Cultures of the New World

In the 1600’s a “new world” of sorts was being formed in North America. In this world, multiple groups of people were coming together resulting in cultures of people quite different from those that existed prior to the colonization of America. Whether for better for worse, one thing is clear: these cultures were an almost inevitable result of bringing together different peoples in a limited amount of space. The Native Americans and the Europeans were able to form a new world in America by interacting to form new cultures which struggled for dominance and attempted to hold together and strengthen these new groups of people by intensively classifying and categorizing their members.

Native American Culture

During the 1600’s in America, Native Americans and Europeans were interacting frequently, and this interaction resulted in the emergence of new cultures and helped to form a new culture different from those before them. These new cultures, however, were not usually for the better, as is the case with the Native American tribes of the Great Lakes area. When the French traders disrupted the balance of power in the region by supplying the Iroquois’ with weapons, they unintentionally led to wars that shattered many local tribes. To continue their existence, the refugees of these broken tribes had no choice but to bring their fragmented groups together into new tribes built of an aggregate of old traditions. To strengthen their intertribal bonds, these new tribes practiced intermarriage, adoption, and the traditional calumet ceremony, thus forging new and substantially different societies in the “new world”.

French Culture

It wasn’t only the Native American culture that was affected, for the French experienced their fair share of changes as well. This is most evident in the fact that the Natives altered the local strains of Catholicism. The fact that a religion could be changed by those it was trying to convert illustrates the idea that in the cultural melee of young America, no culture had complete dominance, which was a significant result of the mixing of various cultures. This example shows that while multiple cultures came together in America, they did so unwillingly, and even as they mixed traditions, they struggled for dominance.

Individuals and Society

The balance between the Europeans and the Natives in the new world was frequently upset, so in order to attempt to maintain order and a clear view of things, people had to be classified one way or another. Men would do certain things, while women would do others. Native Americans would be savages, while Europeans would be pious and civil. What the new and fragile societies hated were those who defied conventional classification, such as T. Hall (a hermaphrodite) or Andrew Montour (a French-Indian man). Montour wanted to be accepted by both the Indians and the Europeans as both an Indian and a European, yet the Indians and Europeans wanted him to be an Indian or a European, and this indecision led to Montour’s death.

The local societies tried to fit Montour into predetermined categories, leaving him an outcast of both, revealing a flaw of this system of order. This drive to classify people into specific racial and gender roles shows how weak the fledgling societies truly were, as they needed to maintain rigid standards to hold themselves together. These people were trying to create a new world, but they felt that they could only do so by classifying everything, making it easier for them to judge aspects of their societies uniformly.


In the 1600s in America, European and Native American cultures came together and were permanently changed. Though many of these changes proved to be far from beneficial, new traditions and cultures were formed from shards of the old, and these cultures strove for dominance of the developing cultural landscape, without significant success. To hold these weakened cultures together, people felt a strong urge to classify people into predetermined categories, clearly stating their status and their roles in society.

Europeans and Native Americans were – for better or worse – able to create a new world in America by combining various pieces of various cultures into wholly new societies, and these societies were able to survive by binding themselves to specific expectations. These societies had difficulty coming out on top, and this battle for dominance led to further cultural mixing, making the “new world” very different from Europe or America prior to European colonization.


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