Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cooperation, Competition, and Conflict (1491-1607)

What does it take to get people to cooperate?

Hands Across America - 1986
Fundraising, or pooling resources, is a common form of cooperation. In 1986, people in the U.S. formed a human chain across America and raised $34 million. It was a project for USA Africa which produced We Are the World. But this blog post is about the period 1491 to 1607. What kind of cooperation, competition, and conflict did we see in that period?



  • American Indians cooperated with one another by engaging in trade and/or respecting each others' hunting grounds/farming lands. An example of this would be the Chinook trading along the west coast.
  • American Indians cooperated with one another by forming confederacies to protect their settlements/crops from raiding enemy tribes.
  • Spanish and Portuguese slave traders cooperated with African groups who provided slave labor for the Americas. They had a mutual motive of greed and the African groups often sold their enemies into slavery. 

Europeans built holding stations for slaves on the coast.
The slaves were often brought to Europeans by African groups.
  • The Spanish also engaged in trade with American Indian populations.


  • Before the arrival of the Spanish, American Indian tribes competed for resources like food, water, shelter, etc. For example, the sedentary tribes of the Southwest were often raided by raiding nomadic tribes.
  • Once the Spanish arrived in the Americas, they were in competition with the native populations for access to those same resources. 
  • The Spanish had no real competition from other Europeans in the Americas until the successful settlement of Jamestown in 1607. 


  • Conflict between American Indian tribes arose primarily from competition for resources. Nomadic warrior tribes would raid agricultural settlements for their stored food supply. 
  • After arrival of the Spanish, conflict arose primarily from Spanish efforts to impose their cultural values on native populations. They imposed the encomienda and mission systems on the Pueblo and other American Indians - pushing them to convert to Christianity and give up their traditional ways. An example of one such conflict would be how Don Juan de Oñate conquered the Acoma Pueblo. 
Acoma Pueblo - People of the Sky

  • The Atlantic Slave Trade also developed under the Spanish in the 16th Century with the Asiento System.

According to this article by ABC News, most of us are not cooperators, but rather reciprocators, and about 20 percent of us will take the free ride if others will do the work for us. What do YOU think about that? Are you an initiator, a reciprocator, or a free-loader?

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