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The Vikings | Columbus | John Day | John Cabot | Martin Frobisher | Jacques Cartier | John Guy | Henry Hudson | Samuel De Champlain | Native Perceptions | Francis Drake | Humphrey Gilbert

Native perceptions of the different explorers that appear differed as much with the intentions and objectives of the explorers as it did with the particular native groups that they encountered. The Aztecs believed that Cortes and his men were the fulfillment of a prophesize that foretold the coming of a god who would overthrow their empire. Some natives greeted the explorers with curiosity and were eager to trade for their strange items. Some accepted them as strange visitors to be tolerated but were impatient for their departure. Yet others accepted the explorers and later settlers as potential new friends and allies.

The worse encounters took place with Spanish Conquistadors who looked upon the natives as sub-human creatures to be defeated subjugated and in many cases forced into slavery. One of the crucial problems with these first encounters centered around the transfer of disease and viruses which were alien to North American peoples and hence left them in many cases biologically unable to resist the sickness or produce antibodies to fight the germs. Estimates of the number of indigenous people that may have died from these new European diseases range from a few hundred thousand to millions. This was a process that occurred for hundreds of years throughout the Americas and was most devastating when the first contact took place between the Europeans and the natives.

For native groups in Canada who were technologically hundreds of years behind the Europeans, the wondrous ships, metal instruments, weapons and chemical inventions such as gunpowder must have seemed wondrous, yet in other ways the Europeans inability to live off the land in the knowledgeable, traditional way the natives did may have made the Europeans appear somewhat weak and uninventive. It was the natives who saved the starving Pilgrims and the Algonquin spruce tea that healed the scurvy that the first French settlers suffered from.

How did the clash of cultures and values resolve themselves? The answer to that is in many different ways but usually to the detriment of the native peoples.