Changes in the Land Native Americans were some of the first people to live and settle in America, and lived much differently than Europeans. Cabeza de Vaca and William Cronon explain their experiences with Native Americans in Cabeza de Vaca’s Adventures in the Unknown Interior of American and Changes in the Land respectively. Their lifestyle was very new and unfamiliar to both de Vaca and Cronon when they arrived in America. Cabeza de Vaca arrived in Southwest America in the sixteenth-century while William Cronon arrived in the New England area of America in the twentieth-century.
Even though both of them lived in different time periods and were in different parts of America, there are several similarities and a few differences when they observed and encountered Native Americans. The Native Americans were nomadic people and traveled frequently according to the seasons and availability of food. In Changes in the Land, Cronon explains that the Native Americans only owned belongings that were essential because they moved around depending on where the food was most abundant (Cronon 54).
During the seasonal migrations, a family might carry: clothing, baskets, fishing equipment, a few tools, corn, beans, and smoked meat (Cronon 54). Cabeza de Vaca explains that the Capoques and Han lived by the ocean in small huts. These huts are made of mats and their floors consisted of oyster shells, and they sleep on these shells in animal skins (de Vaca 62). The Han Indians often traveled to the shore to eat oysters during the Winter and would return to the mainland in the Spring. The Native Americans in both accounts are nomadic people and move around depending on the season.
The Indians moved around a lot because of the availability of food depending on the time of year and would often starve or find other ways to adapt. During the twentieth-century, Cronon explains that the Native Americans would go fishing in the Spring then move back to the coast to hunt and pick berries in the Summer. During the Winter, the women would farm while the men would hunt (Cronon 94). The southern Indians had a lot of agricultural produce and would trade with the northern Indians (Cronon 94). During the
Winter, though, the northern Indians would starve because food was very scarce, which was very difficult for the Europeans to understand. The Indians living in the sixteenth-century would eat nothing but oysters and drink very bad water for three months (de Vaca 62). The Indians live on the island during the Winter, where they survive off of roots which the women gather from under water in November and December (de Vaca 61). In both accounts, the Indians moved depending on the season and what food was available to them, but ate different foods because of their locations.
One difference between the Native Americans in Changes in the Land and Cabeza de Vaca’s Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America is their manipulation of the land. The twentieth-century Native Americans were very big on agriculture and growing their own produce (Cronon 54), while the sixteenth-century Native Americans hunted more and ate more shellfish (de Vaca 43). These differences are due to their geographical location, what is more easily accessible, and the weather conditions of the area.
Since they lived closer to the ocean, it was much easier to collect shellfish and gather berries than grow their own produce since the weather was not fit for agriculture. The Indians described by Cronon made more changes to the land than the Indians described by de Vaca. Overall, the Native Americans living during the sixteenth-century and the twentieth-century had very similar lifestyles and had the same motives for traveling often. The Native Americans in both accounts were nomadic and would move according to the time of year; because of this, they only owned things that were essential to living and did not own anything excessive.
The Native Americans both hunted and gathered food to survive, but it was different types of food because of their geographical location and what was more readily available to them. Since this is the case, their manipulation of the land was different—the later Native Americans grew more agriculture, while the earlier Native Americans hunted and gathered more of their food. There are a few differences between the Native Americans described by Cronon and de Vaca, but they are more similar to each other.