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First Encounters

What early European explorers and settlers wrote and drew set the tone for how America was viewed and interpreted. Whether they recognized it or not, these authors infused their perceptions of the "new world" with a specific agenda: self-promotion, religious conviction, political goals, recruitment of new settlers, and more.

The newcomers saw everything through a lens of meaning: the landscape, plants, animals, and, especially, the people. Reactions to Native Americans ranged from fascination to fear. Meanwhile, Native American peoples expressed their take on Europeans through stories, art, and official records.