Resilient Cultures : America's Native Peoples Confront European Colonization, 1500-1800

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2002-09-24
  • Publisher: Pearson
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This book provides a comparative perspective of the impact of early European colonization on the native peoples of the Americas. It covers the character of the indigenous cultures before contact, and then addresses the impact ofand creative ways in which they adapted tothe establishment of colonies by the Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English.Paying attention to environmental change, the book considers such issues as the nature of military conflicts, the cultural and material contributions of each side to the other, the importance of economic exchanges, and the demographic transformation.For individuals interested in the history of colonial America, colonial Latin America, and the American Indian.

Table of Contents

1. The Native Societies of the Americas before Contact.
2. The Coming of Humans to the Americas and the Agricultural Revolution.
3. The Conquests and Initial Establishment of Colonies in Latin America.
4. Colonial Spanish America and Its Impact on the Sedentary Imperial Societies.
5. Native Response to Settlement in the East and Southwest in North America.
6. The British and the Indians of Eastern North America.
7. Spanish and Portuguese Interactions with Tribal Peoples.
8. Enduring Connections between the New World and the Old.


The native peoples of the Americas numbered many millions when they first came into contact with persons from the Old World, but they soon suffered grievous losses in population from their initial exposure to a variety of epidemic diseases. Native peoples also often experienced casualties from military conflicts with the European settlers or against other indigenous societies who were responding to the unprecedented upheaval caused by the establishment of the early colonies. However, the devastation and adaptation that were very much part of this process did not erase the physical or cultural presence of the Indian peoples who continue to thrive in many nations in both North and South America. In Canada, the Iroquois flourish to this day, many practicing a distinctive religion that emerged over a century and a half after their initial contact with Europeans. In the eastern United States, over the past quarter century, native peoples have successfully asserted their rights to extensive bodies of land--or considerable compensation for the loss of them--under colonial treaties. Tribes once thought to have disappeared have in recent decades gained recognition of their existence from the federal government. In Latin America, native peoples living on their own land have endured, even sometimes prospered, to the present day. Some millions of people still speak indigenous languages as their primary means of communication. Written records in these languages date from very early in the colonial period and are still routinely generated in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia, just to mention some of the major Latin American cases. Native religious beliefs and rituals are widely practiced, sometimes having been incorporated into the Christian faith. A new generation of self-conscious indigenous intellectuals has recently emerged. Such individuals are currently changing the role of the Maya Indians in Guatemala, for example. In southern Mexico an Indian revolt has brought about widespread questioning of national policy toward native peoples and the natural resources they control. In Guatemala, a fragile peace has finally emerged, ending a thirty-year civil war that killed tens of thousands of Mayans and displaced many more. In the Amazon River basin in Brazil and Ecuador, hunting and gathering peoples who have never been firmly subordinated to national governments are fighting physically and legally to gain secure title to their traditional lands and prevent the intrusions of oil companies and gold miners. In the Andes, over the past half century, native villages have been asserting ownership as collectives over the lands they occupy, requiring the break-up of privately owned landed estates. This book explores the impact of the colonization of the Americas on the indigenous societies. It is explicitly comparative and seeks to explain how native cultures were transformed and adapted creatively to the unprecedented pressures placed on them by the European settlements planted in their midst. It likewise notes the manifold ways in which the local indigenous peoples modified the course of colonial history, affecting the economies, cultures, and social patterns of the European settlers. Acknowledgments The composition of this book has consumed much of my time over several years. Its elaboration benefited greatly from the support I received from Roger Schlesinger, the chair of my department and himself a student of expansion and cultural interaction in the early modern period. But its intellectual genesis dates back nearly a quarter of a century, to my doctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, with the fine social historians and ethnohistorians of the colonial Americas, James Lockhart, Gary Nash, and James Henretta. They and their colleagues in these fields of history will readily recognize their stamp in the pages that follow, at least in the better parts. I began to think through the themes in this work in a systematic fashion and in a dialogue with other interested scholars in the late 1980s, first at a NEH Summer Institute held at The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois, and then at The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. As the suggested readings that follow each chapter make abundantly clear, I have drawn upon the insights of a number of scholars. Notable among these are Rolena Adorno, James Axtell, and William Taylor. Special thanks are owed to Michael Adas, who initially helped me shape this project, and to Lyman L. Johnson and Rebecca Horn, who provided a detailed and thoughtful page-by-page reading of the book manuscript that contributed greatly to its improvement. I wish also to acknowledge the commentaries provided by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Susan Schroeder, Eric Van Young, Sherry L. Smith, Donald L. Fixico, and several anonymous reviewers.

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