Aboriginal/ European Contact Essay

Various events during ‘contact’ had lasting impacts on the First Nations. The notion of wealth, the growing dependence on Europeans, and Smallpox were all events that had lasting impacts on the First Nations culture even to this day. A large impact on Aboriginal peoples was their growing dependency on European culture. Tobacco was considered a sacred medicine and the First Nations people relied on the Europeans to provide it for them.

The First Nations became extrememly dependent on the Europeans for items they had never had before and were considered luxuries. Sewing needles, glass or ceramic beads, axes, guns, flour, tea, iron pots and cloth were some of the goods they received from the European traders. The standard living improved until later on when the First Nations shifted from relying on the environment to relying on the European goods which led to many problems.

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Indigenous people, who have never experienced certain diseases, have never had the opportunity to build up an immunity to them. This had a huge impact of the First Nations peoples when the Europeans brought over “Smallpox”. Smallpox was easily spread, either through direct contact with someone who had been infected, or by a carrier, someone who had the disease yet never displayed symptoms. In 1789, there was an epidemic, and even more surprising was the fact that there was evidence that the natives had had smallpox before.

Once the native Australians met and traded with the Macassans in the north, they traveled to their home regions, carrying smallpox with them, until it finally appeared in the southeast regions. Further epidemics were noted in 1820, 1830, 60 and 70. The influx of smallpox was devastating to the Aboriginal people, wiping out 90% of the First Nations population. It was an ailment that they were not prepared for, and their native medicines couldn’t cure. The notion of wealth is another significant impact on First Nations peoples as a result of the European contact.

After the European fur companies were established, attitudes of the First Nations changed. Goods or wealth began to determine a person’s position in society. Disputes and violence between First Nations broke out over hunting and trapping territories. However, to this day, this distribution of wealth is still very much a part of many First Nations’ cultural practices. Material goods are given to other community members in various ways such as ‘Powwows’.

Another example of the wealth distribution is the sharing of wild meat between First Nations communities, where hunters offer meat to neighbours or elders in the community. After the relationship between the First Nations and Europeans was established, the Europeans had a lasting impact on the First Nations culture. The Europeans brought with them deadly diseases, a new way of life that influenced how the First Nations people perceived wealth and made the First Nations dependent on the European way of life.