EUROPEAN SETTLEMENTS IN NORTH AMERICA 6
Life in the early
The Europeans were not the first people to arrive in America. TheSpanish and the Portuguese had arrived earlier in the 1500s andclaimed much of the current central and South America. When theEuropeans started arriving at around 1600, they had to settle for thehot and the hostile coast line of the Northern America (Quinn, 2012).Life at the coastline was not appealing for the settlers, as well asfor the locals especially Indians who had to live with newinhabitants with new ways of life. The Europeans had been colonizingand making new settlements in other parts of the world such asIreland since 1500. The approach by the Europeans was to inculcatetheir way of life to the locals. The first settlement by theEuropeans was at Jamestown, which later became the headquarters forthe colonizers. The new settlers were apprehensive and also had theexcitement of meeting new people, as well as the new environment.
The locals, the Indians, welcomed the settlers at first but wereextremely cautious. The Europeans were also extremely cautious andlife was all about taking care of oneself in fear of one’s life.The life for the first European settlers at Jamestown was extremelydifficult. The region in North America was highly infested withmosquitos, was extremely hot and humid. Since the European settlerswere aristocrats and artisans, they did not know how to either farmor fish. Hunting, farming and fishing were the everyday activitiesfor the native Indians and this was their main source of food(Grizzard & Smith, 2007). However, the European settlers sufferedfrom starvation since they could not farm, fish or even hunt forfood. The settlers mainly spent their time searching for gold in thearea. This was an act in futility since there was no gold in NorthAmerican coastline. Life was extremely difficult for the settlers andthe few who arrived soon started dying from malnutrition andstarvation.
The European settlers and local Indians co-existed well and thelocals could provide the settlers with food. However, the provisionof the food was only during the winter and the locals later taughtthe European settlers how to farm. Since the locals had seen theSpanish missionaries and explorers in 1500s, they were extremelycurious about the mission of these new settlers. The help theyaccorded the settlers was done with caution and observation (Stanley,2010). In other words, the life in these first European settlementwas that of fear and suspicion of each other. The name PowhatanIndians was coined by the Europeans and it referred to the localIndians they found at Jamestown.
The colonists at the coastline of North America were receivingdirectives from the Virginia Company in London. However, it seemedthe directives were ineffective since the settlers had difficultysurviving in the region and were struggling. The arrival of JohnSmith changed the lives of the colonists. He came up with a rule thatwhoever fails to work will not eat. This reduced the number of deathsof the settlers significantly (Quinn, 2012). Despite the arrival ofSmith and the help from the local Indians, the settlers still foundit hard to survive in North America. All the 400 colonists died inwhat came to be known the starving time in 1609 except 90 (Kelso,2010).
While the remaining settlers were on their way back to theircountry, they were turned back by Lord De La Warr to the hardshipregion. This only meant more hardships and suffering. However, aconflict and cultures arose between the settlers and the localIndians. The settlers raided the villages of the Indians and stolegoods including food. This created even more animosity between thesettlers and the native Indians. The first Anglo-Powhatan War was asa result of the settlers breaking into the homes of the locals. Thisanimosity ended in 1640 when one of the colonists, John Rolfe,married Pocahontas who was a local Indian girl. The settlers hadmanaged to convert some of the locals to Christians such asPocahontas.
The life at the first European settlement was to take a twist whenJohn Rolfe realized that the religion would produce high qualitytobacco if better seeds were imported from Europe. The settlersembarked on farming tobacco and export it to Europe. This broughtfortunes to the settlers and the locals. However, the local leadersprotested over the health risks associated with tobacco. Theextensive tobacco farms had now made the settler wealthy and theregion had become an economic power house (Haynes, 2010). However,there was the problem of laborers. The tobacco farming brought aboutthe issue of slavery in the region when the first 20 Africans weredropped by a Dutch ship in 1619. Life was extremely good for theEuropean settlers. They continued to acquire more land from thesettlers to plant more tobacco. This brought about conflicts betweenthe settlers and the locals. Life at the settlement during this timewas characterized by war and unease. Numerous settlers were killed bythe local Indians who repatriated by killings numerous locals.
Life at the first European settlement was extremely harsh for theEuropeans. The food supplies were taking long to arrive and thesettlers were starving. During the starving time in 1609, it isargued that some of the settlers had turned to cannibals to avoidstarving to death. The settlers lived a life of negotiating with thelocals for various favors and privileges such as food and land(Grizzard & Smith, 2007). These negotiations would mainly failand lead to conflict between the two groups. The success recorded bythe settlers and the wealth made them fight for a new government thatwould be the overall government for Virginia. The House of Burgesseswas established and only white English men were allowed to vote. Thisled to one of the first labor strikes when polish artisans demandedto vote. The settlers were first faced by drought and hunger whenthey arrived. While working in the firms, the settlers worked asgroups or communally. There were also intermarriages between thesettlers and the locals such as the one between James and Pocahontas.Such marriages reduced the hostility between the tribessignificantly, but only for a short period. After the death ofPocahontas, the animosity between the two groups continued.
It is clearly evident that life was extremely harsh and difficultfor the settlers. Being artisans and aristocrats, the settlers wereunable to search for food and farm or fish like the locals. It isworth noting that the locals had a smooth life since they were usedto the local hot and hostile climate. They were farmers, hunters andcould also fish to get sufficient food. The settlers died fromdiseases and starvation before they embarked on tobacco farming. Thedecision by the settlers to acquire the local Indians’ land byforce triggered animosity and war between them.
Grizzard, F. E., & Smith, D. B. (2007). Jamestown Colony:A political, social, and cultural history. SantaBarbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.
Haynes, G. (2010). The early settlement of North America: TheClovis era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kelso, W. M. (2010). Archaeology of early European colonialsettlement in the emerging Atlantic world: Edited byWilliam M. Kelso. Rockville, MD: Society for Historical Archaeology.
Quinn, D. B. (2012). North America from earliest discovery tofirst settlements: The Norse voyages to 1612. NewYork: Harper & Row.
Stanley, G. E. (2010). The European settlement of NorthAmerica (1492-1763). Milwaukee: World Almanac Library.