GSE SS8H1 European Exploration / Settlement & American Indians
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GSESS8H1 | European Exploration / Settlement & American Indians
Evaluate the impact of European exploration and settlement on American Indians in Georgia.
a. Describe the characteristics of American Indians living in Georgia at the time of European contact; to include culture, food, weapons/tools, and shelter. b. Explain reasons for European exploration and settlement of North America, with emphasis on the interests of the Spanish and British in the Southeastern area. c. Evaluate the impact of Spanish contact on American Indians, including the explorations of Hernando DeSoto and the establishment of Spanish missions along the barrier islands.
The Lesson & Essential Questions
How did the Mississippian Indians survive in terms of food, weapons/tools, and shelter, and describe their culture.
Explain the reasons for European exploration and settlement.
How were the Spanish and British interests similar and different?
What was the overall impact of the Spanish on the American Indians?
Who is Hernando DeSoto and what did he and the Spanish do with the Spanish Missions? Where were the missions?
People inhabited Georgia long before its official “founding” on February 12, 1733. The land that became our state was occupied by several different groups for over 12,000 years. The intent of this standard is for students to recognize the long-standing occupation of the region that became Georgia by American Indians and the ways in which their culture was impacted as the Europeans sought control of the region.
Though three prehistoric American Indian cultures (the Paleo, Archaic and Woodland) lived in southeastern North America before 800 CE, it was the Mississippian American Indians who were living in Georgia when the Europeans, specifically the Spanish, arrived in the mid-1500’s. The Mississippians rose to dominance about 800 CE and organized themselves into a very complex “chiefdom” society. This structured hierarchical society was comprised by a small number of “elites” (the power holders) and the majority were “commoners” (the work force). The Mississippians created large towns near rivers that featured a central plaza, residential zones and defense structures (palisades, guard towers and moats). The focus of the plaza was the earthen mounds, dedicated to religious and social activity though some served as cemeteries. Thousands of families lived in these towns. One-room wattle and daub shelters (walls built of a network of interwoven sticks and covered with mud or clay) served as sleeping facilities as they usually spent their days in the open. A widespread trade network connected Mississippian towns. Trade with other towns consisted of raw materials as well as finished goods, including shell beads, pottery with abstract images, and stone tools. Early Mississippians practiced horticulture (garden cultivation) and eventually moved into large scale agriculture as their population swelled. Initially, maize (corn) was their dominant crop and they eventually added squash, sunflowers, pumpkins, and beans. Unlike today’s farmers, the Mississippians did not plant fields of individual crops. Instead, the fields were intermixed with a variety of plants. Tall corn stalks provided a shield against damaging sun rays for ground level crops.
Tobacco was planted for ritual usage. They did not abandon hunting and gathering, however. Using bows and arrows and chert (sedimentary rock) knives, bone evidence indicates that they hunted deer, rabbit, muskrat, beaver, raccoon, and turkey. Turtle and fish were also a part of their diet. They gathered seasonal fruits, including plums, grapes, blackberries, and raspberries as well as a variety of nuts. The Mississippians improved on the stone tools of previous cultures to use in hunting, farming, and human conflict. After interacting with the Spanish under Hernando DeSoto’s leadership in the mid-1500’s, many Mississippians succumbed to disease and the group eventually reorganized into the historic tribes of the Creek and the Cherokee.
European nations had different reasons for exploring North America, specifically the Southeast. Economic competition between the French, the Dutch, the Spanish, and the English was a primary cause for the exploration of North America. Each desired to build a large empire that would create political and economic dominance in the world.
France, interested in developing a serious fur trade in North America, was primarily interested in Louisiana, the Ohio Valley, and Canada. However, in 1562, Jean Ribault explored Georgia’s coastline in search of the ideal location on which to establish a French colony. He chose a South Carolina location instead. French Protestants eventually moved from South Carolina into Georgia as they sought religious freedom in the 1730’s.
Spain was interested in North America (particularly the Southeast) for the three G’s: God, Gold and Glory. Converting the American Indians to Christianity, filling the Spanish monarch’s treasury with gold, and seeking personal fortune and fame were the goals of Spanish conquistadores. The Spanish never realized the need for self-sustaining colonies as they were preoccupied with their search for gold.
England desired to create permanent colonies in North America to support the economic policy of mercantilism (the economic policy in which a country seeks to export more than it imports). The “mother country” developed colonies that produced raw materials that would be shipped “home” for production into finished products. These products would be shipped back to the colony for purchase by the colonists. Other reasons for creating colonies included a desire for “religious freedom” and a place to begin a “new life”.
Spanish contact had a dramatic impact on the American Indian culture in Georgia. Hernando DeSoto, the first known European explorer in Georgia, was directly responsible for starving and killing a large number of American Indians in his quest for God, gold and glory. Without an established plan for exploration, DeSoto and his men moved from Florida into southwest Georgia in their search for gold. The American Indians often provided DeSoto false information regarding vast stores of gold further north in an attempt to protect their own villages/towns. Though DeSoto never found the gold he desired, he did introduce Europe to southeastern North America. The journals maintained by DeSoto’s men are the first to give insight into the Mississippian chiefdom culture. DeSoto’s journey is credited with introducing pigs to North America and devastating diseases to the American Indian culture. Smallpox was spread by the extensive trade network utilized by the Mississippians. Measles and influenza also attacked the Mississippians at alarming rates. DeSoto’s failed expedition (his men never found gold and he died near the Mississippi River and was buried in the river) led to increased efforts by the French and Spanish to explore the southeast coastline and to establish colonies. Colonization efforts were not met with great success. However, the most successful Spanish colonization attempt was during the “Mission Period” from 1568 – 1684. It was during this period that Spain built several missions (churches) on the barrier islands as well as on the mainland. These sites included missions on Cumberland Island, St. Catherine’s Island, and near the Okefenokee Swamp. Missions built on the mainland were located as far inland as the current cities of Valdosta and Lumber City.
Spanish missions were located near Mississippian towns so the priests and friars could achieve their primary goal: the conversion of the American Indians to Christianity (Catholicism). Consequently, the missions encouraged the American Indians to embrace Spanish political and economic systems. As an example, to show allegiance to the Spanish, unmarried American Indian males were required to work in Saint Augustine for several months out of the year, causing considerable change to the American Indian society. The close contact with the Spanish brought disease and death to the American Indians, who were increasingly disturbed by the changes to their own culture. By the mid-1600’s, the Spanish mission system was crumbling. British influence (based in the South Carolina colony) often stirred American Indians to raid the missions and, by 1680’s, coastal missions were abandoned by the Spanish. A pirate raid in 1684 pushed the remainder of the mission American Indians into Florida, ending the Spanish mission period in Georgia.
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Chad J. DeWolf is an educator at Madison County Middle School (Comer, GA) in the Madison County School District (Danielsville, GA). This website is not affiliated with MCMS or MCSD. ETS is used as an educational tool for anyone interested and should be viewed as a resource for an awesome online learning experience. Tell your friends about this. You know you want to.