Interactions of Different Cultural Groups in the United States from the 1500s to the New Nation

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:History

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On the other hand, there are several factors that helped shape the interactions between the Indian tribes, Europeans, and Africans such as gender relations, land and property ownership, war and Native American religion. It is worth noting that different cultural groups played a pivotal role in transforming and shaping the cultural landscape, geographical space and the political institutions of the United States. Indian tribes that inhabited the eastern parts of North America frequently engaged in wars between one another in as much as there were lose alliances. In most cases, Indians perceived themselves as a group among many hence there was a remarkable view of their diversity amongst the Europeans. In Native American religion, those who were believed to have spiritual powers automatically held positions of power. Also, religious ceremonies normally were directed to hunting and farming. In contrast, Indians had a belief that land was a common resource hence the concept of private ownership of property was new in the sense that land was not necessarily an economic commodity. Furthermore, wealth was not highly valued by the Indian societies as they upheld generosity more. In the same way, gender relations among the Indian societies stipulated that: women were in a position where they could choose if they wanted to divorce their husbands; women also engaged in household and agricultural duties since men were often away hunting. Europeans general perception of the Indians is that they lacked legitimate religion, that the Indians had no claim on land since they did not use it and that Indian men were weak and that their women were mistreated.

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For instance, between 1405 and 1433, Chinese admiral Zheng He explored the East African Coast on his sixth Voyage; the Portuguese set up various trading posts along the western coastal areas of Africa where they also colonized the Atlantic Islands by establishing plantations that were worked on by slaves. It is worth noting that the concept of slavery had already been introduced in Africa as a form of labor even before the entry of the Europeans. However, the arrival of the Portuguese accelerated the rate at which the slaves were being bought and sold within Africa. In 1619, the first African slaves arrived at Jamestown in Virginia. Traditional explanations of slavery have portrayed it as a concept where a slave’s person is ideally the chattel property of a man or woman hence they are subject to sale or transfer; they are expected to obey their master’s authority; they cannot voluntarily request to be changed from one master to the other in as much as cruel treatment might have influenced their request; they are expected to labor or provide services upon which they are coerced to take part in coupled by a whip which is meant to inflict pain; also that the relations of the slave and their master were limited to family relations, which is different from the traditional ranking of children and women as seen in a patriarchal family.

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In essence, there was no alternative to slave labor hence the need for the Europeans to remain in power so that such systems could be upheld. In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s a business mentality sparked amongst the British planters where they found out that the productivity of the slaves would greatly improve if they cut down their grisly punishments and instead offered incentives such as Sunday markets and extra time for them to do their gardening. Notably, other reforms that took place around this time encouraged slave births and general longevity since there was increasing political pressure to abolish the slave trade, as stipulated by the Haitian Revolution in 1791 to 1804. Nevertheless, a majority of free colored people were being born free and those working on rural plantations had increased chances of acquiring freedom, especially after a law in 1871 which provided that children born of slaves were to remain in semi-bondage until they attained the age of twenty-five.

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Gradual changes that took place within the slave systems equipped them with means of coping with the fact that they worked and coexisted in societies characteristic of torture and violence. The enlightenment spirit of inquiry spilled into the 18th century, taking into consideration that there had been several regional conflicts in North America. Hence, many people were constantly puzzled over their association with the mother country prior 1763. In the same way, different colonial luminaries decided to employ the inquiry spirit onto political philosophy so that they could indulge into more critical questions. At the time, the leaders derived their powers from the people hence leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin advanced systems of government that upheld the people’s power to determine those they deemed fit to be in authority.

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Moreover, the masses became increasingly aware of the radical potency of the new society that they were created after the Publishing of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “Common Sense. W. Norton & Company, 2004. Gates, Henry. “Did African-American Slaves Rebel?” PBS Learning Media. pbs.

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