As the great migration from Europe to the United States began there was a major discovery made when the new settlers found that there were already people living on the newly discovered lands. "Before the arrival of the white man, North America was inhabited by a mere 600,000 Indians. They were divided into innumerable tribes, speaking many different languages" (M. Gibson, The American Indian, p.9). These tribes differed in many ways, such as in their cultural and societal traits, clothing and appearance, religious ceremonies, and the roles of each member of the tribe. The roles of women in each of these areas played an important part in distinguishing between the unique tribal lines. .
The settlers were unable to understand the cultural traits of these new people. At first contact the Indians were seen as being anywhere from gentle to barbaric. The treatment of the women in the tribes was foreign to the Europeans. The first reaction to the women in the tribes was of awe. Although many of the early visitors to New England were captivated by the beauty of the Indian women, they soon discovered that the Indian warriors, especially the Narragansetts, were very jealous of their wives' honor and reacted violently to any familiarity. The Native American men were very respectful to their wives and when married there was a genuine love and not just arranged weddings. Trial marriages were sometimes common so the young couple could decide if they were suited for each other. Once married the highest standards of morality were expected. For example, if a wife committed adultery, her husband had the right to cut off the tip of her nose and ears and put her lover to death. When members of the Sioux fell in love the warriors went around the teepees of the ones of they loved serenading with flutes and displaying their affection in the open view of the tribe. The young couple would marry according to the customs of the tribe usually, but at times they would "elope.