Columbian Exchange

The Columbian Exchange was a term used to describe the exchange of disease, food, knowledge of technology and culture, and animals between the Europeans and the Native Americans. One of the main exchanges between the Europeans and the Native Americans were the diseases brought from Europe. The Europeans brought deadly diseases such as small pox, measles, influenza, whooping cough, and many more. This caused the Native American population to be severely weakened and declined at least 90%. This decline made many Europeans, who came later, think some regions had been previously uninhabited.

Another exchange between the Europeans and the Native Americans was that of livestock, including horses and pigs and many other animals. The Native Americans that lived in the Plains area became intrigued by the Europeans’ horses; thus adopting many and becoming skilled riders. Other Native Americans began to raise pigs and chickens. Because of the Native Americans’ closeness with those animals the Europeans allowed their animals to roam free, trampling fields, spreading disease, and seeds of many European plants.

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In turn, this caused many Native American plant species to be forced into extinction. The Native Americans would later introduce the Europeans and Africans to many crops that would have a major, positive effect on population growth, throughout the world. Some of the crops the Native Americans introduced them to were maize, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, chocolate and tobacco. Maize and sweet potatoes soon became an important food throughout the world; however, the white potato would become a major part of the European diet.

The Europeans and Africans also introduced new crops to the Native Americans, such as rice, wheat, sugar cane, bananas, onions, and watermelon. Europeans and Native Americans also exchanged goods and knowledge of technology. The Europeans brought goods such as firearms and iron tools, while Native Americans showed Europeans how to build canoes and catch fish using weirs. The Europeans also brought plows, which the Native Americans did not like to use because they preferred their digging sticks.

Although the Native Americans had adopted many of the Europeans’ ways, they resisted and avoided Spanish culture. They kept much of their languages, clothing, housing, agricultural ways, and religion because of class. However, because of the Europeans’ constant interaction with Native American leaders and their sons many Native American leaders learned to speak Spanish, adopted their clothing style, as well as converting to Christianity. The Native American leaders’ sons would attend school, where they learned Latin and became more familiar with Spanish culture.

In conclusion, the Columbian Exchange had a positive effect on Europeans, along with positive and negative effects for the Native Americans. Although the Native Americans acquired new knowledge of crops, culture, and animals, this new knowledge would have a negative effect on their population, causing them to be severely weakened in number. The Europeans, however, gained much knowledge of crops and ways of life from the Native Americans, which had a positive effect on their current and future way of life.


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