5) European Influence on Trading

The influence of European trading among the Calusa and Iroquois tribe is of great importance. Because these tribes were in the Southern and Northern most regions, their initial contact with the Europeans occurred with different countries. The Calusa first had contact with the Spaniards, and the Iroquois (through the Mohawk tribe) first had contact with the French. The purpose of this essay is to determine whether or not they handled trading with their European contacts in the same way.

The Calusa Indians, as stated before, were first contacted by the Spaniards through Ponce de Leon in the spring of 1513 (MacMahon, pg. 115). From the beginning the Calusa did not want to have any real contact with the Spaniards. Ponce de Leon and his men were met by Calusa warriors in canoes. However they were too few and were forced to retreat, some were killed, and still others were captured by the Spaniards. The Calusa did not give up and the next day the Calusa sent more warriors, “in eighty shielded canoes” and eventually the Spaniards did take their leave (MacMahon, pg. 116).

While the Calusa did not want to have contact with the Spaniards, they were able to have contact with the European in a different way. Because the Calusa lived so close to the ocean (their diets contained a lot of fish!) They were able to have “contact” with the Spaniards when they would sift through shipwrecks for loot they found appealing (MacMahon, pg. 116). They also found captives among the shipwrecks. These captives were forced to be slaves, forced into marriage, or even used as human sacrifices to the Calusa gods (Reilly, pg. 398). According to Fontaneda (one of the Spanish captives that lived among the Calusa) there had been over 200 Spaniards that were found by the Calusa and their subjects and only a few remained living (Reilly, pg. 398). However this appears to be the only ways in which the Calusa had contact with Europeans until they were driven away during the war over Florida between the Spaniards and British.

The Iroquois had quite a different story. They were very willing to trade with the newcomers! From the very beginning they accepted Jacques Cartier with open arms, willing to trade (Crawford, pg. 354). They traded such things as marine shells and wampum beads for “glazed ceramic, glass, and metal” (Hamell). The Europeans were also the recipients of items treasured by the Iroquois. According to Hamell the Europeans also received wooden pipes, moccasins, and clubs (important items that among the Natives) in their trade with the Iroquois (Hamell). However that is not all that the Iroquois and Europeans traded.

The Iroquois were also able to receive guns when they traded with the Europeans. This was a great advantage in their hunt for furry animals (Martin, pg. 4). Fur trading was one of the most important among the Iroquois, as it was with the tribes surrounding them. Calvin Martin explains that the fur trading was so intense that by 1648 the Iroquois, among other tribes, were facing a severe depletion of these small animals in their land (pg. 3). With more advanced weaponry they were able to kill more animals in the pursuit of their furs so that they might be able to continue their trade with the Europeans (Martin, pg. 4). The downside to this type of trade was the fact that the very source of their trade with the Europeans was very rapidly being depleted. Their trade with the Europeans would continue until their demise at the hands of their Ojibwa neighbors came about.

In conclusion, the Calusa essentially remained distant from the Europeans. The majority of their contact with the Spaniards was through the victims from shipwrecks whom the Calusa kept as captives. The European artifacts the Calusa did have were also taken from shipwrecks and perhaps even traded with neighboring tribes. The Calusa remained distant until forced to flee during the war between the Spaniards and English. The Iroquois, on the other hand, had frequent contact with the French. So much contact that their access to advanced weaponry encouraged their fur trade which led to a severe depletion of furry animals in their region. Their frequent contact meant the spread of disease and so encouraged the Iroquois to continue their habits of “adopting” fellow Indians into their tribe until the loss of their final war against the Ojibwa Indians. Based on these differences it is plain to see that trade with the Europeans was viewed differently among the Calusa and Iroquois tribes.


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