Many Native American societies emerged from the people of different regions. To the south were the most elaborate societies; the Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs. While the Incas developed a large network of paved roads, the Mayas created their own language system and were succeeded by the Aztecs, who built advanced educational and medical systems. All three tribes, located in South and Central America, became known for their complex political systems. To the north, in present day America and Canada were many smaller tribes with diverse ways of life. Each tribe adapted to their region and climate; for example, the Eskimos of Canada subsisted off of seals and traveled by dogsled, whereas the Great Plains natives settled into large villages and survived by farming. Although the tribes were all classified as ‘Native Americans’, they were widely dispersed across the continent, and each survived off of the surrounding land which led to many different ways of life.
When the Europeans arrived in the Americas, the Natives showed them how to use the land effectively. They gave them tips on how to enrich the soil and keep it fertile, and introduced the Europeans to corn. Corn became a very important crop, as it prevented the settlers from starving, along with providing a source of sugar. The Natives in Cuba also eventually provided the Europeans with the cash crop, tobacco. Despite the Natives’ help, the Europeans still looked down on them. One reason was the Aztecs, who, despite their advanced systems, engaged in human sacrifices to their gods. At one point, Spanish conquistadors discovered one hundred thousand skulls of sacrificed victims. Another reason may have been that the Natives did not worship one god; instead they practiced polytheism. The Europeans probably considered them heathens.
With the age of the conquistadors, Spanish explorers began to look at the New World as a source for riches. Hernando Cortez was one of the first Spanish to strike gold. He accidentally decimated the native Aztec population through the transmission of European diseases, then brutally killed or enslaved the survivors. Cortes and Francisco Pizarro, who was the conqueror of Peru, sent word back to Spain of the riches to be found in the New World. For three hundred years, the conquistadors utilized the Americas for gold, settling in places where they believed they would have luck. Although the Spanish were very successful at finding riches, they did not put as much emphasis on agriculture and commerce as some of the English colonies did. The Spanish government made trade very difficult; all trade had to go through one Spanish point and a few colonial ports, and voyages could only be made twice a year. This severely limited the development of the Spanish colonies’ economies. Another intention was the spreading of Catholicism; when the Pope agreed that the Spanish could have most of the lands to the south of Mexico, he declared that Catholicism could be the only religion there.
The English, after hearing of the Spain’s success in finding riches in the New World, decided to try their luck. Because the New World was dangerous, the only settlers for a time were hardy men who had been unsuccessful in England and were looking to get rich quickly. No women went, and no proper economic or political structure was set up in Jamestown. This, along with poor relations with the natives, contributed to many deaths. The other main motive for colonizing America was religious freedom. The English Puritans had been treated unfairly in England, and they eventually moved across the seas to establish a haven for others like them. The Puritan settlements were more interested in being permanent, so economic systems were established, and those who came over were more families rather than men. In comparison to Spain, the English colonies eventually outnumbered the natives. In the Spanish colonies, there were many more natives than