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American Indians ART/AMS 183 Images of America ©Dr. Lori L. Parks
The Colonies in America Each region was a unique blend of European traditions, the local environment, Native American culture, and African culture In part, new colonies were established because European countries were trying to build their empires Colonization encouraged the rapid exchange of plants, animals, and diseases Relations between Native Americans and Europeans frequently began with peace but often disintegrated into violence. Many colonists sought religious freedom and new land Native Americans were vulnerable to European diseases, especially smallpox. In some areas, up to 90 percent of the Native population died from this disease. The sixteenth- century “Columbian exchange” – the biological encounter between the Western and Eastern parts of the world included the introduction of new animals (horses, cattle, sheep, swine, chickens, rodents) and plants (sugar cane, coffee, fruits, garden vegetables, and various grains) to America. African slaves introduced rice and yams to the New World. Native Americans introduced corn, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peanuts, avocados, tobacco, turkeys, pineapples, pumpkins, and manioc to the Old World. Image in the upper right is a drawing by G. B. Ramusio, Navigationi et Viaggi, Venice, 1556.
George Catlin painting the American Indian George Catlin (1796-1872) journeyed west five times in the 1830s to paint the Plains Indians and their way of life. Convinced that westward expansion spelled certain disaster for native peoples, he viewed his Indian Gallery as a way "to rescue from oblivion their primitive looks and customs .“ When Catlin first traveled west in 1830, the United States Congress had just passed the Indian Removal Act, requiring Indians in the Southeast to resettle west of the Mississippi River. This vast forced migration as well as smallpox epidemics and continuing incursions from trappers, miners, explorers, and settlers created pressures on Indian cultures to adapt or perish. Seeing the devastation of many tribes, Catlin came to regard the frontier as a region of corruption. Scholar Julie Schimmel has argued that there was an “attitudinizing” that permeated the relationship between white Euro-Americans and Indians and this is reinforced by the paintings that lead the viewer to believe that nothing but reality is being recorded rather than an introduction to how white artists perceive “Native - ness” through the lens of their own culture. Right: The author painting a chief, at the base of the rocky mountains Frontispiece to Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians , George Catlin, 1841
American Progress? The idea of American “progress” is another place to consider the incongruity between a Native viewpoint and that of the white settler.

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