ForumsWEPRWas Europeans' treatment of Native Americans justified?

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mbbs112
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mbbs112
199 posts
Shepherd

I have been taking a course on US history and we were reading about Native Americans and the takeover of the Americas by Europeans. We were given verified sources from people involved in first contact with them such as Christopher Columbus, missionaries, and other sailors. One of the first things that Christopher Columbus noted about them was their generosity and how he could take advantage of that by gaining materials from them. The Europeans at this time justified it by calling them "savages" and referenced the sacrifices done by them. Thoughts?

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nichodemus
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nichodemus
14,955 posts
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Of course it isn't justified, it was just land grabbing.

Although begrudgingly, if it were't for the Europeans' colonising activities, most of the world would have taken centuries to get to where we are today.

HahiHa
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HahiHa
7,940 posts
Viceroy

Of course it isn't justified, it was just land grabbing.

Agreed.

In the Gallic Wars, too, Caesar invaded territories populated by putative savages performing human sacrifices, portraying the Celts as less civilized than they really were. Though it is not strictly comparable; the reasons for the invasions differed, and Romans and Celts already knew of each other well before Caesar. And to be fair, the Romans did a better job of assimilating the conquered cultures than the European colonists did, as far as I know.
WHDH
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WHDH
168 posts
Farmer

Just like any other genocide it isn't justifed and can't be justified. It's a classic example that the price of wealth is worth more than price of a human life.

SodomHussein
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SodomHussein
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Peasant

I think judging the actions of those in the past by today's moral standards is a dubious practice. You need to look at historical context. In the minds of Europeans, native Americans were savages because their societies didn't possess the qualities Europeans considered necessary to be considered civilised, in particular the fact that the societies were tribal rather than based on the nation state, which had begun to form in Europe at this time. It's also important to consider the fact that the empires of Europe were engaged in a global land grabbing contest, so there was immense pressure to extract wealth and resources quickly to gain the upper hand in the wars in Europe, regardless of the human cost. Individuals like Cortez also became immensely wealthy and famous upon their return home, and ruthlessness became expedient for those involved for personal gain. So whilst what happened to the native Americans was certainly abhorrent, it occurred in a historical context in which it certainly would have seemed justified to the perpetrators.

Padawan614
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Padawan614
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Farmer

I believe that the was Christopher Columbus and his sailors acted against the Native Americans was not justified at all. But you can't judge them on the way they acted since it was so long ago. Many people at that time had racist beliefs against people who were different since the people in that time period was that white was the supreme race and some people still have that feeling today, which is still sad.

Ntech
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Ntech
193 posts
Shepherd

@mbbs112


One of the first things that Christopher Columbus noted about them was their generosity and how he could take advantage of that by gaining materials from them.

What are his exact words? I don't recall him ever saying that. Be careful when you paraphrase.

@nichodemus


Of course it isn't justified, it was just land grabbing.

The European powers did not "land grab," they sailed far away from their homes to explore. The European colonization was a great thing for the natives, they learned more, they benefitted from improved technology, and they became cultured.

Moreover, the native americans did not use much land anyway. They were nomadic and moved from place to place. In fact, there was plenty of room for everybody.

@WHDH


Just like any other genocide it isn't justifed and can't be justified. It's a classic example that the price of wealth is worth more than price of a human life.

Colonization is not genocide. Colonization is the settlement of an area. The Europeans did not bring armies to America, they brought settlers. Those settlers did not raid native villages slaughtering everyone who they encountered; they established villages and trading posts.

@SodomHussein


In the minds of Europeans, native Americans were savages because their societies didn't possess the qualities Europeans considered necessary to be considered civilised, in particular the fact that the societies were tribal rather than based on the nation state, which had begun to form in Europe at this time.

No, the natives were uncivillized in that they had no laws, no defined boundaries, and constantly butchered one another. If we were natives, I could murder you for your wigwam, nobody but your brothers would mind; your brothers would probably light my wigwam on fire during the night and the village would have a feast off my posessions. In the morning, we would
sneak into the neighboring encampment that we had just signed a truce with, and slit their throats while they slept. Afterwards, we would get on our horses, and after burning our village
down, proceed somewhere else to evict any smaller tribes. That is what the natives did, they had a huge amount of land for so little a population but they could never be at peace.

@SodomHussein


It's also important to consider the fact that the empires of Europe were engaged in a global land grabbing contest

As far as I know, the europeans set out to teach, convert, and better the lives of the natives whilst also establishing centers of civilization. If the Europeans wanted to "land grab" they would have sent over their superior armies and made piecemeal of the indian tribes. Instead, they sent lightly armed settlers with priests and teachers. That was no invasion force.

@Padawan614


I believe that the was Christopher Columbus and his sailors acted against the Native Americans was not justified at all.

Christopher Columbus did nothing bad to the natives.

I think everyone here has been a victim of anti-european biased authors whose books indoctrinized their readers with that same sentiment. Read the original works, the actual accounts, before you go accusing Christopher Columbus of this or that.

HahiHa
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HahiHa
7,940 posts
Viceroy

The European powers did not "land grab," they sailed far away from their homes to explore. The European colonization was a great thing for the natives, they learned more, they benefitted from improved technology, and they became cultured.

Some individuals might have gone out to explore, but it is important to note that the European powers of the time were in an arms race and settled out in order to conquer and possess, to gain more power than their competitors. The natives were considered inferior, were killed, chased away or enslaved.

Moreover, the native americans did not use much land anyway. They were nomadic and moved from place to place. In fact, there was plenty of room for everybody.

As nomadic tribes, they may not have called any land their own the way we do and prefer to consider themselves a part of it rather than proprietors of. But the fact remains that they utilized the land they lived in. When the Europeans came over, they unilaterally laid claim on the land and started killing and chasing the natives off the ground they now considered "theirs". There would have been plenty of room for everybody, if the Europeans were willing to share. They weren't, sadly.

No, the natives were uncivillized in that they had no laws, no defined boundaries, and constantly butchered one another. If we were natives, I could murder you for your wigwam, nobody but your brothers would mind; your brothers would probably light my wigwam on fire during the night and the village would have a feast off my posessions. In the morning, we would sneak into the neighboring encampment that we had just signed a truce with, and slit their throats while they slept. Afterwards, we would get on our horses, and after burning our village down, proceed somewhere else to evict any smaller tribes. That is what the natives did, they had a huge amount of land for so little a population but they could never be at peace.

That whole part is ignorant, false, and actually pretty racist. Boy oh boy, where to start. They definitely did have laws, not in the sense we have, but killing someone was not something you could just do like that. At that point I want to note that some of the hunter-gatherer tribes still alive today in South America are among the most egalitarian human societies out there, expelling thieves and murderers and ignoring sexism.

Then, there was certainly warfare among tribes but so was there all over Europe throughout the ages. Vikings are often portrayed as raiding savages and they certainly did raid and pillage, but so did everyone else. Later, warfare between European countries was near constant, too. So really native Americans were not any less civilized than Europeans. Europe simply had a different societal structure at that point.

Christopher Columbus did nothing bad to the natives.

Go watch this video. Now. Please.
Ntech
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Ntech
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Shepherd

Very few Europeans killed natives. Very rarely were natives killed, if they were killed it was because they attacked a settlement. European warfare was more civilized, the dead was buried, executions were humane, and there was no scalping.

About the video, none of it has any references. I quote from the video: "and wrote in his journal about how easily he could conquer and enslave all of them." Where did this come from? I paraphrase: the natives were forced into reservations and now suffer from poverty and discrimination. Absurd! Colombus did not found even one reservation, that was the United State's fault. The natives were not poor in the times of Columbus, they prospered as new technology was unveiled. To link two very far apart events and use them as evidence is absurd.

I quote "he tortured natives who did not bring him enough gold." Where does this even come from??? I quote "he sold [people] as young as nine into [slavery]." Clearly, whoever authored this video was terribly misinformed and had a anti-Columbus streak in them.

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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Viceroy

If you follow up first to the complete Ted-Ed lesson and then to one of the links given there, you land here. There, in turn, you will find the sources given at the bottom, given as such (but with links):
"All of the information in this essay came from A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, and Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen, both of which uses primary sources such as eyewitness accounts, journal entries, and letters from Christopher Columbus himself. "

As for the journal entry, I found it here. I quote directly from the journal transkript (entry of Sunday, 14. October):
"There are some shoals withinside, but the water is as smooth as a pond. It was to view these parts that I set out in the morning, for I wished to give a complete relation to your Highnesses, as also to find where a fort might be built. I discovered a tongue of land which appeared like an island though it was not, but might be cut through and made so in two days; it contained six houses. I do not, however, see the necessity of fortifying the place, as the people here are simple in war-like matters, as your Highnesses will see by those seven which I have ordered to be taken and carried to Spain in order to learn our language and return, unless your Highnesses should choose to have them all transported to Castile, or held captive in the island. I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased. "

European warfare was more civilized, the dead was buried, executions were humane, and there was no scalping.

You're comparing apples with pears. Tribal warfare was the same in America and in early Europe. European warfare changed with time, that's true; but I doubt that it was for the better. It was more large-scale, a sort of code might have been agreed on on a large scale and between kings and captains; but war on a local level was dirty, bloody, and while we didn't scalp our enemies, we did rape their women and daughters. I'm not saying that tribal warfare is nice; it isn't. But compared to that, far more people died under more terrible circumstances in European wars.
Ntech
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Ntech
193 posts
Shepherd

@Hahiha,

Your quote: "I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased." Does not imply any intention to do so, nor kill them but merely is an estimation of the native's military strength, which is relevant to his report to the King and Queen of Castille.

I do agree with you, war is a terrible thing. But in Europe, things had calmed down so that there was a equilibrium which mostly prevented war. Castille was not powerful, it had to worry about Portugal, Aragon, and Navarre; castille would not have sent out expeditions when it was in danger. Additionally, as Castille constantly had an alliance with France at that period, the only way they would be in danger is if they were attacked by a navy, so they would not have wanted to send carracks off to explore. Furthermore, at that time, the Muslims still had a foothold in Spain and Castille had to fight them off.

You have to be careful about paraphrased sentences. If Columbus wrote "We have taken some natives to Spain," people would paraphrase: "Columbus took natives prisoner and dragged them to Spain." In the reality, those natives converted to the Catholic faith voluntarily, and those natives were so close to the Europeans that one was named after the King himself.

Clearly, modern historians do exaggerate things, and you have to be careful about what you read.

HahiHa
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HahiHa
7,940 posts
Viceroy

You were doubting the quote; I backed it up. Yes, the quote in and on itself does not imply he actually did it. But it does show contempt towards the natives, and it is not the only reproach that can be made to Columbus and his men, see again the essay with the sources.

Ntech
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Ntech
193 posts
Shepherd

@Hahiha


You were doubting the quote; I backed it up. Yes, the quote in and on itself does not imply he actually did it. But it does show contempt towards the natives, and it is not the only reproach that can be made to Columbus and his men, see again the essay with the sources.

Giving a military estimate of a people to one's King is not showing contempt.

FishPreferred
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FishPreferred
3,123 posts
Archduke

The European colonization was a great thing for the natives, [...]
No doubt.

[...] and they became cultured.
Uh, you do know that all of them had their own cultures already, right?

They were nomadic and moved from place to place.
For the most part, no.

In fact, there was plenty of room for everybody.
Indeed there was, in a manner of speaking.

The Europeans did not bring armies to America, they brought settlers.
No, the natives were uncivillized in that they had no laws, no defined boundaries, and constantly butchered one another.
If the Europeans wanted to "land grab" they would have sent over their superior armies and made piecemeal of the indian tribes. Instead, they sent lightly armed settlers with priests and teachers.
Christopher Columbus did nothing bad to the natives.
Where are you even getting these totally baseless assertions from?

About the video, none of it has any references.
Here, try this one.

Clearly, whoever authored this video was terribly misinformed and had a anti-Columbus streak in them.
That must be it. Otherwise, the ignorance and extreme bias must be entirely on your part, which we all know is just impossible and unthinkable. Better to just ignore any information to the contrary and pretend it doesn't exist.
HahiHa
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HahiHa
7,940 posts
Viceroy

Giving a military estimate of a people to one's King is not showing contempt.

He is writing this part as someone would write on how to transport cattle around. It is incredibly contemptuous.

This was just the beginning, too. Go back to this essay (the one based on " primary sources such as eyewitness accounts, journal entries, and letters from Christopher Columbus himself." ) and read it again, I don't want to quote it all here. Basically it shows how Columbus, craving for gold, came back heavily armed and extorted gold from the natives, punishing those who refused by cutting off ears or hands, enslaving them, prostituting their girls etc.
Ntech
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Ntech
193 posts
Shepherd

@Hahiha


No doubt.

You forget that the Europeans brought medicine that prevented many from dieing from childhood illnesses, as they had previously done before.


Where are you even getting these totally baseless assertions from?

Read an unbiased book about him instead of watching animated short clips. Then come back and we'll talk.

@Hahiha


He is writing this part as someone would write on how to transport cattle around. It is incredibly contemptuous.

You have to distinguish facts from contempt. To him, things might have appeared just as he recorded them.

On the essay you refer to me, most of those outrageous claims comes un-sourced. Horrible, childish, and un-academic.

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