Meeting of Cultures

HEN THE EUROPEANS first came to North America, they not only crossed a great ocean, they crossed a wide cultural divide. The culture of Europe in the 17th century had so little in common with that of the First Nations that we can only guess at how baffled the two groups were when they first met. The one common ground that they found was economic. The First Nations quickly saw how attractive European goods were and the Europeans had an insatiable appetite for beaver pelts.

This unit describes how the two groups tried to find a middle ground where they could deal with one another. On the material level, European metal goods such as kettles, knives and guns transformed the daily lives of the First Nations, just as bark canoes, snowshoes and other means helped Europeans adapt to their new environment. On a spiritual level, the exchange was strictly one way, as Europeans sought to displace Native beliefs with Christianity. The infectious diseases that the Europeans unconsciously carried to the New World had the most tragic consequences for the First Nations.