How Europeans Brought Negative Transformation In America
Since Europeans first made contact with natives in 1492, the Europeans have taken advantage of the natives for their own benefit. They were extremely efficient, with Columbus discovering America and creating American slavery within a 15-year span. Before the Europeans showed up, scholars estimate the native population was between 20 to 100 million and by 1620, an astonishingly 95% of the population was dead according to PBS. Even today, according to Gallup Independent we only have 5.2 million Native Americans left with 22% living on reservations with conditions which have been compared to the Third World. Looking at the treatment and the lives of the natives in history and in modern day clearly shows that the change the Europeans brought was undeniably negative.
Balboa made his voyage to the Pacific Ocean after overthrowing the governor of Darien in 1513. Preceding this were years of violence towards the natives described in the short story “Balboa” by Sabina Murray. Balboa had gone on a genocidal killing spree, as “his muskets blasted away the faces of the greatest warriors… His Spanish war dogs, great mastiffs and wolfhounds, tore children limb from limb”(Murray). The natives did not have technology beyond bows and spears, and even then did not have the steel variants the Europeans had had throughout the previous centuries. Also, while the natives had encountered dogs before, they had never experienced a dog trained to kill and a dog as large and deadly as a mastiff or greyhound. Even more surprising was to see the dogs in their armor that gave them some protection from the natives’ attacks. The Europeans simply killed all who dared oppose them while on their search for the riches of the New World. Of course, this could not have been done without the help of diseases and pestilence. Balboa also had a nifty little trick guaranteed to destroy the opposition that Sabina Murray pointed out, the fact that, ” Balboa’s soldiers spread smallpox and syphilis”(Murray). As pointed out in the introduction, 95% of the native population was killed by smallpox and other diseases after the Europeans arrived. That was their strategy, to infest the area and wait a few years, then when the population was dwindling they would come in and begin to colonize. This was of course terrible for the New World because entire tribes and cultures disappeared within a few short years and the stragglers had to face the oncoming onslaught of European explorers who viewed them as sub-human savages.
Another injustice to plague the Americas when the Europeans came was of course racism. As Charles Mann points out in his short story “Coming of Age in the Dawnland”, “But Indian is not a category that Tisquantum himself would have recognized…he regarded himself first and foremost as a citizen of Patuxet”(Mann). With the arrival of the Europeans came the arrival of the terms “Indians” and “savages”, terms that at the time were acceptable to call a Native American. To the Europeans, there was initially no Iroquois or Wampanoag. There was not even Sioux or Cheyenne, much less Lakota Sioux or any other smaller classifications that defined the average native. They were all banded under a single banner, the banner of “Indian” despite the fact they were not in India and “savage” despite the fact that according to Cornell University, the Iroquois tribal government had freedom of speech, freedom of religion, separation of powers, and checks and balances and the fact that the Senate even acknowledged the American republic was influenced by the Iroquois Confederacy. This systemic racism and grouping of different ethnicities into giant groups may have had it’s start with the natives but it also continues today in America. In Richard Rodriguez’s essay “‘Blaxicans’ and Other Reinvented Americans,” he points out that, “ OMB came up with five major ethnic or racial groups. The groups are white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Eskimo, and Hispanic”(Rodriguez). Even in modern day America we cannot escape the generalizations of ethnicity given to us by our European ancestors. For example, the fact that included in Hispanic is Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Portuguese, Chilean, Colombian, etc. is extremely insensitive because those cultures, while sharing some similarities, are still very much different. It would be like a person grouping Germans and Russians or British and French together, they may be slightly similar but they are still completely different in most aspects.
The Europeans and later Americans also seemed to have a knack for enslaving and removing natives from their homelands. William Shakespeare’s dramatic play The Tempest, depicts a settler in the form of Prospero taking the island away from the native who is Caliban. Caliban says,” This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, which thou hast takest from me”(Shakespeare). He elaborates that Prospero had taught him all kinds of things and was originally friendly and helpful, just as the Europeans had originally come and taught the natives their language, culture, and religion but, just like Prospero, they ended up killing or enslaving the natives and taking the land. In fact, when Columbus had literally killed off the entire native populations of some of the Caribbean islands, he brought black slaves from Africa to work the land, which is why Jamaicans are black. The Europeans would do nearly anything to get land or slaves to keep their industries and interests alive and strong. In Joy Harjo’s poem entitled “New Orleans”, it describes the violence and remains of the Creeks after being utterly destroyed and their culture collapsing and also the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In the poem she writes,” There are voices buried in the Mississippi mud. There are ancestors and future children buried beneath the currents stirred up by the pleasure boats going up and down”(Harjo). When the Creek were being relocated and removed from their lands, some were taken through New Orleans on steamboats and one crashed into another and 300 Creek drowned in the river. In all, 3,500 died out of the 15,000 removed and when they got to Oklahoma, they were suddenly lumped with tribes that they had nearly no similarities with and were expected to live on dusty, infertile land. In 1823, the Supreme Court decided that Native Americans can occupy land in the US but could not own it, because the US’ “right of discovery” mattered more than the the natives “right of occupancy.” So by 1837, 46,000 Native Americans were removed from their lands and taken west to unfamiliar surroundings and strange tribes.
Now, some would argue that the violence was mainly Spanish on native or American on native, that the English pilgrims who came were not violent. For example, in the short story “Of Plymouth Plantation” by William Bradford, William Bradford states,”…after friendly entertainment and some gifts given to him, they made peace with him….”(Bradford). Looking at this, one could argue that the Europeans in this instance came in peace but, with a little historical research and context, this can be dismissed. First off, Thanksgiving was not the settlers inviting the natives and being friendly. The natives had showed up because the English had their first successful harvest and shot cannons and guns in the air. The natives were alarmed and came to investigate and made camp near them. They met the settlers and the reason they formed an alliance was because the Wampanoag were in a struggle against another warring tribe and found that the settlers weapons and armor were far superior to any other local tribes. It was essentially a defensive alliance. According to History.com, in 1675, the son of the chief who had signed a treaty with the English, named Metacom, called all Native American tribes to defend their homeland and people against the settlers because the Europeans continued to encroach onto Wampanoag land, a humiliating treaty in 1671 where the natives were forced to give up their guns, the fact that the other Sachem before him was arrested by colonists even though not in their jurisdiction and dying in their custody, and the last straw being when the Plymouth Colony hung three Wampanoag natives for killing a Christianized native. Metacom’s Rebellion was unsuccessful simply because the natives could not outlast the European settlers who were supported by England, despite the fact that they had won many victories. The descendants of the original Pilgrims and other people began to call for Britain to help eliminate the native population completely, since the war had already decimated the 30% of the population made up of natives to 15%. This conflict is seen by most as a last, desperate breath, a last fight for their ancestral lands and a last chance to try to halt the colonial advance. So in hindsight, the natives originally could have slaughtered the colonists who had arrived and spared themselves much suffering in the future, so the peace treaty was in fact another negative thing the Europeans brought because it bought the colonists time to reinforce and get more people and weapons from Britain.
So all in all, in the end the change the settlers brought to the Americas was death, enslavement, removal, and racism. They only brought negative changes to the Americas, they destroyed cultures and nearly eradicated an entire race. History shows us that the natives were extremely mistreated and even today, they are mistreated. We glorify their blood and talk of how brave they are yet, we do nothing to improve their conditions, but you know what they say, sons do indeed bear the sins of the father.
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