How Were the Native Americans Really Treated?
The Americas were officially discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. The real question is how were the Native Americans treated by these explorers? Some say the Spaniards were civil and polite. Others say they were cruel, vicious people who wished to enslave the natives. According to Bartoleme de Las Casas, the Spaniards treated the Native Americans like nothing, or at best slaves. Columbus, on the other hand, claimed that he and the other Spanish explorers were nothing but friendly to the Native Americans. So what really happened?
In Bartoleme de Las Casas description of life in the Indies he described the Native Americans as pleasant, complaisant, accepting of foreigners, and not vengeful in the slightest. He claimed that the only instances of cruelty from the natives were in retaliation to something the Spanish did to them. Las Casas called the Spanish, ”ravening wild beasts” (1), and said that they would call themselves Christians while they slaughtered innocent natives. It was also said that Spaniards would try to wage wars just for fun. It seems that Bartoleme de Las Casas was pro-Native American.
On the complete other side of the spectrum there’s Columbus’ account of his time in the Americas. Columbus claimed that he and the Native Americans traded peacefully and helped each other learn new things. Columbus’ main interests were gold, jewels, and slaves. He implies that because the confused natives repeated everything he said, they would make good slaves. Because of their ignorance in relation to civilized weapons, he believes them to be primitive and naïve. In the last two paragraphs of Columbus’ journal, he writes derogatory observations about the natives and their customs. What impressed me most was Columbus’ ability to downgrade the Native Americans’ importance as people to appease his greedy cravings. His attitude made him sound like he thought he was superior to the natives.
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