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Why the Native Americans ultimately lost America

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What caused the downfall of the American Indian?


Centuries without exposure to war or epidemic diseases led to the developmental inequalities which caused the downfall and conquest of the Native American Indians at the hands of the European settlers.

From the time of Columbus’s first expeditions in the New World, the indigenous population which had been masters of the American continent for 14,000 years began fighting a losing battle which would ultimately end in the destruction of their culture. It was their inexperience at war, plus the fact that they’d never developed formidable weapons, combine with their lack of immunity to the diseases introduced by the Europeans, which led to the Indians—who were initially far superior in number— meeting with ignominious defeat.

One obvious reason for the Euro victory over the Indian tribes was their superior weaponry. They had war technology which the locals could not compete with. But why did the colonists have such superior arms? A sensible guess would be that the Europeans were an older culture. The earliest traces of European ancestry goes back over 100,000 years, compared to 14,000 for the Indians. That head start would logically allow for the superiority of development. Yet, history doesn’t support this theory. For example, sentient life existed in African over a million years earlier than in Europe, and yet the Europeans had guns long before the African people ever imagined such a thing. So, if time is not the key factor, what is?

A reason that the Europeans had weapons beyond the Indians was due to their long history of warfare and violence. Countries on the continent of Europe routinely fought over territory or religion. Even when they set out to colonize, they knew they would also have to deal with rival nations that would be claiming their own share of this vast new land. There had long been animosity between Spain, France, England, and the Dutch. These were opponents who would be difficult to overcome. The Europeans were armed and ready, tempered by years of bloodshed.

Native Americans, on the other hand, knew little of all-out war. Despite their mythical image as savages, they were actually much more civilized in the way they settled their tribal disputes. Battles at the time were ritualistic. Intermittent violence did occur, but the nature of pre-contact Indian war was far different from the wars known in Europe. Both in scale and in duration, their skirmishes were minuscule compared to Europe. The Indian natives could not conceive of the multi-year conflicts that dogged Euro history. Indians fought in small forays, with limited numbers of warriors. Their battles were often a game of ‘chicken’ where one side or the other backed down in the face of the fiercer opponent. They tried not to kill other Indians if it was not necessary and so had no need for guns or cannons. All this caused the American tribes to be very primitive in their weaponry, whereas the Europeans were veritable Gods of War.

For instance, when the Spanish conquered the Incas, they not only brought guns, but had the advantage of armor as well. The Inca’s fought with blunt clubs and had no armor at all. Further, the Incans did not have domesticated animals, and so the Spanish gained a tremendous advantage by charging in on horseback.The psychological effect of seeing men riding on horses had as powerful an effect on the Incans as the Spanish swords did. Soon, Incan leader Athhuallpa fell at Cajamarca and the Spanish claimed their land. Cortes would go on to do the same to Montezuma and the Aztecs, winning for similar reasons. Earlier, they had Slaughtered the tribes of the West Indies, gaining the Conquistadors a scathing indictment from a Spanish Friar in 1542.

Up in North America, the Native American people alternately became allies and enemies of the newly arrived settlers from Europe. Surely there was a sense of dread among the local tribes concerning these mysterious people who arrived by ship, bringing strange animals and stranger weapons? What did they think would happen in the long run?

The Native American tribes were not accustomed to visitors in their lands. These new arrivals confused and frightened them. Therefore, they made some mistakes which exacerbated hostilities with the colonists. A Chesapeake Indian tribe ambushed the first arrivals making landfall in Virginia. Things didn’t start off well and the settlers became very suspicious of the indigenous people. And the Indians surely felt the same, but some had their own motivations for contact.

Powhattan, leader of the powerful Algonquian tribe of Indians, was a clever man. He saw the newcomers as a potential source of power. They had things of value, like guns and gunpowder. Powhattan was in the process of consolidating his power in the region. Weapons would be invaluable to him. To this end, he became a friend and benefactor to the new settlement. Although their presence was a potentially destabilizing element, he felt they were worth the risk. He brought them food to help them survive their first long, cold winter.

He continued to trade with them afterwards, supplying food in exchange for weapons.It was, quite likely, this dependency on the Indians that increased the settler’s distrust of the locals. They needed Powhattan to get through the winter and were very much afraid that he would exploit their weakness. They expected the local Indians to take advantage of their weakness and double cross them. The settlers kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and their increasing paranoia evolved into hostility against the native tribes.

When a misunderstanding between the two sides caused Powhattan to break ties, the settlers immediately assumed this was the double cross they had waited for and started to take food from the Indians by force. Powhattan struck back but he was overwhelmed, and the Indian wars began in earnest in North America. As the Colonial population increased, they began to take what they wanted and enforce their ways upon these people they thought of as merely “primitive barbarians”. They felt they had a God given right to depose those whom they saw as little more than animals. The pattern of “Indian removal” continued until the 19th century, when the last Indian resistance was gone.Thus, the Europeans practiced their time honed art of war, something they had much more experience in than the Indians. They had the better armaments, as well as one other unexpected secret weapon.

A surprise advantage that the Europeans had was that the Native tribes had lived isolated from epidemic diseases. Nor did they have herd animals, which often acted as conduits of infectious diseases. Bacterial infections such as smallpox, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever and others were introduced to the Indians who had no natural immunities to them. Cortes’ 1521 victory over the Aztecs was aided by a terrible smallpox epidemic that cut the Aztec population in half. The devastating release of these germs was so catastrophic to the native people, it eventually killed 90% percent of the indigenous population. With their best warriors dead, and the rest demoralized, thinking their Gods had deserted them, the surviving Indians were no match for the growing number of Europeans.

Indian power faded steadily and by the 19th century, they were no longer a military threat to the established government of the United States of America. Steps were taken to “civilize” and indoctrinate the conquered Indians tribes into the culture of the victors. The curse of developmental inequality left them with nothing.

Societies evolve to exactly where they need to be to survive in the time and place. The Indians were well suited for life on the American continent, but that didn’t prepare them for the intervention of an unexpected predator or disease. European settlers and their guns, along with smallpox and other diseases, were outside the scope of what they were prepared to deal with.

The Indians also had no domesticated herd animals. Ironically, they were culpable in the killing and making extinct of large mammals rather than domesticating them, as when the Paleo-Indians killed off the Mastodons. If they hadn’t, could they have used them as the Indians of India do? As transportation and as beasts of burden? Would it have made a difference? And would these herd animals have produced germs that allowed the native population to develop immunities to European diseases? If large mammals still existed during the Euro invasion, would the result have been any different? I believe that this mistake made during their early hunter/gatherer days may have ultimately added a nail to the coffin of Indian culture.

I maintain that centuries of life without war curtailed the Indian ability to develop the technology to defend themselves. And further, that their isolation, the lack of pack animals and the extinction of the Mastodons caused the Indians to have insufficient natural defenses against epidemic diseases. These combined reasons destroyed any chance that the Indians, despite their vastly superior numbers, may have had to drive off the settlers and retain the land of their birth.


Chiaku on February 19, 2016:

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The biggest reason people overlook Native Americans in history is that they segregated their own kind into different clans rather than operate under a single banner. Separating into different factions, they ended up sealing their own fates long before immigrants started showing up on their shores. Like most civilizations they were unable to adapt to these changes and unite under the same cause. Unable to put away their differences and beliefs they held on to their pride and loyalties to their clan until there were just a few major ones left. And yet a couple generations later it was too late to unite the clans, because all them were already wiped out our assimilated into American culture. I pity the Native Americans because they were ignorant and unswayed to change their ways when a new threat had arrived. Refusing to evolve and adapt they were decimated over a small period of time. Their leadership was completely incompetent otherwise they wouldn't have fallen so easily. But remember, it is the winners that write history, not the losers.

Melissa on December 17, 2015:

The English were subjected to a similar fate in 1066 by invading Normans. The Indian tribes also pushed each other out of land and took slaves etc. Human nature is a complex thing! A great potential for good as well as evil!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 19, 2015:

It must have been a big puzzle for the native Americans to be told that someone else far away owned the land they have enjoyed for years. Their concept of ownership is totally different. This must have been very unsettling.

adam on December 15, 2014:

How does one prevent development inequality?

What is development inequality? Are there examples of this in history?

Rolling Thunder Nez Perce on November 04, 2014:

@chad Melkus Physical extermination of all Native Nations was settled government policy,up until 1913. Then it was cultural genocide.

I repeat,we were never conquered we were lied to,cheated,stolen from,

and victims of physical and cultural genocide.

But despite all best efforts,we are still here.

One final thing. All this talk by anti immigration people that we were immigrants too,is bull.

If the Bering Strait theory(and it IS just a theory,not fact) were true,wouldn't there be some archeological evidence of our passing over,somewhere on the remaining islands in the strait?

Some in the Euro centric archeological community are even trying to claim that we came from Europe!

Natives have always known that we did ot come here from anywhere. We have always been here,which indicated that there was more than one "Garden of Eden" if you buy into that myth. Some whites can't stand the possibility that we may be the oldest 'race' of humans on the planet,and actually migrated in the other direction.(paintings of American Bison in caves in the mountains of Northern Spain)

For More,read 'American Genesis" by Dr. Jeffrey Goodman

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on November 04, 2014:

I am grateful I did not live during the time of so much killing of the Indian tribes when it was just for their land.

Real Estate and Religion has been the seeds of evil that ended many lives, white men and Indians. It proved their existence became a cruel and raw way of life.

Thanks for writing this and I enjoyed the history, but never the bloodshed of innocent men, women and children.

History and the present world we live in today is a sad place because as I write many lives are taken in other countries for land and religion. Greed still lives in the hearts of men.

Thanks for an informative article.

Bobbi Purvis

Rolling Thunder Nez Perce on November 04, 2014:

No disrespect intended,but you are wrong. There were many Native Nations that were sedentary. Not all of them were nomads. In the east especially there were hundreds of settled communities.

Yes,the tribes were fighting among themselves,long before the Europeans invaded,But Native warfare was nothing like European warfare.Many raiding parties consisted of only twenty or thirty warriors,usually after horses etc. There was actually very little killing done,as they were seldom out just for blood.

The concept of all out war was a behavior learned from the Europeans,and after a time some nations,like the Iroquois,and Apache got very good at it. Napolean called the plains tribes,'the greatest light cavalry in the world." Actually,white man should have been pleased. After all imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

We not only learned all out war from you,but scalping(from the Dutch) and torture(from the Spanish) lying and cheating(from the English).

As far as assimilation goes,I find it ironic. Black man desperately wanted to be part of the 'American Dream" and it was denied him for more than a century after slavery was gone.

Red man only wanted to be left alone. He wanted no part of your so called civilization,and it was shoved down his throat.This country was NOT taken by conquest,it was RIPPED OFF!!

Hal Lamphere on July 19, 2014:

As far as I can tell, from reading history, tribes and nations have always drifted it migrated often because of famine, more often because they were pushed off their own land by stronger tribes, but it has been the way the world has always been, and that is what happened to the native Americans, and don't let anyone kid you, they were doing it to each other before we got here.

plume on April 26, 2014:

Being from the old continent I consider that it is amazing how Americans remain racists and unable to apologize and stop oppressing native americans and afro americans! Even in 2014 your prisons are filled with afro americans, some get shot in the street just for being there in a non black area, and well yes black people live in getthos, and native americans in reservations!!! That's what you call melting pot !!! A descendant of Geronimo still tries to get the authorisation to bury the remains of his ancestor where he had asked to at the time, and the government won't grant it!!! Even the Turkish people so renown for being stubborn start considering after a century or so that they actually did something wrong to the Armenians!!!! You are the most stubborn and blind nation in the world! White americans have not even started to wake up, too busy making money... you signed no treaty for the environment ... I was offered once to live in the US I could not, even the thought of it makes me sick!!! I know why you have so many horror movies with topics such as haunted houses... the past is past and people nowadays should not feel guilty for it but they should take action now to make life easier for those who were victims from their ancestors. Stop considering other cultures or skin colours as inferior beings, grant them what they need to thrive and regain dignity, and hapiness, stop discrimination! That's all you can do!

Chad Melkus on March 21, 2014:

Ya, really rare but I do agree with you, read your post early couple years ago or something, actually one of my points I was trying to bring up, you were hitting it good.

Ya because of the gold rush, and land steal by private citzens and companies, and yes im sure the government colluded with them to in probably a lot of the break of a lot of deals or treaties, but I do think other europeans or whites later helped reverse and try to give the land and opportunities.

I do think the europeans in america back then were racist, proabably thinking the Indians were sub par to them , well we cant say all though this way, but enough of them did.

Sometimes I feel that some people tend to focus on only the negative stuff in history and current times, avoiding talking about all the good things that have happened and are happening.

Beaulen on March 21, 2014:

The treaties signed between the US government established property rights after wars were completed, any lands taken by the US government AFTER the treaties were signed were taken without legal basis. Or, put another way, stolen.

I understand that the concept of Nazi ideals still exist, but Nazi Germany is long gone, true? Your original point was to say that the US could have killed off Indians like Nazi Germany did to the Jews. My point is that Nazi Germany did not kill all the Jews, they may have had that goal, yet they failed. I think the US government had this goal as well, to completely exterminate Indians by taking land, language, culture, and failed as Nazi Germany failed. Not because they didn't want to, but because they couldn't, the US didn't have the capacity, ability or will to complete the extermination of Indians.

Chad Melkus on March 21, 2014:

Here's some linkes to show you the nazi idea is still around.

Chad Melkus on March 21, 2014:

Beaulen-I don't think they are stolen lands, I think they fought wars for them, and just came out winning. What Russia is doing with crimea? Did Ukraine ever fight a war with Russia for that land? Not sure how you see that as comparable? My point about the germans was that they were bent on totally getting rid of them altogether, no reservations were given to them like the Americans finally did. Americans kept pushing the indians west, but they were only bent on destroying the ones that resisted them for the most part, some exeptions of course. The germans wanted to get all the jews in europe out, that was their plan, of course it didn't get completely carried out. You said the german jews are still around, and that's only because the allies defeated germany, and russia turning on germany was a big factor. On the other hand I think the alllies during world war 2 would have still eventually taken germany and russia even if they had stayed united the whole time, just would have taken longer. Nazi germany has spread throughout europe and even out of it too now, well the Nazi aspect of it I mean, theres a bunch in greece , russia claims theres some in the Ukraine, hell theres even non white nazis down in south America, and of course in the usa too.

Beaulen on March 20, 2014:

Chad - I think many times when people talk about stolen lands they're referring to lands taken from Treaty agreements, sort of like what Russia is doing to Crimea without the referendum. I'm not sure how to take your point about Nazis and Jews, because German Jews are still around while Nazi Germany has largely disappeared.

Chad Melkus on March 19, 2014:

site who? if me my username is my name lol, but your probably asking original author I assume lol.

Charlie Ann37 on March 18, 2014:

Hi. I would love to cite you as one of my sources for a history paper. Would you mind telling me your full name?

Chad Melkus on March 10, 2014:

Hi Rob, love the article and the comments, there were some annoying comments made past the 80 percent down the page marker like , LostofDTaino, reminds me of many posts on liberal pages on facebook , for example using the history of the Natives in immigration memes. Europeans never wanted to come here to assimilate into the Natives government or culture, so the comparison is a mindfuck. I am mostly liberal but have many problems with feeling sorry for history for several reasons.

Number one thing I wanted to bring up is, currently about half of this country is non european desended, how can any of those people be shamed for history, I am not saying you are, but people like person I mentioned above like to clump people together, they had nothing to do with it, blacks, most brought as slaves. Another thing a large percentage of europeans came in the late 1800s and early 1900s too, bypassing that part of history. My problem is I am one of those that have NO descendents to any of that in the body I am in this lifetime, yet get clumped into the people, who some say they STOLD their land etc.

USA would have proabably existed no matter what european country invaded, hell the french tried to take over in the french and indian wars, in some different shape and name if another power came here, I wonder if the vikings would have stayed earlier and conquered the west what would have happened, or even earlier the Chinese that according to some alternative history buffs came here first. Im sure it happened in some alternative dimension.

I hear similar arguments from mexican immigrants that come here in CA, thinking the southwest was stolen, when it was actually a result of war, from a military that had guns too. A more fair fight in that instance, but fairness is a current thing that happened after world war 2, before that there were no rules on how to treat prisoners, hell in world 2 they didn't care about non military casualties, they would fucking carpet bomb places and cities to rubble.

I think dwelling in the past and cutural pride is not good because of the history of the world conquereing each other, and some people desceneded from the conquers and others from the conquered. But I am not religious, but spirtual and think our souls have lived in many different bodies, thousands of lifetimes, here on earth, and feel like I could have been living in the body of the native americans at the time or not, so maybe i was part of that conflict, and why im drawn to it like some that have no ties in this lifetime, then im white now, so I think if people understood it like that they wouldn't get all crazy about history and genetics, were just borrowing with our current meat suit/body, cuz more than likely we all lived at least once lifetime as the agressor or conquerer. In that line of reasoning, there are no innocents. And it wouldn't matter if people got conquered, your soul would evnetually just carnate back into the conqueres dna lines.

Another thing that doesn't hardly get raised is how the europeans ended up trying to force them onto reservations. They could have just killed them off completely like the nazis were trying to do with the jews.

I think if the natives were more united like the europeans then maybe even with the dwindled numbers they could have forced them back into the sea. That is a whole interesting topic all by itself how the europeans with different cultures and ethnicities came together, at least in spurts, and then after the civil war, with the army and the railroad, the Indians were done at that point, once they could send massive armies out there faster and telegrams, theres no way for the natives to win at that time.

I also know from anthropology we are the least diverse species on the planet, our dna is 99.999 the same, so races, not much different genetically, there mostly made up anyways, genetic mutations probably resulted in the small difference by geography. I can be more related to another black man that has similar body type to me than another white person. So history is pretty much kind of like a non stop civil war in a way, who because of the lack of science thought they were completely different from eachother, and still many still think that way today, maybe europeans thinking they were so different back then might have helped them unite against the natives who looked different than them.

Another topic to bring up is how scientist use to think that natives came over the siberian pass when it froze over, so what the fuck they are not native here either, we all started out in africa, they did get here first but that's it, and current dna studies back that idea that the natives are most closely related to the asians genome.

fkalsf;as on December 16, 2013:

awsome work rob you should get rewarded 100 dolars

kate on November 19, 2013:

good job! i like it

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on March 02, 2013:

Thank you, Andy. It's appreciated.


Andrew Stewart from England on February 28, 2013:

Excellent Hub Rob, really enjoyed reading it from start to finish. Great work as always!


Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on January 20, 2013:

Hi Bobbi;

Thanks for the kind words. I've always been interested in reading and writing about the Native Americans, too. It is a great tragedy and a blemish on the history of America.

Thanks for reading,


Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on January 20, 2013:

I love reading and writing about the American Indians and I wished they and the new settlers could have enjoyed and shared their ways of life instead of fighting.

So much is lost besides life when war happens.

Great research makes interesting articles and this one kept my attention--- I loved it.

Bobbi Purvis

ZLeslie on December 18, 2012:

This really helped in the essay i'm writing for school but don't you think the europeans also made them collapse by trying to convert them to Christians?

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 18, 2012:

Hi myawn; I'm glad it's survived, too. I hope it always will.


myawn from Florida on October 18, 2012:

wonderfully written hub. Interesting as I am part Cherokee Indian. I wish things could have been more peaceful between the Indians and white people. The Indians had a lot of knowledge that they taught freely. I'm glad the Indian culture is still alive.

Beaulen on October 04, 2012:

I'm curious if you have any ideas for why Natives weren't outright eliminated? Why the vast number of treaties with tribes if the Western weaponry was so overwhelming? Why not just rub out the Natives? I suggest that the US couldn't, not that they didn't want to. Did the US suddenly become averse to slaughter? Maybe killing innocent women and children came to bother the government's conscience? Or maybe the US suddenly had a change of heart and begin to think that maybe the only good Indian was a live Indian? The US military was taxed on several fronts as they fought Indian Wars and did certainly do a number on many tribes, but decided to settle most of the wars by treaty. Why? Certainly some tribes were completely wiped off the face of the Earth, but not others. I've wondered that for a long time and have a hard time coming up with other likely scenarios.

Tony on May 29, 2012:

I stumbled upon your article through Google. It was an excellent read. I was extremely curious what people thought about technological advancements of certain civilizations vis-a-vis their disposition and exposure to war and violence. Although, I must admit that we are constrained by mere insights and opinions, I really am looking forward to any academic journal entry that would pose a thesis question regarding this issue. I am pretty sure someone can quantify the variables, put metrics on these, and test the hypotheses. The relationship between the levels of technological advancements and conflict is a mighty interesting topic!

Shivani on May 28, 2012:

Everything under this blue sky can be so well explained and rationalised!

LostofDTaino on April 21, 2012:

aw my guest name is misspelled :( lol its supposed to read LASTofDTaino,like tht movie last of the mohican :P

this last comment is just to identify myself,my name on paper is Chris,im taino indian,in my tribe im called Xieti Ch'Nex (the blackfeather).im puerto rican born in NYC,USA.i have a lot of growing up todo myself and further soul searching.

and i liked this article :] 9000xKudos!

LostofDTaino on April 21, 2012:

took me like 5mins to read all this lol comments included :P.

i have to agree,my ancestors lost everything due to their lack of exp in these matters.though for mine it wouldn't be a first time(if no1 knew the taino were driven to the west indies by the persueing kalinago or caribb tribe)

i also agree that the state these reservations are in is worth crying about: gangs,drugs,abuse...nice way to take care of your true forefathers america(i mean the powers not regular civilians).

i read a comment above that stated something as 'why don't they (NA's) join the USA..-well why doesn't the usa give us its big chair nd it joins US?... this continent is OUR home,NA's spoon fed this gov. in its early days.

but i want to comment on that on a personal note and here's how i c it:

im a citizen life in New York or anywhere is no different from that of a rez.drugs,gangs,abuse and would be the difference? let alone the point?other than to start giving back to this planet on a global scale using americas strings.

its a pride thing in my heart,ask today's black man tobe a slave for those that took everythng away.

white america(i say white becuz its a euro power['american' my ass]) is so pompous and backwards success at anothers expense,i wont front like i know anythng about the past since with no1 to talk to-WHO CAN?

but today's amerindians don't belive in this last man standing theme.our downfall has ='d a more cohesive community.tribes that fought in the past have become best friends today.clans seperated by mls of land are today very well connected and in contact with one another.powwows help make this contact constant and active while providing entertainment and a place to bring the old culture out to the open for everyone on earth to see.(like at a Super Bowl where u root for ur team we at powwows scream and shout,with a smile and pure hearts,for our combined ancestry that keeps us rooted to this land we call earth.

that comment i commented on stood out to me becuase weaather or not it was intended tobe-sounded completely colonialistic and just heartless..pissed me off lol.i apologize to the person though this is not to target you at all in anyway,just saying what if ur family was murdered and everythng lost then i come along and say 'hey man forget it its in the past now' the longest history book written is not a book but ur DNA no matter how many generations past,if i were to live through them,id never forget or forgive what this government did to my ppl and what they failed to do for them afterward.some will say that holding on to such a thing is bad for ur health..well then hey stop telling eachother to learn from ur mistakes.forget the wrongs your lover caused u and go make happy with them.

i don't HATE whites or anyone(except racists,feck those guys)i don't even HATE the USgov. but if it ever agreed to unhinge from this continent and go back to europe id be very sure a lot of us would.

a lot of european concepts and influence is at had for past and present NA issues but becuz we'r indian we get ignored.ugh and we'r not even 'indian' lol that's another problem this 'meh it is what it is' mentality that european power has.

some also say that since most of our nations are solo that we should fix our own problems,forgetting that the larger portion of us didn't want a rez and that it was a choice of survival/death.

i feel im ranting on and losing focus.

my point is america is a place that likes to 'throw it in your face' (Mt.Rushmore?) and we don't want anythng todo with that.we offered our conquerors an open hand and were instead conquered becuz of european greed.

our 2 versions of governnace need work but america has a lot of soul searching todo befor any native can heartfully consider becoming an 'american'.

Lelouch1234. on April 16, 2012:

it took awhile to read everyone comment but i done and they were most helpful to me thank you everyone XD

Bob on March 29, 2012:

There is no question that the Europeans were far more intellectual but physically inferior...Let's call a spade a spade...European homes were built stronger; our sailing vessels were far superior; our weapons were far superior; our organizational and governing skills were far superior; our education system was far superior; our agricultural capabilities were far surperior (eg. crop rotation); our domestication of animals (which goes under organizational abilities) was far superior; our military tactics was far superior...Let's face it, when millions of people over centuries of time could only develop a home built out of branches and animal skin (called teepees)that shows very little intelligence and innovative capabilities...Lack of crop rotation and metal technology was there downfall and both of these comodities was right in front of them all along. I don't see any long term plan. They lived more day to day; not very smart..The only reason they lasted as long as they did was because of their isolation...Huge oceans on both sides would deter a lot of outside forces...As soon as white man tamed those boundaries...It was over..

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on March 20, 2012:

Hi Deborah; thanks for the thoughtful, detailed comments. I appreciate your reading this. As you say, the fall of the American Indians was not about intellectual inferiority. The Native Americans, like most species, evolved to survive in a particular time and place, under a particular set of geographic circumstances. On their own, they would have thrived. But they were at a stage of development where they weren't prepared (biologically or technically) for the arrival of an invasive species. (The Europeans.)

Thanks for reading and commenting,


Shakeysister from Bremen, Ohio on March 20, 2012:

(Addition to my above comment as Deborah)

I can embrace your proposal that the cultural advancements of the Europeans (from whichever source their advancements were derived) afforded a powerful advantage over the isolation that stunted the advancements of the Native American cultures. It is simply logical that any group of people evolves in the manner in which it needs to in order to survive and/or satisfy their curiosity. Native Americans had a culture that worked for them. They had no need for the advancements that Europe and Asia had because they were not needed for survival until it was too late. This was by no means a matter of intellectual inferiority or superiority, it was just a fact of life.

It makes so much sense that I just sit here, smack my forehead and say 'wow'!

Thank you!

Deborah on March 20, 2012:

I found this hub article by searching 'why couldn't we live peacefully amongst the Native Americans?' and actually found my answer. I am reminded here that it was a different world with different mindsets. Colonization equaled subjugation, not just of peoples but of resources, which of course was not unique to European colonizers.

I'm trying to grasp the deeds of my ancestors who fought against the Native Americans with Dunmore and Clark. My father thumps his chest proudly over (5x) Great Grandpa Abraham Thomas who "fought the Indians", while my chest constricts with shame and sorrow. The guilt has become more than passive since learning more about native ways from a close friend who now walks the native path of her ancestors, but all I can do is educate myself and those around me. I cannot change the past, only learn from it.

Thank you for writing this thoughtful and informative piece.

Marcello on March 19, 2012:

By the way, ahorseback is ignorant! Very narrow minded his comments are quite uneducated and obnoxious. Just saying

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on March 18, 2012:

Thank you for your input.

Marcello on March 17, 2012:

It is not stated, but it is implied. 90% of this hub is right on. But I just don't like half truths that have been passed on each generation. It wasn't european weaponry vs american. It was eurasian weaponry vs american. And disease was not simply disease. It was basically biological warfare. Diseases in europe came 1 by 1 for centuries. And moved at at a normal rate. Europeans used this to and spread every and all diseases to americans absolutely shocking every aspect of it. The only difference there would be if they cultivated animals is they would have introduced new diseases that would have had an effect on both americans and europeans. its not so much your fault that it comes out like that, its the fact that that's the way were all tought. I mean come on if any disease were to pop up now would we give europeans a lower death rate? Psycological conditions I agree the morale must have been low. Eurpeans threw the rest of the world at the americans. After they killed most of em' they try to impose their culture on them, and destroy their dignity(they pretty much succeeded). SOME native tribes were far superior warriors than europeans. It was weaponry that did it though. Its quite sad.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on March 17, 2012:

Marcello; I think you either misread or misinterpreted what this article is about. Its not about European superiority. That is neither stated nor implied here. Reread it and you'll see that it's about the historical, geographical, meteorological, chemical and psychological conditions that led to the downfall of Native American culture.

Marcello on March 17, 2012:

And immunity. The diseases in europe had between 5-60% death rates in europe now hit any european community with all of those diseases at once I guarantee the death rate will be almost identical. Ill admit that they may be slightly more immune but in evolutionary words at max there will only be a 3% difference. It is also used as a way to imply false superiority

Marcello on March 17, 2012:

ill accept that europeans were an older society. But implying that they are superior, with the wole african thing. No. europeans were being dominated by arabs in eurasia and were not allowed to trade with the chinese or others along the silk road. The way they try to solve this is sail around the world to china to bypass the arabs, if possible. Then they discover america. Tainos gave europeans gold as a gift, they didn't value it like eurasia did. Spanish then invade bringing guns.. Did europeans invent guns or gunpowder. No! The chinese did. Don't try and say europeans were soo mighty They brought technology from eurasia. It could have been any society or race from eurasia that did that! European wealth was stolen from america, then used to create false superiority on the rest of the world. White "Americans" have no right to be called American! They should be called European-American just like Africans are African-American and Native-Americans should be the only ones called American because they are the only acctual Americans!

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on February 26, 2012:

Yes, some Europeans have been victims, too. I'm not denying it. But that's another topic.

GregV on February 26, 2012:

Victims of history

The Europeans were victims too, a mongrel group of survivors

Of centuries of invasion. Spain had barely pushed back the Moors,

England still paid tribute to the Danes, our word slave comes from Slav,

a popular source of victims in Roman times

Indeed, the downfall of Indian culture may be tied to their very lack of previous

victimization. They had not before been swept away by the world currents of guns, germs and steel.

The difference is that some Indian identification was able to survive.

In Europe, where are the Jutes, where are the Celts? There are no native European tribal reservations or casinos.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on February 25, 2012:

Yes, the Atecs believed in ritual human sacrifices to their Gods. Things done in the name of religion are, sadly, not rare. Think of what the Europeans have done in the name of religion. As I said, the Indians were not saints, but they were still victims. from upstate, NY on February 25, 2012:

I understood that the aztecs used to capture torture and sacrifice about 20,ooo people yearly. Before they sacrificed them they cut open their chest and tore tore out their heart and ate them! You don't hear much about this but the spaniards understandably had cause to believe they were savages.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on February 25, 2012:

Wba: It is a tragedy about the diseases wiping them out.

As for the rest, this is not about them being more noble than anyone else, its about the inequities that led to their downfall. They were primitive in many ways but not as savage as their reputation would indicate. Certainly they could be ruthless, but I don't think they ever tortured just for fun.

The Native Americans weren't saints but that doesn't mean they weren't victims.


Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on February 25, 2012:

Hello Dee; This was done in 2010.

Thanks for reading,

rob from upstate, NY on February 24, 2012:

What a trajedy with the disease that hit the indians eventually killing 90% of them. I don't see the bulk of native America tribes to be as noble as you do. From what I understand there was tremendous cruelty with many of the tribes. They would abandon the old and imfirmed to starve to death, they would torture and kill for fun, they rountinely took slaves and the chiefs greatly exploited their own people. We're the shoe on the other foot the indians would likely have been more than the Europeans.

Dee on February 23, 2012:

what year was this done? i would like to include your work in my bibliography :)

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on February 13, 2012:

Hi Chimak; Thanks for the detailed input.


Hi Pstraubie; It is heartbreaking, I agree. It's laudable that they've managed to retain their dignity despite being conquered. I hope in the future, the story of the American Indians will have a happier ending.

Thanks for reading,


Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on February 13, 2012:

I saw up close and personal the sadness of those on reservations in one was heartbreaking...but the American Indians I encountered retained their dignity and conviction even though they had been treated so unfairly. time has a way of equalizing events...who day we may read a whole new chapter about those from whom so many of us claim ancestry. so glad you shared this...

chimak88 on February 11, 2012:

1500 years ago, Japan learnt everything from China while it was still very primitive.

It was the first nation to industrialized in Asia. It was the only Nation capable to against the West during war time.

I felt so sad, the Amerindian did have great civilization and great contribution to the whole world, but with very bad geographical location. No chance to learn. They ended up lose almost all their land :(

chimak88 on February 11, 2012:

Amerindian failed against to European was mainly because they were ISOLATED from the Euro-Asia continent. The European was exchanging knowledge (and disease) with other major civilizations on the East side. Gun powder, Cannon, cheap paper book were invented by Chinese centuries before European. North Amerindian quickly learned and reformed to match with New Comers, but a bit too late, while war became a matter of advanced weapon, no more a matter of bigger population with cold weapon.

GregV on November 08, 2011:

What do you think of the correlation between settled agriculturalists and prolonged warfare? Hunter gathers skirmish -- agriculturists seem to create empires

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on November 08, 2011:

Hi Greg. Wow, I feel so intelligent now. Thanks for telling me.


GregV on November 08, 2011:

Nice job, Rob

I'm the author of AP US History for Dummies. Just wanted you to know that your perspective is going into a lecture I'm delivering this week at the University of California, Davis. Keep up the good work

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 04, 2011:

Hello epigramman; We can only wonder how life would have developed on the American Continent if the Europeans hadn't arrived. What sort of culture(s) would have ultimately developed. We'll never know. (But a world without McDonalds doesn't sound like such a bad thing.)

Thanks you very much for your kind comments. They are appreciated.


epigramman on October 03, 2011: essential definitive hub subject by you Sir Rob - your hubs are like a big treasure hunt - there are so many goodies here - waiting to be had - and with all due respect to the Indian people - if the white man had not come over at all they would still be hunting buffalo and living in teepees - and no MacDonalds or 9-11 - now that's a life of purity and just good clean living.

lake erie time 10:03pm

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on August 21, 2011:

Hi Terri; Glad I could bring back some nice memories for you. Thanks so much for the kind words.


Terri Meredith from Pennsylvania on August 21, 2011:

Great read! Kept my interest all the way through...of course I love history... :)

My great uncle used to regale my brothers and I with oral stories of times before the white man came to Cherokee lands. We were glued to our seats. Every little kid loves a great Indian story, and it's so much better when it's about a tribe of one's ancestors. Reading this brought back so many of those memorable times. Thumbs up!

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on August 18, 2011:

Yes, they weren't all peaceful. As I said, they were just amateurs in war as compared to the Europeans.

Gregory Hasman from Denton TX on August 18, 2011:

I like the piece. However, not all Native Americans were peaceful. The Sioux and Tetons in the Plains, for example, were very antagonistic. Nonetheless, the Europeans and later Americans used their rivals to gain land in the continent.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on June 11, 2011:

True, ruffridyer. The immigration of so many foreigners was something the Native Americans couldn't handle.

Thanks for reading and commenting;


ruffridyer from Dayton, ohio on June 11, 2011:

I keep wondering if nicomp is having some fun. Immigration is what destroyed the Indian way of life. Europeans taking over the land and resources of the america continent. I do agree you make some valid points.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on May 31, 2011:

Hi Richard; I really appreciate the kind words. Thank you. I'd be happy to discuss ideas with you.

Thanks for the nice comments;


Richard83 from West Virginia on May 31, 2011:

WOW Rob! You should be writing for a major company somewhere. I would love to run an idea or two by you. I am sure you have that kind of talent. You have some of the best articles I have seen on this site, especially considering your writing skills, your in a class of your own. Much respect.

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on March 17, 2011:

No, the Indians should have welcomed the immigrants. They were just looking for a better life. They weren't bad people, just folks who wanted a job and a place to live.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on March 16, 2011:

Thanks for commenting Donna. Anyone who believes in peace has great wisdom. I'd like to believe that the native americans will rise again as a culture one day but I really doubt it.

Thanks for reading.

Donna Suthard on March 16, 2011:

All people from all tribes from the very beginning have been warring on each other, since time began. The teaching of the wise ones, is that we all are to live in harmony with each other. It has been prophesied, that the Native Americans will rise again..The anger and violence must end for all nations or we will destroy ourselves. Squanto, Cochise and many others were their own lifetimes, and Geronimo finally gave up the fight He had a vision that lead him him to an understanding.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on March 15, 2011:

Yeah, if the native Americans had had a better immigration policy, we'd be in the United States of native Americans.

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on March 15, 2011:

I think their downfall was that they did not accept the immigrants flooding over their borders.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on December 01, 2010:

I hope it will one day, rochelle. Maybe we'll learn someday.

Thanks for reading.

rochelle lovell on December 01, 2010:

The Native, true american's downfall was because of a selfish people, with a power trip and no heart would keep taking what they wanted no matter who or what got in there way. This has never stopped!The killing will never end

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 24, 2010:

Glad you found it useful, damon. Thanks for reading.

damon789123 on October 24, 2010:

thank you , that is being useful

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 15, 2010:

I appreciate the educated insight, GG. Thanks for all that additional information.

Namaste, my friend.

greg g zaino from L'America- Big Pine Key, Florida on October 15, 2010:

Good write Rob. :] Although the raw materials were readily available to the indigenous people of the Americas, the age of metals never materialized.

The Aztecs had knowledge of soft metals but nothing durable, just as the other great civilizations of the Yucatan. They opposed the Spaniards with beautiful, obsidian edged, wooden broad swords, spear points and arrow tips referred bird points, up to one inch long. Obsidian points were able to pierce the armor of the invaders,a fact.

Prophecy also had a major role in a reluctance for hostility on the part of the great nations south of the border. They were violent though. Earlier Olmec and Toltec civilization display glyphs characterized by warfare. The great Sioux nation pushed westward from the east... and pushed or warred with everything in front of them.

The Maya were able to erect magnificent limestone temples without a metal cutting tool at hand. They might have benefitted from them but they just never needed them.

The Inca built great works of art in their buildings with a most unusual stone block cutting technique that has us baffled today. They carved ten ton stone block and did it without metal. The stone age as we refer to it in western civ was at its peak in perfection when the europeans arrived.

The Bronze and iron Age in Europe and Asia was absolutely revolutionary in advancement of those cultures. The magnificent weapons that could be produced made killing easy, the double edged sword was the super power weapon of mass destruction its day when it was introduced. roughly five thousand years ago the bow and arrow sprang up all over the planet. all at once it seems. all were equal, then...guaranteed the discovery of metallurgy was an accident. An accident that didn't take place anywhere else.

There are so many variables but you have given a good overview of the situation. sorry for the rant Rob. Pre columbian civilization and native american studies intrigue me. Perhaps it is my mixed blood, I also worked in Archaeology for two years unearthing a large Creek indian village "Fusihatchee" (means bird on the water)in the south east. They too had found the trade goods were replacing their way of life. The stone tools became primitive and rough in execution.

peace my friend ~ great write ~ greg

ahorseback on September 16, 2010:

Each and every country in the world has a history of pushing aside previously settled populations [even indigenous populations ] ,in Canada , The US , Russia , a good part of Europe , latin America etc. , What we as Americans need to do is figure out why the native Americans can't seem to assimalate culturally , poverty, deseases , addictions to alcohol and drugs dominate reservations every where. There is little economic development , manufacturing , etc. on reservations . Why? Perhaps because this nations treaties allowed them to remain separate countries ,within a country! Wouldn't they be better off being a part of America ? Does allowing this reservational seperation only hinder progress? A lot of questions need to be answered , a lot of judging the pasts by today's excellent hindsight only serves to devide an already suffering issue. Will Americans pull out of this continant and go find another land , No. Can possitive steps be taken to help these populations come up to speed in today's advanced cultural progress, Yes. Re-living the mistakes of the past only fuel divisions already inflamed . Peace and progress will bring success.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on September 15, 2010:

You're right, agvulpes. There are a lot of similarities between the way the indigenous people of Australia and the Native American Indians were treated. Both cases are very sad. Thanks for Reading.

Peter from Australia on September 15, 2010:

Great Hub Rob and you could just about write the same Hub about how the 'explorers' some might call them 'invaders', treated our own indigenous people here in Australia. I'm sure that superior weaponry and more seasoned and sophisticated tactics certainly went a long way to the conquering of the 'natives' of each country. We only said our 'sorry' a little while back :-)

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on September 14, 2010:

Thanks for the feedback, awfeckit. Those were indeed different times. Still, its not a bad idea to look on the past with a critical eye (If not a judgmental one) and acknowledge the mistakes we made so we don't make them again. We did a huge injustice to the American Indians and its good to remind ourselves of it so that we don't do the same thing again. People who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Thanks for reading.

awfeckit on September 14, 2010:

Some native North American clans were offered rewards (food, cloth, alcohol, etc.) to help defeat other clans who they traditionally considered their enemies, anyway.

Of course, after they helped Europeans defeat other natives they were no longer needed or, generally, valued.

Same old, same old.

But those were different times. Depending on their skin colour, among other factors, some races were thought to be not quite human even by some of the most liberal thinkers of that time.

It was very unfortunate for indigenous natives, everywhere, but that's how people were taught even in their schools & churches.

Humans are much more advanced now. We now know that our ancestors should have been kinder and gentler. We know that it's wrong to steal resources and land from indigenous residents, although some world size corporations still seem to be doing that, in South America, anyway.

But I don't think we should be putting the values we have today onto the people who came from Europe hundreds of years ago.

We were not the same people then.

ahorseback on September 04, 2010:

Thats true , they seemed unable to change enough to assimilate to the cultural flood zone that rose from their borders. Even between Native indian tribes alone , there was little cooperation. We , in effect today , could offer far more than we do , as a nation , to raise the levels of poverty on reservations . I often find , in observations , that I'm not sure they have the drive ,personally or culturaly to assimalate ,even today. I'm not sure they do all they can to even help themselves. It's one hell of a tragedy of difffering cultures , unable to mix .

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on September 04, 2010:

The native Americans weren't prepared to deal with what was essentially an invasive species. Thanks for reading.

ahorseback on September 04, 2010:

Native Americans ulimately lost ground because ,primarily , of their lack of worldly intelligence , They're cultures were far less developed in the interacting with other cultures, War , although they knew how effective guirilla fighting was, was not one of their strong points. Their lack of intelligence was effectively used against them, constantly. Today it is politically correct to blame the victors , but ultimately they were a defeated society in a world and a time of extreme geographic national and world expansionism. Manifest destiny! We now ,as a society, are uncomfortable with that , but that's the way it is. Nice hub .

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on August 26, 2010:

Thanks Jambo87. I have read Jared Diamond's "Guns. Germs and Steel". Its an excellent book. I learned much of what I wrote here from Diamond. I appreciate the comments.

jambo87 on August 26, 2010:

Good hub Robwrite. Rated up! Have you read "Guns, Germs, and Steel"? It posits a lot of what you are saying but its explanation of the disparity between the New and Old Worlds includes geographic and agricultural, as well as (as you mentioned) technological advantages. It also impugns the racist argument very well.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on August 07, 2010:

You're right, izetta. This is not how a proud people should be forced to live. Thanks for reading.

L Izett from The Great Northwest on August 07, 2010:

Yeah it's really sad to see what the Native Americans live like right now. I grew up next to 3 Indian reservations in the area and it is not the way of life meant for them. It's too bad we (Europeans) thought our way of life was superior. I am glad that Indians kept some of their past; their stories, beliefs, and many traditions. You are right about many of your points.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on November 21, 2009:

Chad; I hope you're right about a Native American renaissance. What kind of work do you do with the American Indians?

And Linton, thanks for the kind words. You're right that its a disgusting situation and we have little to be proud of in the way we've treated certain cultures.

Linton Press on November 21, 2009:

This is one of the most interesting, entertaining and illuminating articles I have read in this directory. Despite the reported savagery of the American Indian, their lives, history and ultimate demise have always been a fascination, coupled with a disgust at the way invading forces have butchered and robbed of land many indigenous tribes across the world down through history. Man has little to be proud of in this matter. The points you make about superior weaponry, lack of immunity to diseases and the thoughtless extinction of a beast whose name I have never come across before, are all real eye-openers.

Great job!

Chad Taylor from Somewhere in Seattle... on November 20, 2009:

The good news is they are regaining their culture, ideals and way of life all over the nation. I just visited Wounded Knee Memorial and have had the opportunity to work closely w/ Native American leaders and there is a renaissance amongst this great Nation within a nation.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on November 13, 2009:

Hi FreedomChic;

I would agree that there were many contributing factors that were at play in the downfall of Native American culture. But I'd maintain that these elements led to the conquest of the American Indians, not to their natural dissolution as a culture. My position is that, if left alone, the Native American culture would have ultimately thrived, but they weren't sufficiently prepared to deal with outside forces, such as new predators (the Europeans settlers) and new diseases.

To put it in Darwinian terms, they couldn't adapt to outside influences. They were well suited for life in their native continent as things existed before the Eurpoeans settlers--the outside influence that led to their downfall-- arrived. But they weren't able to deal with the new forces brought down on them so unexpectedly.

And I won't deny that the Indians, especially those in South America and Mexico, had a history of combat before the Europeans came. But I think the scope and severity of those conflicts paled in comparison to the history of war that the Europeans had. The inter-tribal battles of the indigenous population never led to an arms race the way European wars did. Indian-on-Indian violence was done on the skirmish level when juxtaposed to the wars in Europe, which led to cannons and gunpowder.

If the Native Americans had indulged in the massive, multi-year wars that the Europeans frequently fought, they would have developed war technology. But they didn't. They were amateurs in the art of war.

FreedomChic1776 on November 13, 2009:

I enjoyed the hub, but I as a historian I do question some of your explanations and sources. When looking at something as broad as the extermination of the Native Americans you need to break it down a littler further. While their were some peaceful tribes, the Mayans, Incans, and Aztecs were long-time fighters. It was in their religion. In many ways, this hindered them because they wanted prisoners to sacrifice while the conquistadors just wanted to win. In addition, you leave out many social factors such as the affinity for whiskey and their intratribal disputes and lack of unity. Even today these effects are still seen. The elimination of the Native American culture is a travesty (one of my favorite topics), but we cannot blame everything on the "white man" as society is so apt to do. Overall, there were several combining factors that culminated in their loss.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 29, 2009:

Thanks very much for reading, HH. I'm so glad you found it interesting.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 29, 2009:

Thank you for a well written and in depth written hub. It is an eye opener because of your explanations. Very interesting.

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