History of Colonialism: Impacts on Indigenous and Immigrant populations

Photo: History.com

By Garret Pilachowski

Colonialism: defined as “control by one power over a dependent area or people.”[1]

Settler Colonialism: People from one nation go off to live in another country, where they not only build settlements, till the soil, and harvest natural resources, but also strive to replace the indigenous people already living there.[2]

Exploitation Colonialism: Does not require as many colonists to emigrate, and the native people could be allowed to stay where they were, especially if they could be pressed into service as workers. The main goal of exploitation colonialism was to exploit the weaker country’s natural resources and extract as much wealth as possible.2

Surrogate Colonialism: A colonial power encourages one ethnic group or groups from the colonized country itself to take over land previously controlled by another group.2

Internal Colonialism: In internal colonialism, the strongest part of a country might exploit other, less powerful regions or peoples. 2

              Modern colonialism began in the 15th century, during what is also known as the Age of Discovery, and was practiced by empires such as Ancient Greece, Ancient, Rome, Ancient Egypt, and Phoenicia.1 In search for new trade routes for civilizations outside of Europe, Portugal had conquered and populated islands like Madeira and Cape Verde. 

              In 1942, Christopher Columbus began looking for a wester route to India and China.1 England, the Netherlands, France, and Germany quickly began their own empire building overseas, fighting Spain and Portugal for the right to lands they had already conquered. 

Most countries managed to gain independence during the 18th and 19th century, beginning with the American Revolution in 1776, despite the growth of European colonies in the New World. 

With territorial expansion of the US came dispossession of Native Americans, supported by policies that made white immigrants settler colonists. On Indian reservations, the federal government encouraged land-taking by allotting land to Indians and making land available to homesteaders, many of them recent immigrants[1]

              Immigrants are rarely part of account of Indian experiences, whether they are tribal histories or interpretation of relation with colonists.3 When immigrant enter in the picture, they are most often lumped together as “white settlers”. 

              American Indian, immigration, and ethnic history are all fields that grew out of the movement toward “history from below” which are, to some extent, marginalized and often seen as subfields of social history.3

              The separation of indigenous and immigrant histories in the American Midwest is detrimental to an understanding of the processes of migration, ethnicity, and colonialism. The separation of American Indian and immigrant histories depends on their relation to the dominant construction of national history and on the fictive notion that indigenous Americans and newcomers inhabited different times and different places.3

              Such detrimental separation of indigenous and immigrant histories (during the exploitation of colonialism), denies the entanglements that are and always have been between people, whether they or their descendants wish to see it or not. It conceals and confounds any understanding of the power imbalance and the consequences of the process of massive transfer of land from American Indians to settlers, it ignores the significance of hybrid lives and culture, and it produces histories that confirm conventional national narratives of exceptionalism and progress, in America as well as in the Nordic countries.3

[1] Blakemore, Erin. “What Is Colonialism?” Colonialism facts and information, June 14, 2019. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/topics/reference/colonialism/#close.

[2] Kiger, Patrick J. “How Colonialism Works.” HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks, January 24, 2018. https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/world-history/colonialism1.htm.

[3] Fur, Gunlög. “Indians and Immigrants- Entangled Histories.” Journal of American Ethnic History 33, no. 3 (2014): 55-76. Accessed March 16, 2020. doi:10.5406/jamerethnhist.33.3.0055.


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