Before any Europeans “discovered” the New World, there was already an abundance of people living on the land, carrying on mostly peaceful existences. These people were what we know as Native Americans. Their lives were abruptly intruded when European explorers first set foot on their homelands. The Europeans that made contact with these people included the Spanish, the English, and the French. Each one of these groups had a different kind of relationship with these native people.
The best and least abrasive relationship with the natives was that of the French, the English were a bit worse, and the Spanish were the most destructive. The French came as closer to treating the Amerindians as equals than any European group did. Instead of viewing them as barbaric invalids, they made alliances with certain groups and commerced with them just as they would civilized men. The Fur Trade business was the largest contributing factor to the healthy relationship between the French and Amerindians.
The Iroquois League and the Apache tribe were virtually France’s only native enemies, and that was simply due to their alliances with opposing tribes. These good graces between the two peoples continued on until the French and Indian War of 1754. France’s relationship with the native people of America was, by far, better than those of the English and Spanish. English settlers and explorers were not as amicable to the natives as the French were. All was well when first the English arrived on the foreign soil without any idea of how to survive and in desperate need of guidance.
The Amerindians, being a mostly friendly people, were of great succor to the early English settlers. They taught them how to plant staple crops, showed them how to hunt, and revealed the secrets that were vital to living in the area to them. Soon after the English had gotten on their feet and established themselves, they turned on the natives. They viewed these people who were there long before them as burdens that were only taking up precious space on their land. They began to shun and isolate the Amerindians, gradually pushing them further and further westward, away from their homes.
There were wars waged between the settlers and Native Americans over this. This was, sadly, a recurring theme in most of the English colonies. The relationship between these two groups of people was, of course, very strained. The English people’s association with the natives could not rival the French’s, but was still much less atrocious than the Spanish’s. When the Spanish arrived on native territory, the lives of these people changed drastically. No longer were they allowed peaceful lives, and no longer were they allowed to have things the way that they were.
A system called Encomienda was put into place by Spanish “missionaries”. This system, created by corrupt Spanish catholics, was employed to enslave the Native Americans in exchange for the “gift” of conversion to Catholicism. The people were treated horribly, and unspeakable atrocities, usually resulting in a painful death, were the consequences of refusal to convert. One example of the inconceivably cruel treatment of the natives was the aftermath of the Battle of Acoma.
The Native Americans, fed up with being enslaved and abused by the Spanish invaders, attempted to revolt and escape the hands of the conquerers. They were not successful, and they paid dearly for that. The Spanish killed a large percentage of the Natives that rebelled, and cut off the feet of the surviving portion. These gruesome punishments were no rare happening in Spanish settlements. The Spanish, by a wide margin, treated the Natives with the least compassion of any European settlers in America.
The Native Americans were put through many trials and tribulations by the European invaders. There was much pain, suffering, and sorrow for these unfairly treated people, but there was also enhancement to their lives from some Europeans. The French, trading furs and making alliances with the Amerindians, were the most kind to these people; the English, pushing the Natives away from their homes and waging wars out of greed, were a median in the groups compared; and the Spanish were, without contest, the most cruel to the native people of America.