Who are the Indians? Where did they come from? How long have they been here? The Indians migrated from Asia during the ice age, at least twenty thousand years ago. The color of their skin varied from very light yellow to a dark brown; their eyes from black, brown or hazel to gray or even blue; their hair from straight, coarse black to soft brown. There is a strong resemblance between the American Indian and the people of Eastern Asia. The evidence comes from archaeologists and paleontologists.
Throughout the history of Early America, we see two conflicting images of the Native Americans – a split image. They were viewed as peaceful, gentle, and willing to establish mutually beneficial relations with Europeans. Some whites who had fled to Indian communities or been captured by them became chiefs; this is the most dramatic evidence of the Indian receptivity to others. They were curious and were interested in the newcomers. They admired them and hoped to gain from them. The materialism and technology of their ships, textiles, and firearms impressed them although they found them physically unappealing . Their social style seemed rough and undignified. The Native Americans, on the other hand, were viewed in a very negative light as counter images of the civilized man, lacking Christian piety, purposefulness and the work ethic. In New England, they were experienced as both physical and psychological barriers, as threats to the identity and collective success of the Puritan way. They were regarded as objects. The Indian possession of land was a problem of law, morality and practicality. The colonists' need for land led to hostility rather than cooperation. Indians maintained a relaxed attitude toward personal possessions. During harvest time, wealthy individuals gave away much of what they owned to promote a relationship of obligation with potential followers or allies. Europeans considered them inferior since they were different. If they were to be treated on an equal footing, then they should be converted and assimilated.
American history is also a multi-cultural social history where homogeneity versus diversity is prominent. In 17th century America, the Indians who inhabited America had a culture of their own. Though the Indians were blessed with such great natural wealth, they lived like poor people in the eyes of many colonists.