For a while in the 18th century it looked as if the indigenous people of the Americas had weathered the storm of European devastation. There is no exaggerating how disastrous contact with Europeans was on the indigenous people. Yet, indigenous people were nothing if not resilient. Non-indigenous people often falsely accuse indigenous people of being too married to their traditions. Why don’t they change with the times they often ask. Well they did. Richard White a Professor of History at Washington University has shown how false this assumption was:
“If the Indian peoples of the eighteenth century had been wedded to tradition, then there would have been no horse nomads on the Great Plains, no Navajo sheepherders or silver workers or weavers. There would indeed be, no Navajos, no Lakotas, nor Muskogees, nor numerous other groups who first began to think of themselves as separate and distinct peoples in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
In a world of disaster, Indian peoples forged opportunities. In the midst of a population collapse that turned villages into funeral pyres, they created new peoples and new tribes and confederacies. In a world where old ideas seemed incapable of explaining so much change, so much misery, and such staggering possibilities, they spawned prophets, rebels, and saviors in a seemingly unending profusion. Since Europeans could not be banished, Indians sought to include them in a common world and pursued new ways and forms to control and contain them. And, for a while, it all seemed possible.”
All of these were adaptations of Indigenous people to the new reality of life with Europeans.
In many cases indigenous people after contacting Europeans, created new traditions, which they passed on to their youth. They adapted. In fact they had to be great adapters in order to survive an extraorindary onslaught more horrific than that faced by any other people, anywhere, ever.