Interactions among the early European groups (the Quakers, the French, the Dutch and the Spanish) and Native Americans varied from one place to another, and various economic, political and social factors governed the relationships members of each group forget with the Native Americans. Unlike other European groups that did not consider Native Americans their equals, the Spanish, French, Dutch and the Quakers sought profit by exploiting the resources of the New World and through trade, and they were aware that they needed to come to terms with the native people in order to succeed.
Among the interactions of early European groups and the Native Americans, the relationships between the Quakers and the Native Americans were much friendlier, which started when a peace treaty was signed by William Penn with the leader of the Lenni Lenape nation, which is now Delaware. The Quakers established a charity, in hopes of bettering European-Native American relations, spending their funds on the Native Americans. Unlike other European Christian groups, Native American religions were not denounced by the Quakers. A committee was also appointed by the Quakers for the civilization and welfare of the Native Americans, with the intention of introducing among them essential arts of civilization, such as animal husbandry and mechanical arts. Also unlike other European Christian missionaries, the Quaker Society of Friends willingly accepted Indian religious experiences as valid. Due to these friendly relationships, many of the Native Americans began trusting the Quakers. Overall, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Quakers had good experiences with the Native Americans. However, the belief of seeing the Native American way of life as inferior was still an obstacle for the Quakers during the 19th century.
Like the North American Spanish colonies at the time, not many French settlers were attracted by New France. The French did not enslave Native Americans in order to farm and mine on their lands; instead, they established trade relationships with the Algonquins, Huron and Montagnais along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. This allowed them to exploit the inter-tribal alliances that already existed. These Native American inhabitants competed against other to be able to exclusively intermediate between the French and other Native American traders. Although the Native Americans drove hard bargains for animal furs, they did most of the work, i.e. they tracked, trapped, skinned the animals, and transported the pelts to French traders. French traders traded with the Native Americans for the furs of various animals, which reinforced the positions of traditional clan leaders, making it possible for them to distribute the goods they received from the French to their clan members. Displaying bravery in the face of danger and learning the local languages allowed the priests of Catholic or Jesuit missionaries to successfully convert large numbers of Huron to Christianity. French officials allowed Christian Hurons to buy French muskets to further encourage or tempt them to convert. In the 18th century, the French were competing with the Dutch for trade and territory, as a result of which the Native Americans continued to get diplomatic, economic and military leverage due to the competition between the Europeans for the military alliances and trade of the natives.
Unlike other European groups, the relationships of the Dutch with the Native Americans did not revolve around religion conversion. Instead, they centered their efforts on trading with the Native Americans in what is New Jersey and New York today. In the 17th century, the Dutch-Iroquois fur trade alliance was founded, as a result of which the Iroquois confederacy became the most powerful North American Native Empire of the time. Although the Iroquois population drastically declined due to European diseases, such as smallpox, their beneficial alliance with the Dutch enabled the confederation to remain in power. The Iroquois defeated the Huron with the help of Dutch weapons, even though the Huron were leading a major pan-Indian confederacy at the time in the area.
Spain was Europe’s and the Americas’ most powerful monarchy at the time. They wished to enrich themselves with the natural resources of the new world. The Spanish first enslaved the indigenous peoples in the Caribbean and the southern parts of the Americas. After growing crops there and mining for gold, silver and other valuables, they moved into North America where their efforts centered on what is currently the southeastern and southwestern United States. For instance, in Florida a military post was established by Spain at San Augustín, which is known as St. Augustine today, but the number of Spanish that settled there was small. Catholic missionaries worked hard to convert the Native Americans to Christianity, and they were successful to some extent, including the fact that they transformed the Guale and Timucuan peoples into farmers. However, even the Native Americans who were most cooperative continue to maintain their own cultural and religious traditions, which led many priests to the conclusion that the native peoples were incapable and interior to understand Christianity. The Spanish brought with them epidemics that killed large numbers of natives, leading to waning of indigenous populations over the 17th century. Throughout the Spanish colonial period, San Augustín continued to serve as a small outpost, kind of multicultural crossroads, where the Spanish and the Native Americans would trade, and Spanish men married Native American women.
Overall, as frequently as it was possible, Native Americans also took advantage of the competition between European groups (not only the ones mentioned, but others as well) to enhance or maintain their own economic and political positions.
Richter, Daniel . Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Zandt, Cynthia J. Van. Brothers Among Nations: The Pursuit of Intercultural Alliances in Early America, 1580-1660. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.