American Indians &
the arrival of
American culture & society
Spring 2012/ Dr. Scott
The book 1491
Author: Charles Mann
Science writer who became interested in a new
view of indian civilization.
He says: Researchers now believe Indian
civilization was more advanced and complex than
This time in history
Title of book highlights one year before Columbus
arrived in North America.
What was happening in Japan?
Sengoku period. Civil wars. Kyoto is capital.
Yoshitane is 10th Ashigaga shogun.
Kinkaku-ji temple (Yoshimasa) finished in 1493.
1542 -- Portugese in Tanegashima.
How did Indians migrate?
Mostly around alaska and through canada, possibly
along coastal waterways.
No settlements from Northern Europe routes.
New theories: Must have been people crossing
ocean from west.
We will look at
In New England: Indians & the Pilgrims.
There were many other advanced societies, but we
will focus on the East Coast of North America.
Soon after 1492, first European explorers found
long coastline filled with hundreds of villages and
In 1500s, probably 100,000 people or more.
Some trading allowed, but Indian groups told ships
to leave. Cannot stay or make towns.
Indians not afraid of visiting Europeans. Physically
stronger than people on ships.
Map of tribes, 1600
Explorers in early1500s found this:
“Time and time again, Europeans described
the People of the First Light as strikingly healthy
specimens. Eating an incredibly nutritious diet,
working hard but not broken by toil, the people
of New England were taller and more robust
than those who wanted to move in.”
“Native Intelligence,”Smithsonian magazine, December 2005,
Charles C. Mann.
Indians found the opposite:
• “Europeans were physically weak, sexually
untrustworthy, atrociously ugly and just plain smelly.
(The British and French, many of whom had not
taken a bath in their entire lives, were amazed by
the Indian interest in personal hygiene.)”
“The women kept their skin smooth with fish oil and
“As with men, red pigment was mixed to give a reddish
coloration. In addition, bright red was applied to the
forehead, temples and cheeks.”
“Young women favored a black pigment around the eyes
and on the forehead. The body also received its share of
From: “The Pilgrims & Plymouth Colony, 1620,”Duane Cline.
From artist John White
In 1600s, situation changed
By 1620, when the Pilgrims arrived, the same lands
were deserted, emptied.
Pilgrims moved into a former Indian settlement.
The first 50 Europeans settlements in New England
were built on former Indian villages.
The Indians were almost all gone.
The New Theory
Indian society had few defenses against the germs
that arrived with European ships.
In Europe, where diseases were transferred from
animals to people, the worst periods of death had
Adults in Europe had immunities. Only some
children caught small pox or other diseases.
But in Americas, the diseases spread fast --
reaching every villager at once.
Effects of disease
As many as 90% of Indian people died in New
England in 1616-1619.
Social systems were broken, towns emptied.
Attitudes changed about life and supernatural
powers (and balance) in the natural world.
Indians were weakened
This allowed colonists to build up towns.
They could negotiate with existing Indian leaders
who needed powerful‘friends.’
Over decades, more Europeans arrived with guns.
They attacked, took slaves, claimed land.
• The American cultural story says the Indians and
Pilgrims were friends.
• True because Indian leader needed help and could
not stop arrival of people from England.
• Tisquanto, the go-between, had been enslaved by
British captain and learned English in Europe.
• When he had returned to his village, all of his
people had died from disease.
This process occurred all over the Americas.
Indians had fine systems but could not defeat the
diseases that Europeans brought.
Not guns. Not metal. It was mostly disease that
helped colonists to overcome Indian civilizations.
Colonists often did not understand this.
• The Indians the colonists met were the few who
remained after a century of death and grief.
• Not a surprise they seemed simple. They had lost
almost everything and everyone.
• Mann: If true, this was one of the worst tragedies in
the history of humanity.
Another Good Book
This is another
book that asks
how and why
much of the
• Thanks for paying attention.
• I hope this enriches your knowledge.