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Resilient Culture: America’s Native Peoples Confront European Colonialization 1500-1800

The following paper analyzes a few chapters from the book “Resilient Culture: America’s Native Peoples Confront European Colonialization 1500-1800,” and their underlying essence. The book was written by John E. Kicza and first published in 2003.

It provides an analogous analysis of the effects of early European colonization on the indigenous populace of America. For this purpose, Kicza highlights the primary characteristics of native cultures and elaborates on the innovative way through which indigenous people established to develop an adaptation to Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch cultures. Throughout the selected chapters, Kicza elucidates the aspect of environmental change and matters of military conflicts, as well as the material and cultural role of each side to the other. Moreover, he also discusses the economic issues of exchange and the transformation of demographics.

Kicza presents a comparative chronicle that asserts the struggles of America’s native people against the European colonizers and explorers throughout the era of 1500 to 1800. Evidently, these two parties had substantial effects on each other’s cultural and physical transformation. America has a rich history and is famous for catering to several diverse communities and empires; many of them were durable, but it is also argued that colonial confrontations were not as resilient and enduring as Kicza states. Nevertheless, Kicza incorporates a few instances that support his proposition.

Take the instance of Maya, which adds fuel to the theory of resilience. Regardless of European expansion, the Maya Civilization sustained its cultural uniqueness. Reportedly, the culture of the Maya emerged about two thousand years ago in Mexico, before the historical European exploration. It was the era when agricultural-based communities in Mexico commenced to establish their entities in political areas and had paid judges and officials to organize and implicate the practices of law. It was prior to the arrival of the Spanish that Mayans were turned into a semi-sedentary and village-style community. Moreover, the Mayans were the pioneers in the new world, which owned writing systems and utilized advanced techniques in the fields of mathematics and astronomy. Further, they were expert in dealing with the complicated implications of religion. It was the 9th century when the downfall of Maya took place, and all their dexterity dwindled along with their business structures. At this time, they opted to go with the flow, adapted political strategies, and ceased their graciousness because they considered internal and cultural harmonization preferable to nobility.

Unlike the enduring nature and resilience of the Maya, the Aztec cultures depicted a weak side of Kicza’s thesis and are not as robust as he assumes. According to Kicza, the Aztecs encountered a ton of challenges yet “maintained distinctive ethnic identities.” (Kicza, 2003) However, it is complicated to preserve a unique cultural identity when the ethnic factors are eliminated. The Aztec empires were developed in the epoch of Mayas, were thickly populated, and covered a considerable region of Mexico. In the beginning, the Aztecs were merely nomadic folks; nonetheless, when they realized that they were becoming semi-sedentary, they decided to shift to a sedentary land. They were persistent in indulging in the thought of their warrior ship and high nobility. Consequently, the Aztecs turned into the most mighty empires at that time and are famous for being the last of their kind. Their bravery and ruler-ship of Aztecs were not as advanced and modern as the Mayans, yet they were grand fighters and knew the art of ruling. Historically, it is affirmed that there was a time when the Aztecs controlled the populace of over ten million working-class people.

Along with Mayans and the Aztecs, Kicza also highlights the culture and community of the Iroquois nation. It was believed to be the most resilient nation in the context of cultural sturdiness. Iroquois not only maintained and sustained their ethnic glory throughout the post-colonial American era, but most of its cultural aspects survived intact to the present day.

Throughout the starting chapters of the book (introduction and chapters 2 and 3), Kicza elaborates on different cultures which survived without confronting the massive destruction of their cultural framework. For this purpose, he incorporates different examples of different cultures and ancient nations, but it seems that his concept of resiliency is not defined as precisely and approvingly as he intends to. By analyzing different perspectives of Kicza’s thesis, it becomes evident that he should rather employ the terms of “enduring” or “strong” or “adaptive,” because such words compliment his theory in a far better manner. Despite giving clear answers, Kicza’s insight develops more questions. For instance, what notion is implied by the surviving culture of Mayans until the commencement of the 1800s? And does the sturdiness and durability of the Iroquois Nation earn it the title of “resilient” on the premises of indigenous American cultures?

Further, it is explained that, unlike the Aztecs, the Mayans and Iroquois Nation were mighty enough and made their cultural identity survive through thick and thin despite the destructive impact of European invasions. But does this phenomenon affirm adaptability or resiliency? The cultures survived the effects of the European colonial movement, but their survival took place in a modified manner, and therefore, it is better to define it as “capable of not dying” instead of “resilient”. The overall exploration of the motives and prospects of Europeans in the context of contact with native people, as well as aspects of colonization in the Caribbean, all is elucidated effectively. However, only the emphasis on the factor of resilience makes Kicza’s proposition a bit shaky.


Kicza, J. E., & Horn, R. (2016). Resilient Cultures: America’s native peoples confront European
1500-1800. London: Routledge.



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