into contact with the first European explorers. There is no doubt that extensivetransformations and destructions, both biologically and culturally, were brought about by the appearance of Europeans on the shores of North America. However, there isvery little written information from the sixteenth century documenting the lives,cultures and experiences of the Natives of this ‘New World’. Any first hand accountsof early contact between Europeans and the Natives were usually written in an officialcapacity detailing incidents of exploration and settlement but ‘illuminat(ing)individual regions for only brief periods’.
Written accounts coming solely from theEuropean explorers and settlers are necessarily biased or at the very least heavily onesided. Archaeological research has done much to reveal the true extent to whichEuropean contact affected the Native American people, especially since the period‘from the earliest evidence of European goods or diseases in a region to the start of the detailed written records’.
By combining archaeological findings, written reports from the Europeans andsongs and oral history of Native American people, a relatively clear, though notundisputed, understanding can be obtained of the variety of experiences and reactionshad by the Indians on the first arrival of European explorers and traders. It has beensuggested by many historians that ‘in numerous instances native people interpretedthe newcomers as supernatural’
. There are recorded occasions describing Indians bringing their sick to be healed, this shows that some Natives looked on some leadersof European groups as ‘powerful shamans’. Other colonists or explorers wereconsidered to be supernatural beings because their apparent immunity to the
B. Trigger-F. Swagerty. ‘Entertaining Strangers: North America in the Sixteenth Century’, in B.Trigger-W. Washburn eds.,
The Cambridge History of the Native People of the Americas,
(United States of America: Cambridge University Press, 1996) p. 325
Ibid, p. 326
Bruce G. Trigger. ‘Early Native North American Responses to European Contact’, in Albert L.Hurado and Peter Iverson eds.,
Major Problems in American Indian History,
(Lexington; D.C. Heathand Company, 1994) p. 55