In the mid 1800’s the Native Indians of the Americas had their livelihoods turned upside down by the arrival of white settlers looking for new land to take. The opposing sides waged mini wars against each other, scalping & kidnapping along the way. Part of the process of acquiring new land was that surveyors, or surveying parties would travel to prospective locations and assess the land. Knowingly, these professionals would be putting themselves in grave danger carrying out their jobs. The first few surveying parties coming back with arrows through the shoulder & fingers missing would’ve been a stark warning enough for the following surveying parties, however obviously not enough of a deterrent to stop them. The mindset of people two hundred years ago, generally was different back then because if I had to carry a deadly weapon up to go and carry out a survey today, I might reconsider my career choices. In fact agriculture, is one of the most dangerous jobs out there in terms of death count. Being a soldier or a policeman, is dangerous but is different as those roles directly deal with conflict and danger and for the majority of job roles these days, death and violence aren’t part of the job criteria. Surveyors of two hundred years ago seem to be made of a different grade of steel than the cotton candy types of today, myself included!
During the land acquisition process, a team of surveyors would set out with their surveying equipment and pieces of artillery for self defence, along paths taking them to often unknown lands. A large part of the role was to start constructing maps , based on features of the area of land ‘discovered’. Even without the threat of disembowelment from fierce native Indians, the role in itself could be very daunting. They would’ve been up against the rugged terrain, dangerous wildlife and uncooperative settlers. Christopher Columbus invaded the Americas in 1492 and before that the only white people to set foot in America was the Vikings back in AD 1000. The Native American tribes who live there must’ve been shocked to see the brazen encroachment of the settlers who often were a direct threat to the Native way of life. As many as 80 million Indians would’ve been living in the Americas when Columbus landed, with their 15,000 year old cultures embedded into the rocky canyons and mountainous landscape. The resistance to surveyors would’ve have been ferocious as they recognised this type of white man, with compasses, maps and measuring tools as different to a usual settler. This wasn’t someone coming to set up shop farm, crops and hunt game, no this type of white man came with the capability and intention to absorb the Native Indian Land, eradicate their culture and their existence.
The battles went on for years, and as we know, in the end the Surveyors won. They had to become more versed for battle, and combat hardened to get the job done. There was a lot at stake after all, literally the creating of a New World, which has become one of the world’s most powerful Countries. Surveyors being ambushed, kidnapped, murdered and tortured suffered for a cause at least. They wouldn’t have understood what future they were fighting for, or trying to preserve at the time, but I do think that the hard people of the past were more suited for the struggle at the time. Time makes people, and we can look back at these stories in awe but never truly understand the sacrifice that was made. I’m looking at it from the point of view of Western advancement, as the bi-product of map creation and territory encroachment was Native Indian decimation. On a path to a better understanding, the Native Indians were only doing what was right in their eyes, as we’re the Surveyors. Evolving as a true warrior culture, the Surveyors to them were the invaders, the wrong-doers, so the level of violence was justified. I wonder what the world would’ve been like if the Surveyors gave up after the Indians scared them off. The fate of the Indians may have been different, the fate of America may have been different, maybe even the world.
Somewhere in a parallel universe the Native Indians would’ve scared off the last surveyor. It’s not to say the fate of the entire Native Indian race would’ve been any different and when you look at the instrumental role surveyors played in the territory expansion of the Western settlers, you can’t help but see the death and destruction caused on the other side. It was probably inevitable considering the advancements of technology and the drive the settlers had for land acquisition. Today the approximately five million Native Indians left in America make up 1.6% of the population. The five million sounds like a lot, but when you consider at one point they would’ve made up 100% of the American population, that 1.6% is a stark reminder of the insidious journey cultures have taken to be shaped and moulded into the modern world. Hopefully we’ve come out the other side and we will never see another genocide like what happened with the Native Indians. It does seem like the lines of territory have been permanently drawn, and even the slightest moves can cause an international response, which is a good thing as we see borders, serving a cause.