ib1989 asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 9 years ago

What did the Native Americans fight amongst themselves about?

I've heard that they were peaceful people before the white settlers came but tribes still went to war with each other... seeing as their religions and lifestyles are pretty similar (feel free to correct me if they're not) and I don't think they would have fought over land/resources (because of their beliefs, collective ownership etc) what did they actually fight over?

9 Answers

  • Favourite answer


    Contrary to popular belief, we completely understood the concept of land ownership.....we just didn't feel the need to fence everything in like the incoming Euros. We knew where our lands were, and where those that belonged to the next Nation started. Occasionally, when our lands were encroached upon, we would fight with the trespassers. Other Nations generally only trespassed, when following game, or raiding for food.....at least that is the way it was in the Great Lakes regions. Land was communal....to a point. Meaning if my neighbour was sick or injured and couldn't hunt or harvest, they would be taken care of. The entire community would pitch in to see to it. Then there were also lands that were owned matrilineally.

    And no, we did not fight over religions......as we don't have religion. The fact that there were so many hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different cultures shows that we weren't fighting for conquest, fun, or to impose our varied spiritualities on other Nations. Our fights were in no way comparable to wars.....especially not of the like that were going on in Europe before they came here.

    The people who write the history books and use lame excuses as a justification for the theft of this continent need to pick a story and stick to it. Either we had no concept of land ownership, or were blood thirsty savages fighting bloody wars over the land. They can't have it both ways.

    Source(s): Mississauga Ojibwe
  • 9 years ago

    There really were no long, protracted wars as there were in Europe. There were some border disputes, (yes, fights over land ) or over who had fishing rights in a certain river. There were also periodic raids between some tribes, which weren't necessary bloody things, as it was more about "sneak in, grab what you can without getting caught and run". And sometimes, disputes between tribes might be settled by sporting games, contests, or gambling.

    That's not to say there weren't battles that resulted in deaths. There certainly were. But it wasn't a frequent or regular thing. Even during battle, it was a considered a greater deed to strike your enemy without killing him, and by doing so, shame and humiliate him.

    And sometimes there were fights that were the result of personal feuds that got out of hand. We're human beings, and sometimes we don't get along. We weren't all a bunch of hippies or anything.

    But overall, there wasn't a culture of perpetual warfare, and there certainly wasn't any attempt to completely wipe out another group of people.

    There were over 500+ tribes, some large and powerful, and some very small, living right nearby. If there HAD been any wars of conquest, you'd never have these tiny, independent groups living on the doorsteps of the huge and powerful tribes. For example, there are over 200,000 in my nation. And right nearby is another tribe, numbering around 1,000. Kinda proves we weren't fighting with them.

    btw- no, actually our lifestyles and spiritual beliefs (we don't have religions) are pretty different from each other. What is important though, is that we respect each other's ways, as valid for each people. That's why we don't try to convert other people to our ways, even today. The Navajo way is for the Navajo people. It isn't the Hopi way or the Zuni way. Our ways are not for other people, they are for us.

    Source(s): Navajo
  • 9 years ago

    Well, their religions and lifestyles were not at all similar! Many think of "native spirituality," etc., but, different peoples were often very, very different.

    Land could be an issue. Many tribes also took slaves, so, they would raid others to get them - which would case retaliation. There might be disputes over trading rights, and routes; all sorts of things, same as with any other people.

  • Dylan
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    "Wars", could hardly call it that. The bloodiest "war" pre-contact between my tribe and our northern neighbors the Utes, about 13 people died. As unfortunate that was, hardly can compare to what was happening in Europe. You had the Reconquista in Spain where the Spanish ended up deporting all the Jews that lived there, you also had the lesser known Crusades into Eastern Europe. Where the Teutonic Order attempted to invade Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, even the Christian nation of Novgorod (Russia) because apparently their Christianity wasn't the right Christianity.

    Those are a few examples of what was happening in Europe Pre and Post Columbus, those were wars. Thousands died, many more were displaced. One of the bloodiest wars in European history was the 30 Years War which left more than a million dead, and over what? A feud between Protestants and Catholics. Nothing on that scale happened in North America. Did our ancestors fight amongst themselves? of course. They are human after all. Though still, you can hardly call a couple of Apaches stealing corn from a Zuni village under the cover of darkness a war, you can't call a band of Lakota counting coup on a band of Crow a war.

    The Aztecs though, yeah none will deny they were a very warlike tribe. They invaded their neighbors to beat them into submission, for slaves, and to tax them for tributes. As violent as they may have been, you can't take that one tribe and put all the thousands of other tribes that originally populated the Americas and call them all warrior societies. Wars in Pre-Columbian North America, were rare, short, and not very violent death toll wise. The fact that there were so many languages and culture prove this.

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  • 4 years ago

    Wow! thank you! Exactly what I was looking for. I tried looking for the answers on other websites but I couldn't find them.

  • 9 years ago

    That idea they were peaceful people before the white man came and caused all the problems is a common propaganda myth. Certainly different tribes would've fought over land, dishonest trading among themselves, etc - and if they were all of one religion, why would they be split into different tribes at all? If they all got along swimmingly, surely there wouldn't have been any divisions, the whole contenient would've simply been one big happy... But it wasn't. Tribes were at war with one another long before the whites ever got there.

  • Salish
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    You have to realize that non-native definitions of war are not even close to what Native definitions of war are...in my language, we do not even have words for war or peace, if that helps you understand the mindset of my ancestors.

    The reasons for war were also MUCH different. You see, European cultures, like several cultures even today, were geared around the accumulation of "things" and resources. People in Europe went to war over religion, land and food supplies, maybe precious metals and the like too. In European cultures, the value of a person is placed on their ability to accumulate more stuff than others. They do this by being brutal to one another, or manipulative and clever. Greed is a rewarded value in several European cultures.

    By removing greed from my peoples cultural values, we removed several issues of conflict with other tribes. To gain respect in my culture, you actually have to GIVE AWAY as many of your possessions as you can possibly part with. If you want a persons or villages devotion/loyalty, my ancestors would honor them and give them gifts. To this day, gift-giving is a major aspect of our culture. For my wedding, I plan on spending around $4,000 on gifts for the guests alone, and spending several hours making culturally significant things to also give away as these are more highly valued in my culture than store bought items (since you have to take the time to make it)

    So, when a people didn't have enough food, they wouldn't go out and slaughter another tribe to take what they had, usually, a more prosperous tribe would hear of their plight (maybe a relative through marriage or prospective relative or friend of the family) and host a potlatch in the honor of the starving people. They wouldn't out right call it charity, they would find a legitimate reason that the people or a person from the tribe deserved to be publicly honored (maybe a past good deed or something) and invite them to their village for a potlatch. The starving people would go home with enough food to carry them through to the next season (when they can work on rebuilding their stockpiles and plan on having a potlatch of their own, maybe a naming or wedding ceremony that they'll invite their host tribe to so they can repay the kindness) and through the ceremony be rejuvenated emotionally instead of down-hearted and embarrassed.

    My tribe was one of the largest in the region for several centuries, we had control of the puget sound and most of the hood canal, which means we controlled the vast majority of resources in the area. We have been known for our hospitality and generosity for Milena. Chief Seattle's home was the most well-known potlatch house for several hundred miles. Tribes would come from Alaska and Oregon to potlatch at this house.

    Occasionally, tribes from other regions that did not adhere to our social norms would attack. Rarely did they kill anybody, mostly they would take slaves, but when they did attack, our warriors would kill those we could not enslave (even slavery was far different from other cultural groups in the world, if you mistreated your slave, they would be set free by others in the tribe and you would be shamed...it was shame that kept people enslaved until they could honorably work their way out of it, they rarely ran away because they couldn't return to their homes with honor if they did). War was a rare occurrence.

    Even to this day, what can be settled culturally with other tribes through potlatch, we do. What can't, we settle in court.

    You have heard answers from peoples originating in all corners of the U.S. Listen to us. We know our history better than any outsider.

    Source(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch Heres a skimming over what a potlatch entails
  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    navajo mostly fought with with utes and plain tribes

  • 9 years ago

    Most of their battles were to see who is more fit in nature. Until you get to the southern lands of Mexico where the battles were more pernicious and corrupt. Can you imagine what it was like to keep an industry of about 350 sacrifices daily in their temples. External tribes had to contribute to this or face war and enslavement. They had to make a pact with the very devil to get themselves free of the Aztecs. They didn't do it out of love for their kind. In the end what was worse. The boots of the Aztecs or the boots of the Spanish? And whose boots do we have to polish now?

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