chapter  2
26 Pages

Retrieving American Indian landscapes

NORTH AMERICA was not a sparsely populated "virgin land" when the French and English first settled Quebec, Plymouth Rock, and the James River estuary in the early 1600s. As generations of colonists slashed their way through the eastern forests and pushed back the "savages," their introspective and ethnocentric view excluded native Americans from the cherished image of a new European landscape. Frontiersmen and later frontier historians saw Indians as outsiders, people without legitimate claim to the land they lived in and, not surprisingly, Indians were excluded from the new society that emerged. The Spanish, who came earlier, had a very different vision. The de Soto expedition, pillaging through the Southeast in 1539-1542, noted mortuary temples as a potential source ofloot, and Coronado, who explored the Southwest in the same years, described pueblos such as Cibola. Whatever their motives, Spaniards "saw" the indigenous cultural landscape, and they ultimately sought to assimilate its people into their own world.