Friday, September 4, 2009

The Cultural differences between Natives and Europeans

In Daniel Murphree’s book Constructing Floridians, In regard to the discrimination of the natives by the Europeans, the difference between the two cultures was so contrasting and hostile, that both sides refused to compromise. Since 1560, the early Spanish settlements established missionaries in order to attempt to convert and civilize the independent native tribes such as the Calusa and Apalachee tribes. As this failed, the opinion of the natives deteriorated. Some settlers, motivated by greed desired to pillage the indigenous villages for gold. Menendez de Aviles describes the natives as “warlike, intractable and wanted nothing to do with the Christians” according to their paganism. He also said that they “practiced no austerity, but follow whatever their sensual and bestial vice leads them” in reference to the natives’ polygamous and open society in contrast to the constrained and regulated Spanish culture at the time (Murphree 39). These attempts of purification and Christian conversion led to disarray. The natives did not receive the proper respect from the Spanish, being subject to forced conversion, racism and alienation. In the 1690’s, the French became interested in Florida for its fur trade. Because of their small numbers the French relied upon negotiations with the indigenous tribes and deerskin trade. However, racism formed out of stark contrast in culture and customs. While some French colonizers “enjoyed their presence and even had interracial marriages, others such as Jean Bienville perceived different tribes in a negative light, with insults ranging from cowardly, lazy and lawless” (Murphree 80). The French failed to retain peace among warring tribes because of their discrimination and attempts to force their own values upon the natives. The better equipped British were well educated and so they sought to educate and civilize them. Even though the British wanted a better understanding of the natives, their desire to convert and moralize the natives caused disorder. The British followed the “same cycle of judgementalism” as their predecessors out of fear and cruelty in order to “civilize” them. Hatred escalated as British settlers cruelly disdained the Native Americans for the color of their skin, barbarous acts and lifestyle. The seemingly peaceful religious negotiations and respect turned into war and suppression. This was not as successful as what the French tried to promote because the natives wanted to retain their identity as peaceful lovers of nature, not violent savages. Cultural differences and stereotypes among the Europeans and the natives caused fear, tension and hatred among each other. Neither side cooperated because of culture clashes, war and religious differences. This began to deteriorate in the 1900s when prejudices began to decline as both began to gain mutual respect for each other.

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