Topic: EnvironmentDisasters

Last updated: December 19, 2019

Although the Natives and Europeans shared the similarity of heavily agriculturally-based societies, they contrasted vastly in their worldviews. Their views on nature, property, and unique personal identity show the contrast of their societies’ beliefs.To Native Americans, the secular and sacred worlds were one in the same, in terms of nature.

To them, the natural world was sacred. Plants and animals were seen as more than parts of nature, but as equals to humans in existence; everything had a spiritual purpose. Damaging nature had damning spiritual consequences, enforcing the Natives strong connection between nature and the spiritual.

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To Europeans, the natural secular world was separate from the sacred. The European view of nature was that it provided resources for themselves to use, as exhibited in the Bible with the instructions to “subdue the earth”. However, the distinction in secular and sacred plays in the separation of human control on natural forces. In the spiritual and Christian point of view, God controlled supernatural forces which showcased themselves in climatic disasters, such as hurricanes and droughts. For Europeans, the scientific revolution shed a secular light on the natural world, allowing them to understand nature and eventually control parts of it. As a result of the revolution, nature grew a secular focus in the eyes of Europeans. While Natives believed nature was sacred and to be respected, Europeans saw it scientifically and controllable. European society was heavily dependent on property and ownership of land.

Property was fought over in courts and won in marriage. Since agriculture was vital to their society, it was important to own as much land as possible, to become the most affluent and successful. In England, at the time, the amount of property owned even determined political power.

In all, European culture viewed property to be owned by one person, that ownership to be crucial to status, and a measure of success. The individual-based view of property by Europeans was in stark contrast to Native American ideology. Each tribe had there own area of land but within the tribes the land was shared and no part was owned by any one person. The system was based in the belief of benefit for all, not the few. Everyone was entitled to their portion and was not left out. The views on property between European and Natives demonstrates a contrast between selfishness and selflessness and ownership and sharing.

Native Americans underlined togetherness rather than the individual. Resources within a tribe were shared among the people without personal designations. The Natives did not praise personal and material motives, and even looked at them with disapproval. Europeans emphasized the characteristics of competitiveness and materialism. The value of these traits stressed the role of the individual, contrary to the Native American ideals of viewing all as a group.

Striving for personal ambition was even one of the main reason for migrating to the Americas. European accomplishments were generally fueled by the motive of improving one’s own status. Both groups have opposite opinions on the role of the individual in their respective societies. Native Americans underlined the commitment to the tribe, while Europeans had a desire for personal achievement.


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