Preconquest Twenty thousand years ago, Paleo-Indians crossed into North America from Asia. During the migrations, they divided into distinct groups, often speaking different languages. (Brands, H. W. , 2009) As the Indians dispersed across the North American continent they developed new food sources such as small mammals, fish, nuts and berries. Approximately 5,000 years ago they discovered how to cultivate certain plants and that is when knowledge of maize, squash and beans spread north from central Mexico.
Native people living in the southwest acquired cultivation skills long before the bands living along the Atlantic coast. The shift to basic crops profoundly altered Native American societies. This is at times known as the “Agricultural Revolution. ” The Agricultural Revolution also sparked population growth, allowing some groups, such as the Aztec Indians to structure their societies in more complex ways such as build vast cities, structure government bureaucracies, develop written communication through hieroglyphic writing and create an accurate solar calendar.
The Eastern Woodland Indians, who lived along the Atlantic coast, had just begun to practice agriculture when the Europeans arrived. 1500-1650 When the British colonization occurred and large numbers of white men and women on the North American continent profoundly altered Native American cultures. Change did not occur at the same rates in all places. Villages on the Atlantic coast under came severe pressure almost immediately whereas groups further inland had more time to adjust.
Regardless of where they lived the Indians discovered that conquest strained traditional ways of life, and as daily patterns of experience changed almost beyond recognition, the native people had to create new answers, new responses, and new ways to survive in physical and social environments that eroded tradition. English planters cleared forests and fenced in fields, and in the process, radically altered the ecological systems on which the Indians depended.
The once vast and seemingly never ending supply of natural resources inevitable reduced the supply of deer and other animals essential to traditional native cultures. In addition to a change in their ecological system the Native Americans also experienced a change in the economic system. The welcomed in European commerce, but like many consumers before them discovered that the objects they longed for inevitably brought them into debt.
In order to pay for the trade good they now had to hunt more aggressively and in doing so reduced their population of fur-bearing mammals even more. The most notable change for the Native Americans came with the “Columbian Exchange. ” This came about when European conquerors exposed the Indians to several new fatal diseases and the Indians introduced the invaders to plants such as potatoes and corn. The Columbian Exchange is something that altered not only the Native Americans but also European history.