During the early colonization of North America, new land was discovered and new frontiers were forged. While the “newness” that the colonist created was evolving, it intertwined with the old customs and cultures of the Native Americans. There are many questions about what the “first contact” between the colonist and the Native Americans would have been like. Two authors, Giles Milton and Daniel R. Richter, attempt to answer some of those questions in their works with different approaches. Milton’s Big Chief Elizabeth draws its girth from actual voyages and first hand accounts of “first contact” with the Native Americans.
Milton’s approach was that of an adventurer on a quest. When referring to Sir Humphrey and the Map of North America, “This map was to be the key to the crowning achievement of his life; a voyage to America, with the audacious goal of founding the first English colony on the shores of this mighty continent” (Milton 6) Richter’s Facing East From Indian Country draws its girth from “…oral traditions of Indians who lived generations after the events described, written accounts by European explorers who misunderstood much of what happened in brief face-to-face
Your last name 2 meetings with Native people, and mute archaeological artifacts that raise more questions than they answer” (Richter 11). Richter’s approach is that of a dreamer. He wants his audience to take the bits and pieces of Native American and colonist information and create our own vision of what really happened. Milton’s recurrent theme in his work was capital gain. He cites that “A few of Bristol’s more enterprising merchants had quickly launched expeditions in the wake of Cabot’s voyage, hoping to make trade with the “savages” ” (Milton 6).
The merchants quickly realized that what they had to offer was almost useless to the Native Americans. They surmised that “… a trade based solely on exotica was never going to be profitable; after five of six years of failure, the Bristol merchants abandoned their enterprise” (Milton 6-7¬). The quest for capital gain did not stop there. Richard Hore picked up the torch on the quest for future financial wealth. “ Hore wanted to be rich and was forever dreaming up schemes which combined money making with adventure” (Milton 7).
Hore decided to make a voyage to North America after William Hawkins returned to London with a Native American in tow. “ The sight of this savage astonished the court and was a cause of such excitement in the capital that Hore realized it presented a fine opportunity to make money” (Milton 8). The reoccurring theme in Richter’s work is building alliances and respect. He says of the Native American’s thought pattern was “…the world was a morally neutral universe of potentially hostile or potentially friendly spiritual forces — some human, most other-than-human — with whom one has to deal” (Richter 14).
By Richter’s account of Your last name 3 the Native Americans, they believed that everything was co-dependent on each other. “All of these relationships depended on reciprocal exchanges of goods and obligations, material or ceremonial. Especially when dealing with beings whose power was greater than one’s own, it was important to fulfill ceremonial obligations that demonstrated not only reciprocity but respect” (Richter 14). Colonist De Soto, in particular, felt the respect should be that of his views.
De Soto tells the Native Americans that “… he came to give them to understand the sacred faith of Christ, that they should know him and be saved, and give obedience to the apostolic church of Rome, and to the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of God who resided there, and in the temporal world they should recognize as king and lord the Emperor King of Castile… and that they would treat them all well and with peace and justice, like no other Christian vassals if–and only if– they submit” (Richter 22).
A conclusion can be drawn from each writer’s view on the first contact that the colonist had with the Native Americans. Milton’s approach of the adventurer on a quest leads one to believe that “most of these early expeditions had suffered from poor leadership and had all been jeopardized by lack of resources” (Milton 7). On the other hand, Richter’s dreamer approach leads one to believe “we just do not know exactly how people redrew the map of eastern North America, how they redefined their relationships with one another, and how they fitted their discoveries of Europe into those processes — if at all.
In the absence of hard evidence, we are thrown again upon our imaginations if we are to make sense of what is happening in Indian Country” (Richter 36). With this being Your last name 4 said, one is prone to believe Milton’s account of “first contact” because of the fact based accounts of actual voyages as opposed to Richter’s oral renditions of imagined truth. Your last name 5
Milton, Giles. Big Chief Elizabeth. Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 2000. Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country. USA: First Harvard University Press, 2003.