In the far north of North America from AD 1000 onwards, the Palaeo-Eskimos of the eastern Arctic retreated before the eastward migration of the sea faring Neo Eskimos. They used harpoons for hunting whales.
In addition, they also used sinew backed bows, dog sleds and fortifications made of stone. In the later sixteenth century, they settled in the Labrador coast.
In Ontario and in St. Lawrence Valley the American tribes were farming communities.
The villages were fortified with palisades. Bruce Lenman claims that in the early eighteenth century, the Dutch and the French by introducing gunpowder among the American tribes raised the level of organized violence. The original inhabitants of the New World did not use iron. Most of them employed Stone Age technologies.
The Aztec warriors of Mexico armed with bronze tipped arrows and obsidian (a glass like substance formed by volcanic eruptions) rimmed wooden clubs were no match against the steel helmeted firearms equipped Conquistadores. Obsidian broke easily in contact with the iron swords of the Spaniards. Hence, Hernan Cortes with 500 Spaniards and 14 cannon was able to defeat the Aztec Empire repeatedly between 1519 and 1521.
The discovery of gold and diamond led to extensive Portuguese’s colonisation of Brazil in the seventeenth century. The settlers pushed ahead with the aid of bayonet and volley firing techniques. Forts were constructed for resisting and harassing the raiding parties of the Indians.
In addition to the technological gap, the American tribes suffered further due to their culture of warfare. While European warfare aimed at killing the enemy, ‘native’ American warfare was aimed at capturing the enemy by wounding him. The ‘native’ Americans had never seen horses.
The war horses imported from Europe not only provided mobility to the European soldiers but also caused a grave psychological shock among the Indian tribes. Gradually the Indians were concentrated into smaller and smaller regions known as reserves or sanctuaries, as if they were animals.
Lack of food and disease reduced their numbers considerably and continuous immigration from Europe changed the demographic balance in favour of the white settlers. The French towards the end of the seventeenth century realised that without Indian allies it was impossible to conduct colonial warfare successfully in North America.
In 1712, the French allied with Ottawa and Potawatomie and attacked the Fox tribe. The missionaries under French tutelage played an important role in playing off the various North American Indian tribes against each other.
The linear close order tactical formation of the Western infantry though useful in the plains of Europe, was not very successful in the midst of the jungles of North America. The Indian tribes of North America, who were allied with the European powers during the seventeenth century, taught the Europeans several tactical lessons like marksmanship, scouting, looking for cover and concealment in the jungles.
Cooperation with the Indians was essential even in Central and South America. In 1520 Cortes had to retreat from the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. In 1521, he retook the city with Spanish soldiers equipped with cannon and harquebus’s who were supported by 25,000 Indian allies; Cortes’ conquest of the Aztec Empire would not have been possible without the support of the Tlaxcala’s who provided warriors and supplies.
Again Diego de Almagro, the leader of the Spanish forces was able to defeat Emperor Manco Inca in the Andes only by co- opting Manco’s brother Paullu and his followers.