Native Americans met with cultural insensitivity from almost everyone who arrived in the New World. Though many individual friendships developed over the years, actual government policy from colonial times and continuing after U.S. independence, was based on the premise that Indian culture was inferior to the incoming European ones.
Colonists saw much to fault with Native American culture, from their religious practices to the considerably different gender practices they saw. However, one difference which allowed European newcomers a rationale to exploit Native Americans was their different attitude toward property ownership. Native Americans had a relationship with land and animals that Europeans could not understand, since the latter believed in outright ownership of nearly any asset that could be owned.
Colonists saw this difference in ownership as proof that Native Americans were not as civilized as their own European cultures, in which ownership issues had been hammered out long ago. They also believed that Native Americans did not use their land to advantage, since they did not raise crops or domesticate large herds of animals. Since they had a “better” way of managing land, British colonists in particular felt little compunction in taking over desirable land through purchase, dispossession (squatting on land and refusing to move), removal (forcing Indians to leave their own land so the newcomers could use it), or outright war to seize it.
These colonial attitudes and their resulting government policy resulted in much cruelty toward Native Americans.