The Colonization of America: Genocide

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The Colonization of America: Genocide|
Historiography Paper|
DE AMH 2041|
Adrian Perez|
12/21/2012|

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History proves to us time and time again that there can be many sides to a story based upon one thing—perspective. Throughout the 15th and 16th century as European nations began to colonize the New World, millions of Native Americans died in the efforts of the invading countries. According to some scholars, the story of the colonization in America is a glorified, anglocentric depiction of a much more horrific event; some claim it to be the worst case of genocide that has ever occurred. This essay will state and analyze the changing perspectives over the death of the millions of Native Americans. To begin with this topic, it is important to clearly define the term genocide. In 1948, the U.N. defined it as any of a number of acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial, or religious group.” If one was just to look at logistics, the death of Native Americans would probably be the archetype of human genocide. However, there is a second factor to take into account in dealing with genocide—intent. The destruction of the racial group is out of the question: “the population of the United States prior to European contact was greater than 12 million… the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand.” The argument lies in the analysis and interpretation of the evidence to determine the degree to which it was an intentional killing of Native Americans. It is important that the argument be based first on a small scale rather than on a macro scale in order to provide reliable evidence to support the broader, more generalized study of genocide in America. Alan S Rosembaum is an editor who through researching several scholars compiled a book on the question of unique genocides. In it, Rosembaum states “I object to any statement that in any way minimizes the significance or sacred-ness of any people’s losses.” His viewpoint on the matter is that he believes it is not about “what is or is not genocide.” The fact that people argue about the definition causes Rosembaum to state that people banish and undermine the reality to a second degree; the reality of which he says is “a human tragedy and infamy.” From a scholarly standpoint, his statements are not credible and biased because he does not discuss whether or not there was any intent in killing the Native Americans. David Stannard does however write in his book American Holocaust that the colonization and expansion of America involved intentional genocide. Stannard states that“[Europeans] had a string of genocide campaigns;” He compares the killing of Native Americans to that of “50 Hiroshima bombs” to highlight the cruelty and decimation of the population. His constant use of powerful words such as “bloodbath” emphasizes his strong opinion over the matter. Stannard states that “disease and genocide were both interdependent forces acting dynamically” to kill the Native Americans. He strengthens his argument by providing the reader with first-hand accounts of people saying that the invaders “ripped children—of all ages—in half.” Stannard’s book is filled with information to persuade the reader to agree with his opinion which weakens his credibility as he does not take a neutral stance on the subject. A more factually based author, Jared Diamond is a noteworthy author who attributes the loss of lives primarily due to disease. In his book, Guns Germs and Steel, Diamond gives a focus on the spread of disease which killed the Natives as opposed to an intentional use of violence to decimate the population. In his well respected novel he states that “victims of murderous conquistadores were far outnumbered by the victims of microbes” and that “diseases introduced spread from tribe to tribe… killing an estimated 95 percent of the pre-Columbian Native American Population.” He makes it clear that the leading cause...
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