html
Author’s Preface and pp. 9-12, the growth of the idea of equality
and its democratic and economic tendencies; Chapter 2, pp. 31-36,
the elements and origins of American democracy; pp. 38-47, the influence
of religion and law (that is, freedom) upon the early formation
of American civilization. Are equality, religion, and laws ideas
that are important? If you think so, which of these – if any
– seemed most important, according to de Tocqueville, to the
European settlers? Which, if any, seemed most important to the Native
John Marshall’s decision in Worcester v. Georgia.
Several sources are of use, here:
Howard Meredith, A Short History of the Native Americans
in the United States. Krieger Publishing, 2001. Materials used by
permission of Krieger. For a copy of the book, see www.krieger-publishing.com
Meredith notes in prefatory materials to excerpts from the decision
that “The Cherokee Nation and its allies, after being rebuffed
by the President, attempted to use the United States court system
to rectify the wrongs they perceived that were done to them. In
the case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) it was decided
that the United States Supreme Court could not bring an injunction
to prevent the State of Georgia from asserting its laws over that
of the Cherokee Nation. However, in the case of Worcester v.
Georgia (1832) the Supreme Court decided that the Cherokee
Nation was free from jurisdiction of Georgia law.” As a way
to begin to think about the decision, students are encouraged to
use the ‘thorpe’ website immediately below to find both
the paragraph where that freedom from jurisdiction seems indicated
and what the grounds were for any such freedom. Are there connections
to philosophy or constitutional principles in this Unit that might
help to understand the decision?
It is suggested that the student readers read the first four paragraphs
of the decision and, then, using the find function, search the character
string ‘Indian nations had always’ to resume reading
until the end of the decision. The second question at the end of
this document is useful for student assignments or exercises.
An extract-summary of the decision appears on p. 10. An interesting
classroom debate exercise is provided by the entire document.