I have a world where there are two groups of people on an island: The Colonists and the Cave People. In true colonial fashion, the Colonists have frequently fought the Cave People, and there's some disparity in technology. I'm very interested in Cargo Cults and what differentiates a culture's beliefs that something strange and new is a simple expansion on existing technology and that it is magic.
The ColonistsTechnology level is Medieval after the initial introduction of gunpowder. Gunpowder weapons are rare in the Colonial homeland, and few, if any, are present on the island. They have previously had some gunpowder weapons on the island during one of the Cave People uprisings, but it is a rare event.
The center of their culture is a religious cult devoted to moon worship. Their clergy are often seen performing various rituals that have no true effect on the world. The Colonists have a moderate belief in this religion, but only the clergy are true devotees to it and believe it all.
The Colonists are superstitious, with a variety of good luck charms and ways of warding off "evil." This is more common among their soldiers, who face life and death more regularly than the common people.
On the island, the Colonists are largely farmers, with few heavy industries or mining. Most of what they need manufactured is imported from their homeland. They have access to Steel in abundance, and most of their tools and weapons are made of steel where appropriate.
They see the Cave People as pagans that need to be converted to the true religion or killed.
The Cave People
The cave people are a lower technology group. They can forge basic metals, but the effort required is often too much to warrant their use in weapons. Typically metal is used in jewelry or for religious purposes. The common weapons they use are blades made of obsidian (which is plentiful) and armor and shields made of animal hide (the type and thickness of the hide is a symbol of rank).
Their religion is shamanistic, and tied heavily to the land. They worship the Sun as the divine spark for their life and believe their spirits ascend to join the sun in the afterlife (to the point that they believe if they go outside during the day their spirit will rush from their body to join the sun). This religion incorporates ancestor worship as well.
Their culture is heavily tied into verbal folklore and stories. In order to be considered an adult, a variety of trials must be undertaken, including the perfect recitation of the clan's history. They take pride in their ancestors, and the honorific X son of Y son of Z of Clan W is a common way of greeting a visitor.
Their society is broken up into a dozen or so clans, and only in rare occasions do they cooperate (often warring among each other, making things easy for the Colonists to establish their foothold). When they act together, they are a fierce opponent, having nearly removed the Colonist foothold twice in four wars. It usually takes one charismatic individual to unite the clans into one body (there have been four such leaders since the Colonists have come).
They are just as intelligent as the Colonists, but less technologically advanced. They have, in the past, used captured weapons against the Colonists (often afterwards they are enshrined as relics of some hero or the other's conquests).
They believe in rituals and magic to make their weapons and shields strong, and have oracles who consult the flames for advice and augeries.
They see the Colonists as evil worshipers of the vile moon, which is a pale imitation of their holy sun.
The ConflictThe two sides have been in conflict for eighty years. The Colonists have cornered the Cave People twice, and the Cave People have nearly wiped out the Colonist's presence twice. At the moment they are at a standoff, with each side controlling roughly half of the island (though more and more Colonist farmers are pushing into Cave People territory). There is no formal treaty or diplomatic relationship between them.
One of the wars that almost ended in the Cave People's favor was halted by their leader (who was unbeaten in combat) being killed by a bullet wound.
What sort of things would the Cave People see as the Colonists performing magic? I've isolated that any gunpowder weapons would likely be seen that way, but I'm stuck at what else they would consider magic and try to counter with their own magic or try to replicate (like a cargo cult).