The Indian and the European
(The American Nation)
The conquistadores were brave and imaginative men, well worthy of their fame. It must not, however, be forgotten that they wrenched their empire from innocent hands; in an important sense, the settlement of the New World, which the historian Francis Jennings has called "the invasion of America," ranks among the most flagrant examples of unprovoked aggression in human history. When Columbus landed on San Salvador he planted a cross, "as a sign," he explained to Ferdinand and Isabella, "that your Highnesses held this land as your own." Of the Lucayans, the native inhabitants of San Salvador, Columbus wrote: "The people of this island . . . are artless and generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe. . . . If it be asked for, they never say no, but rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hearts." The Indians of San Salvador behaved this way because to them the Spaniards seemed the very gods. "All believe that power and goodness dwell in the sky," Columbus reported, "and they are firmly convinced that I have come from the sky." The products of Europe fascinated the Indians. The early observer Thomas Harriot noticed that such everyday things as compasses, magnets, burning glasses, and clocks seemed to them "rather the works of gods than of men." More understandable things like knives, hatchets, and even fishhooks made of metal were beyond price to a people whose own technology was still in the Stone Age. Columbus also remarked of the Lucayans: "These people are very unskilled in arms . . . with fifty men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished." He and his compatriots tricked and cheated the Indians at every turn. Before entering a new area, Spanish generals customarily read a Requerimiento (requirement) to the inhabitants. This long-winded document recited a Spanish version of the history of the human race...
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