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CBSE Notes | Class 11 | Social Science | History | Chapter 10 - Displacing Indigenous Peoples

The chapter introduces students to the times when colonization in America began. It also talks about the Australian territories and the slave culture that was much prevalent in many parts of the continent. We also highlight various forms of Christianity and tribes of the different land.


In the 18th century, a large number of European migrants settled in parts of South, Central, and North America, as well as South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, resulting in the formation of colonies. All of these places were colonised by the Spanish and Portuguese. Asians were also part of the migration in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Natives were pushed out as the settlement grew in size, and immigrants pushed them into other areas, making natives a minority on their own land. The colonies became countries as soon as the people of the settlements gained independence.

Indigenous names are used to name rivers and towns in these areas. (For example, Ohio, Mississippi, and Seattle in the United States; Saskatchewan in Canada; and Wollongong and Parramatta in Australia.)

European Imperialism

What do we understand by European Imperialism?

The Europeans began to establish their power and influence by expanding their trading activities and establishing colonies in Asia, Africa, and America. Furthermore, after the seventeenth century, the Spanish and Portuguese empires in America did not expand.

England was also racing to expand its colonies, but the nature of the control established differed significantly, as it was clear that colonisation was a risky business. Ireland was a virtual colony of England because the landowners were mostly English settlers.

Trading companies like the East India Company rose to power in South Asia, defeating local rulers and annexing their territories. They continued to collect taxes from landowners using the older, more developed administrative system. They later built railways, mined, and planted large plantations to facilitate trade.

Except in South Africa, Europeans only traded along the coast, and they didn't venture into the interior until the late nineteenth century. Some European countries agreed to divide Africa into colonies and divide it among themselves.

"Settlers" refers to the Dutch in South Africa, the British in Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, and Europeans in America.

The official language in these colonies was English (except in Canada, where French is also an official language).

North America

North America spans the continent from the Arctic Circle to the Tropic of Cancer, all the way across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The Great Plains, Great Lakes, Mississippi River Valley, and the Appalachian Mountains are all located to the west of the Rocky Mountains. Mexico is located to the south.


A country in northern North America with about 40% of its land covered in forest. Oil, gas, and mineral resources can be found in many places, which explains why the United States and Canada have so many large industries.

Wheat, corn, and fruit are now widely grown, and fishing is a significant industry in Canada. Immigrants from Europe, Africa, and China have only developed mining, industry, and extensive agriculture in the last 200 years.

 Before the Europeans discovered North America, there were people who had lived there for thousands of years.

The Native Peoples

The 'Arrow-point' is the oldest artefact discovered in America. The earliest inhabitants of North America, who crossed the Bering Straits on a land bridge over 30,000 years ago and then moved south during the last Ice Age, had this vision. The stable climate was cited as the primary reason for the population growth, which began at a rate of about 5,000 people per year.

Residents of the village used to live in bands along the rivers. Fish and meat, as well as cultivated vegetables and maize, were staples in their diet. They travelled long distances in search of meat, primarily bison, the wild buffalo that roamed the grasslands, and they practised only limited agriculture.

Land control was not an issue; while there were some territorial disputes between tribes, it was not an issue in general.

The natives were accustomed to forming alliances, forming friendships, and exchanging gifts with one another, so the Alliance culture was ingrained in their customs. When language was a factor in the North American region, many languages were spoken but not written. Beautiful textile weavers were also skilled craftspeople.

It's also worth noting that after overcoming their illiteracy, these people were able to read the land and comprehend the climate and various landscapes.

The native tribes had a wide range of beliefs, and each tribe had stories passed down from generation to generation about their origins and earlier history.

Encounters with Europeans

The indigenous people's first encounter with Europeans was completely overwhelming. The Europeans were warmly welcomed on North America's north coast. The abundance of gold in South America compelled the Spanish to trade in fish and furs, and they were aided by natives who were skilled hunters.

According to French accounts, natives living along the Mississippi River held regular gatherings to trade handicrafts unique to each tribe or food items unavailable elsewhere.

The Europeans gave the natives blankets, iron vessels (which they sometimes used in place of their clay pots), guns (which were a useful supplement to bows and arrows for killing animals), and alcohol in exchange for local products.

The natives became addicted to such items, which aided Europeans in seizing control of the trade and dictating terms.

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Mutual Perceptions

The Europeans considered literacy, organised religion and urbanism as the factors of "Civilised society". The natives of America appeared ‘uncivilised’ to them. The French philosopher like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, such people were to be admired, as they were untouched by the corruptions of ‘civilisation’.

A popular term was ‘the noble savage’.

Explain the term "Noble Savage"?

A noble savage is a literary stock character who represents the indigene, outsider, wild human, an "other" who has not been "corrupted" by civilization, and thus represents humanity's inherent goodness.

Europeans used to profit handsomely from the sale of fish and furs in Europe. The cost of goods fluctuates from year to year, depending on supply. The locals were perplexed because they had no concept of the market in faraway Europe.

The natives observed European greed and were perplexed by the fact that the Europeans sometimes gave them a lot and sometimes gave them very little in exchange for their goods. They had slaughtered hundreds of beavers in their haste to get furs, and the natives were terrified that the animals would retaliate.

Those who came to ‘settle' in America were the first European traders.

Different Sects of Christianity

During the 17th century, several groups of Europeans were prosecuted for belonging to a different Christian sect. (Catholics in countries where Protestantism was the official religion or Protestants in countries where Catholicism was the official religion.)

What is Protestantism?

Protestantism is a branch of Christianity that emerged from the 16th-century 'Reformation,' a reaction to what its adherents saw as errors in the Catholic Church.

Many of them left Europe to start a new life in America. This was not a problem as long as there was vacant land, but as Europeans moved further inland, they became closer to native villages. They cut down forests with their iron tools to layout farms. Natives discovered tracks that Europeans couldn't see.

Europeans imagined the forests being cut down and cornfields being planted in their place. Jefferson's 'dream' was to live in a country where Europeans lived on small farms.

The natives, who grew crops for their own consumption rather than for profit, and who believed it was wrong to "own" the land, couldn't comprehend this. In Jefferson's opinion, this rendered them "uncivilised."

At the end of the eighteenth century, the countries of Canada and the United States of America were formed. They only occupied a small portion of the land they now occupy. The United States bought land in the south from France (the ‘Louisiana Purchase') and Russia (Alaska), as well as by war – much of the southern United States was won from Mexico.

It never occurred to anyone that natives living in these areas should have been consulted. The western ‘frontier' of the United States was a moving one, and the natives were forced to move back as well. In the nineteenth century, America's landscapes changed dramatically. The Europeans had a different attitude toward the land than the natives.

Some of the migrants from the United Kingdom and France were younger sons who were eager to own land in America because they would not inherit their fathers' property. Later, waves of immigrants arrived from countries such as Germany, Sweden, and Italy, who had lost their lands to large farmers and desired to own farms.

Poles were delighted to work in the prairie grasslands, which reminded them of their homeland's steppes, and were ecstatic to be able to purchase large properties at bargain prices. They cleared land and developed agriculture, introducing crops (rice and cotton) that couldn't grow in Europe but could be sold for profit there. Wolves and mountain lions were hunted to extinction to protect their vast farms from wild animals.

Only after the invention of barbed wire in 1873 did they feel completely safe.


The Climate was causing major harm to the Europeans as the climate was too hot for them to survive and work outdoors. The Experience of the South American Colonies had shown that the natives who had been enslaved had died in large numbers.

The Slave culture was very prevalent as the plantation owners, therefore, bought slaves in Africa. Several protests by anti-slavery groups led to a ban on the slave trade, but the Africans who were in the USA remained slaves for many generations.

In 1861-65, there was a war between the states that wanted to retain slavery and those supporting abolition. Slavery was abolished, though it was only in the twentieth century that the African Americans were able to win the battle for civil liberties, and segregation between ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites in schools and public transport was ended.

The Canadian government had a problem that was not to be solved for a long time, and which seemed more urgent than the question of the natives – in 1763 Canada had been won by the British after a war with France. The French settlers repeatedly demanded autonomous political status. It was only in 1867 that this problem was solved by organising Canada as a Confederation of autonomous states.

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Why The Natives Lost Their Land?

There are several instances that prove how the natives lost their land to the migrants:

  • In the USA, the natives were forced to move and were made to sell their land after signing the treaty. The Americans or the European people of the USA cheated on the natives by taking more land and paying less according to the deal. Even high officials saw nothing wrong in depriving the native peoples of their land.

  • The Cherokee tribe in Georgia was governed by the state laws but remained aloof from the rights of citizens. The fact is that the Cherokee tribe put in the utmost effort in learning the English language to understand the American way of life; in spite of having so much, they were barred from claiming the rights of the citizens.

  • The Cherokees were considered as 'a a distinct community by US Chief Justice John Marshall, occupying its own territory in which Georgia had no force, had sovereignty in certain matters.

  • President Andrew Jackson refused to accept the  Marshall's judgement and ordered the US army to evict the Cherokees from their land and drive them to the Great American Desert. Of the 15,000 people thus forced to go, over a quarter died along the ‘Trail of Tears’.

  • The tribe was criticized for being lazy and not using the land and the craft skills at their maximum potential. This process of displacement was not only limited to their land, if and the precious metal was found at the new settlement they were displaced again. Many tribes were forced to share the land originally occupied by one tribe, thus leading the quarrels between them.

The US army crushed a series of rebellions from 1865 to 1890, and in Canada, there were armed revolts by the Metis (people of native European descent) between 1869 and 1885.

What is "Anthropology"?

Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity concerned with human biology, practices, behaviours and societies. It is significant that it was at this time (from the 1840s) that the subject of ‘anthropology’ (which had been developed in France) was introduced in North America, out of a curiosity to study the differences between native ‘primitive’ communities and the ‘civilised’ communities of Europe.

Some anthropologists argued that just as there were no ‘primitive’ people to be found in Europe, the American natives too would ‘die out.

The Gold Rush, and the Growth of Industries

The "Gold Rush" in California began in the 1840s, this triggered the huge masses to rush towards the USA to find their fortune. The Women's participation was also seen in theirs. Thousands of Chinese workers were recruited to for laying down the railway lines across the continent.

The USA’s railway was completed by 1870, that of Canada by 1885. One reason why the Industrial Revolution happened in England when it did was that small peasants were losing their land to big farmers, and moving to jobs in factories.

The industries in North America developed for very different reasons – to manufacture railway equipment so that rapid transport could link distant places, and to produce machinery which would make large-scale farming easier.
Industrial towns grew and factories multiplied, both in the USA and Canada.

The growth of the USA's economy can be seen through the fact that it was underdeveloped during 1960 but took a lead in industrial power by the 1890s. The Agriculture sector also experienced some expansions, vast areas were cleared and divided up into farms By 1890.

In 1892, the USA’s continental expansion was complete.
The area between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans was divided up into states. There no longer remained the ‘frontier’. Within a few years, the USA was setting up its own colonies – in Hawaii and the Philippines. The USA became an imperial power.

Constitutional Rights

The ‘democratic spirit,' which had been the settlers' rallying cry in their fight for independence in the 1770s, came to define the identity of the United States in comparison to the monarchies and aristocracies of Europe.

They also valued their constitution's inclusion of an individual's "right to property," which the state could not override. However, both democratic rights (the right to vote for members of Congress and the President) and property rights were reserved for white men.

Daniel Paul, a Canadian native, pointed out in 2000 that Thomas Paine, the champion of democracy at the time of the War for American Independence and the French Revolution, ‘used the Indians as models of how society might be organized.

Indian Re-organisation Act, 1934

During the 1920s, the natives of the United States and Canada do not notice any changes. The Problem of Indian Administration, a survey directed by social scientist Lewis Meriam and published in 1928, just a few years before the United States was swept by a major economic depression that affected all of its citizens, painted a bleak picture of the terribly poor health and education facilities for natives on reservations.

White Americans sympathised with natives who were being discouraged from fully expressing their cultures while also being denied citizenship benefits. The Indian Re-organisation Act of 1934, which gave natives on reservations the right to buy land and take out loans, was a landmark law in the United States.

The US and Canadian governments considered ending all special provisions for natives in the 1950s and 1960s in the hopes that they would "join the mainstream," that is, adopt European culture. In the 1954 ‘Declaration of Indian Rights,' a group of indigenous peoples agreed to become citizens of the United States on the condition that their reservations would not be taken away and that their traditions would not be disrupted.

In 1969, the Canadian government declared that it would "not recognise aboriginal rights." A series of demonstrations and debates were held by the natives as part of a well-organized opposition movement. The issue was not resolved until 1982 when the Constitution Act recognised the natives' existing aboriginal and treaty rights. There are still a lot of details to iron out.

It is clear that the native peoples of both countries have been able to assert their right to their own cultures and sacred lands in a way that their forefathers could not have done in the 1880s, despite their numbers being drastically reduced from what they were in the eighteenth century.

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The ‘aborigines’ was a general name given to a number of different societies, those who began to arrive on the continent over 40,000 years ago or even earlier. According to the accounts their origin happens to be a small island around Australia named "New Guinea". According to the native's traditions, their presence was not new as they had always been there. The Europeans also faced a hard time understanding the difference between past and present. ( Past centuries: Dreamtime).

Around 750 native communities were there that existed with their own language in Australia, in the late 18th century.

There is another large group of indigenous people living in the north, called the Torres Strait Islanders.

The Aborigines together make up around 2.4 per cent of Australia's population in 2005. The Demographic structure of Australia describes the small numbers of the population, the majority of them resided along the coast. ( the Britishers first arrived here in 1770)

The natives were well known for their friendly and kind nature. A caption was killed in Hawaii, this single incidence marked by the colonisers to justify the brutal acts of violence by the natives. According to the reports, 90 per cent of the deaths were not because of the natives instead they died due to unhygienic conditions, loss of resources or battle against the settlers.    

The experiment of settling Brazil with Portuguese convicts had been abandoned when their violent behaviour provoked angry reprisals from the natives. The British had adopted the same practice in the American colonies until they became independent. Then they continued it in Australia. Most of the early settlers were convicts who had been deported from England and when their jail term ended, were allowed to live as free people in Australia on the condition that they did not return to Britain.

With no recourse but to make a life for themselves in this land so different from their own, they felt no hesitation about ejecting natives from land they took over for cultivation.

Economic Development

The regions of Australia and of the European settlements experienced economic development but were not as varied as America. Vast sheep farms and mining stations were established over a long period and with much labour, followed by vineyards and wheat farming. These came to form the basis of the country’s prosperity.

When the states were united, and it was decided that a new capital would be built for Australia in 1911, one name suggested for it was 'Wool wheat gold'.
Ultimately, it was called Canberra ('kamberra', a native word meaning ‘meeting place’). Some natives were employed in farms, under conditions of work so harsh that it was little different from slavery.

Later, Chinese immigrants provided cheap labour, as in California, but unease about being dependent on non-whites led the governments in both countries to ban Chinese immigrants. Till 1974, such as the popular fear that ‘dark’ people from South Asia or Southeast Asia might migrate to Australia in large numbers that there was a government policy to keep ‘non-white people out.

The Winds of Change

The great anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner lectured on ‘The Great Australian Silence' in 1968. Indigenous peoples in North America were seen as communities with distinct cultures, unique ways of understanding nature and climate, and a sense of community with vast bodies of stories, textile, painting, and carving skills that should be understood and respected.

Henry Reynolds later wrote a powerful book titled "Why Weren't We Told?" Written Australian history as if it began with Captain Cook's “discovery” was condemned.

Since then, universities have created native culture departments, art galleries have added native art galleries, museums have expanded to include dioramas and culturally themed rooms, and natives have begun writing their own life histories.

It also happened at a crucial time, because if native cultures had been ignored, they would have been forgotten by now. Australia's official policy since 1974 has been multiculturalism, which respects both native and immigrant cultures.

In the 1970s, the Australian public became aware that, unlike the USA, Canada, and New Zealand, Australia had no treaties with natives formalising European land takeover.

Australia's government has always called it terra nullius, or no one's land. Children of mixed blood (native European) were also forcibly captured and separated from their native relatives.

While past acts could not be undone, there should be a public apology for the injustice done to children in an attempt to keep ‘white' and ‘coloured' people apart.

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