Native History

Essay by onomadCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 2004

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One of the prominent themes in the study of Native American history is that of plurality. Across North American there have been, and yet endure, a myriad of different nations and groups. While each separate Native nation is unique, their stories often follow similar patterns. Henry E. Stamm, IV, in his work People of the Wind River: The Eastern Shoshones 1825-1900, and Professor Akim Reinhardt in his lectures both presented the histories of single nations: the Shoshones and Lenape respectively. The stories of the two nations, like their people, are different, but follow some of the same patterns. Additionally, Reinhardt and Stamm approach their discussions in similar, but qualitatively different ways.

The stories of the Shoshones and the Lenape people follow similar patterns found across the scope of Native history. The Lenape were a small confederation of groups, living in what became the eastern united states from Maryland to Maine, who were banded together for mutual defense.

They made their living by harvesting corn, beans and squash, supplemented by some hunting of deer in managed grazing lands. When Europeans arrived in the mid 1500s, Lenape culture changed in many ways. Europeans brought with them disease, but also new trading opportunities. The Lenape offered fur, and in exchange received things such as alcohol and firearms, the latter of which made hunting easier and increased the relative power of the Lenape.

Trade proved difficult to maintain for the Lenapes, as misunderstandings, and occasionally chicanery and deceit, between natives and Europeans caused tensions to rise among both groups. In one instance, the Dutch offered to buy as much land as could be covered by the hide of a bull. The Lenapes accepted and were no doubt displeased when the Europeans cut the hide to make ropes and fenced off a huge area. The...