Skip to comments.How were the Native Indians when Columbus arrived?[Angels?, Savages?,etc]
Posted on 12/03/2001 11:18:01 AM PST by electron1
I have a question. I was discussing Native Indians with a friend of mine, and she seems to believe that Indians were nature loving angels and our ancestors totally ruined their harmonious relationship with nature. Is this true?
This may very well be true, but since it fits perfectly into the liberal propaganda, I have my suspicions. Since liberals are known for supressing the truth to further their cause.
I have also seen posts on here where a person has briefly mentioned that the way we currently imagine the Indians of the time is not true to how they actually were.
Can anybody assist me in understanding the true character of the Indians at the time? I appreciate any input.
"What's this 'we' stuff, Kemosabe????"
I was taught in the liberal education system so I am ignorant to all the facts as you all would probably guess. I was taught that Columbus was bad, and that the Indians (oops Native Americans) were butchered, ect. So this discussion would probably help me out too. I'm struggling after 12 years of brainwashing, however, I am a grownup conservative now. Just a little ignorant to the facts, about Indians, Columbus, you all know what I mean.
The Iroqois and Algonquins had a long running war. One of the highlights was when the Iroquois massacred the entire Erie tribe. Approximately 1,000 Eries were tied individually to trees and burned alive, all in one day, somewhere near the eastern shore of Lake Erie.
At one point the Iroquois were willing to travel hundreds of miles to the west to massacre a tribe in Illinois.
Ritual cannibalism was common among these tribes. Eating the heart of a brave enemy was believed to confer bravery on the diner. You don't want to know about the tortures they employed . . .
The trip to Quebec was made without mishap. On August 1st, Jogues' group, forty in number, laden with goods and supplies for the hard pressed mission, left on the return trip to Huronia. They did not get very far. On the following day they were ambushed by the waiting Iroquois. Most of the Hurons fled, a few were killed or captured, and Jogues and two donne's Rene' Goupil and Guillaume Couture were taken prisoner. Among the captured Hurons was Ahatsistari, the greatest of their warriors, and several other prominent Christians. What a blow to the Huron mission!
As soon as the engagement was over, the nightmare of torture began. The enemy fell upon their captives in a great rage, ripping out their finger nails, chewing their fingers and beating them with clubs. They then hustled off their victims to Mohawk country south of the St. Lawrence. En route the poor captives were "caressed" by 200 Iroquois setting out on the warpath. All, except a few small children, were savagely beaten and mutilated.
And yet there was still so much more to come.
On the 18th day, weak from lack of food, loss of blood and the agonizing pain of their bruised, broken and mutilated members, the prisoners arrived in the first Iroquois village. Here again the same ordeal had to be faced: running the gauntlet, beating, cutting, whip-ping, burning, scratching. It was an incredible experience to be under-gone again in two other villages. One wonders how the captives could survive such brutal and inhuman treatment.
Jogues seemed to be singled out for the refinement of this cruelty since the Iroquois considered him a kind of leader. They hacked off his left thumb; and yet he was grateful they had spared the right thumb so he could write to his brethren! He also received some terrible blows to his body, especially with a big lump of iron attached to a rope, and, as he said, "the only thing that kept me from fainting and that sustained my strength and courage was the fear that my tormentor would hit me with it a second time."
And even at night there was no respite for the poor victims. It was then the turn of the adolescents and children who delighted in throwing hot coals and burning cinders on their tortured flesh, in tearing open their wounds and in inflicting other senseless barbarities. And as Jogues himself remarked, "patience was our physician." <
Also, liked someone said earlier - depended upon tribe to tribe. Some tribes were into enslaving others, war, and other nasty things only attributed to whites these days. What - the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans practiced baby and virgin killing in the form of sacrifices. Somehow, that all gets glossed over today. It is like the Indian woman who supposively helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition. I hear it was actually her French husband and she was just along for the ride.
A lot of Indian Tribes were peaceful. A lot of other Indian Tribes were vicious, aggressive killers.
White Americans shouldn't spend their entire lives living in guilt.
However, I do have a problem with people who don't have at least the SLIGHTEST tinge of embarassment or guilt over some of the things that were done by the U.S. Government regarding the Indians. The story of Chief Joseph and the eviction of the Nez Perce from their lands should at least engender some regret and sorrow, for example.
They dragged their stuff around on two sticks or a sledge of some sort.
They were a stone-age culture until the Europeans showed up. They had gotten as far as making fire and quit.
You can cloth it in all the threadbare 'nature loving' arguments you want, but they never ever progressed beyond that of a stone-age culture until the Europeans dragged them into the 17th century.
They were about 12,000 years behind the times.
To ask, "were the Indians angels or savages?" is about like asking "were the Americans angels or savages?". The question would have to be couched in terms of time, place, and culture. Texas is different than California; the Caddo were different than the Karankawa. To try to generalize any culture as only good or only bad is to oversimplify - and that in itself is wrong.
Of course, there were notable civilizations in Central and South America that really were nation/states, the Toltecs, Aztecs, Maya, etc, etc. These had literate cultures and advanced mathematics but curiously, not the wheel. They were anything but "children of nature," having as high a zest for killing their neighbors in an organized fashion as did their European counterparts. Pretty good at it, too...
They were usually at war with their neighbors, a fact usually glossed over by present-day romantic views of Native American life. In a sense, this constant warfare helped keep Indian populations in check, so you could say that the Indian's primary natural enemy was himself.
That they remained too few in number to reduce the continent to a waste-land before English settlers got here should not be confused with a modern sensibility regarding the "sanctity of the earth."
Columbus himself wrote that the Indians, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone."
An interesting set of quotations from source-texts on the matter is the first chapter of Howard Zinn's "people's history of the United States," which I thought everyone taught in American History, nowadays. Zinn seems to quote extensively from Batolome de las Cases, a young priest involved in the conquest of Cuba in his book "History of the Indies." I'd also delve into the original source texts of Columbus's writings.
At any rate, with perhaps the exception of the large Central American tribes (who also destroyed vast areas of rainforest and other ecological sins) levels of mass violence were rather low in comparison to what whites would bring. It should be noted, however, that many of the millions whites killed were not killed intentionaly, but by the transimision of disease. Of course there were many masacres on both sides, but in the end it is fair to say the white man outdid the Indian in terms of death and destruction. Indians would massacre one white settlement and the whites would massacre a dozen-thus was the lopsided struggle.
In short, neither liberal "nature loving" legends or Western "bloody savage" legends are acurate. I would suggest you find the volume Cabaz de Vaca wrote on his experience with the many tribes of the Gulf coast. He gives an excellent, suprisingly unbiased, view of the very diverse tribes he encountered. His experience ranged from night time raids on his men to ocean rescues by tribes on Galveston Island to the hundreds of followers he amassed in New Mexico to his futile attempts to save the Southwestern Indians from slavery. His views on Indian treatment were excellent, far superior to those of his peers. He did not believe in forcing Christianity upon them, rather deciding they could only be won to Christ and civilized nature by love and compassion. Alas, few of his comrades shared his views-lands to conquer, slaves, and gold clouded their eyes, overshadowing any nobler ambitions for the Indian's well being and salvation.
I'm OK with Native Americans killing each other, Europeans have done it every 20 years or so throughout time, but cannibals?
Who knows what happened . . . .
It is true that Meso-Americans indulged in human sacrifice but were not the Europeans also putting to death witches and heretics to appease their God during the same period as well? I doubt Native villages were any more septic than most European cities of the time. Most Native Americans also bathed more often than Europeans of the time.
Many of the staple crops today such as maize, potatoes, chocolate, squash, tomatoes and pumpkins were first developed by Native Americans. Most societies in North America were egalatarian and practiced democracy. Chiefs rarely had dictatorial powers and women had great influence on who the leaders would be. Traditional Native Americans valued honesty and always telling the truth. Native societies worked for thousands of years. They were destroyed more by European diseases than by any military conquests. The first European explorer on tha Amazon described a high degree of culture along the Amazon River. He said it was teeming with bustling cities but today it is all gone, due to disease.
Native Americans should be accepted as people. "Savages" are unfortunately found in all races and groups as even this message board sometimes evince.
Castaways : The Narrative of Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca
(Latin American Literature and Culture, No 10)
by Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca, Alvar N. Cabeza De Vaca,
Alvar Nuunez Cabeza De Vaca, Enrique Pupo-Walker (Editor)
This enthralling story of survival is the first major narrative of the exploration of North America by Europeans (1528-36). The author of Castaways (Naufragios), Alvar Nez Cabeza de Vaca, was a fortune-seeking nobleman and the treasurer of an expedition to claim for Spain a vast area that includes today's Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. A shipwreck forced him and a handful of men to make the long westward journey on foot to meet up with Hernn Corts. In order to survive, Cabeza de Vaca joined native peoples along the way, learning their languages and practices and serving them as a slave and later as a physician. When after eight years he finally reached the West, he was not recognized by his compatriots. In his writing Cabeza de Vaca displays great interest in the cultures of the native peoples he encountered on his odyssey. As he forged intimate bonds with some of them, sharing their brutal living conditions and curing their sick, he found himself on a voyage of self-discovery that was to make his reunion with his fellow Spaniards less joyful than expected. Cabeza de Vaca's gripping narrative is a trove of ethnographic information, with descriptions and interpretations of native cultures that make it a powerful precursor to modern anthropology. Frances M. Lpez-Morillas's translation beautifully captures the sixteenth-century original. Based as it is on Enrique Pupo-Walker's definitive critical edition, it promises to become the authoritative English translation. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
BTW, there's a foreign movie entitled "Cabeza de Vaca" which was pretty good.
This is NOT from Columbus's era, but from 1709.
IIRC, its one of the earliest accounts of the Indians of North Carolina.
Please excuse the length, but I thought some of you may be interested in this.
From A New Voyage to Carolina, by John Lawson:
"Their Cruelty to their Prisoners of War is what they are seemingly guilty of an Error in, (I mean as to a natural Failing) because they strive to invent the most inhumane Butcheries for them, that the Devils themselves could invent, or hammer out of Hell; they esteeming Death no Punishment, but rather an Advantage to him, that is exported out of this into another World.
Therefore, they inflict on them Torments, wherein they prolong Life in that miserable state as long as they can, and never miss Skulping of them, as they call it, which is, to cut off the Skin from the Temples, and taking the whole Head of Hair along with it, as if it was a Night-cap. Sometimes, they take the Top of the Skull along with it; all which they preserve, and carefully keep by them, for a Trophy of their Conquest over their Enemies. Others keep their Enemies Teeth, which are taken in War, whilst others split the Pitch-Pine into Splinters, and stick them into the Prisoners Body yet alive. Thus they light them, which burn like so many Torches; and in this manner, they make him dance round a great Fire, every one buffeting and deriding him, till he expires, when every one strives to get a Bone or some Relick of this unfortunate Captive."
An account of John Lawson's murder, two years later:
Between the Tuscaroras and the numerous Sioux tribes by which they were partly surrounded there was incessant and murderous hostility. On the other hand, there was amity and alliance, at least for the moment, between the Tuscaroras and the Algonquin coast tribes whose lands the palefaces were invading. The first murders of white settlers occurred in Bertie Precinct at the hands of Meherrins, and seem to have been isolated cases. But a general conspiracy of Iroquois and Algonquin tribes was not long in forming, and the day before the new moon, September 22, 1711, was appointed for a wholesale massacre.
A few days before the appointed time the Baron de Graffenried started in his pinnace from New Berne to explore the Neuse River. His only companions were a negro servant and John Lawson, a Scotchman who for a dozen years had been surveyor-general of the colony. Lawson was the author of an extremely valuable and fascinating book on Carolina and its native races, a book which one cannot read without loving the writer and mourning his melancholy fate. No man in the colony was better known by the Indians, who had frequently observed and carefully noted the fact that his appearance in the woods with his surveying instruments was apt to be followed by some fresh encroachment upon their lands.
Lawson and Graffenried had advanced but little way into the Tuscarora wilderness when they were taken prisoners. The Indians were very curious to learn why they had come up the river; perhaps it might indicate that the people at New Berne had some suspicision of the intended massacre and had sent them forward as scouts. If any such dread beset the minds of the red men, it was probably soon allayed; for it is clear that, had there been any suspicion, Graffenried and Lawson would not thus have ventured out of all reach of support.
The barbarians were two or three days in making up their minds what to do. They then took poor Lawson, and thrust into his skin all over, from head to foot, sharp splinters of lightwood, almost dripping with its own turpentine, and set him afire. The negro was also put to death with fiendish torments, but Graffenried was kept a prisoner, perhaps in order to be burned on some festal occasion.
Before the news of this dreadful affair could reach New Berne, the blow had fallen, not only there, but also at Bath and on the Roanoke River. Some hundreds of settlers were massacred, at New Berne 130 within two hours from the signal. No circumstance of horror was wanting. Men were gashed and scorched, children torn in pieces, women impaled on stakes. The slaughter went on for three days.
Old Virginia and Her Neighbours by John Fiske, pages 350-353
Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston, 1902
Indians generally had the utmost respect for nature since their lives depended on it, so they did not kill for sport as a general rule.
Some of the other posters have pointed out that there was a mix of good and bad as on any Continent. Some tribes and individuals were wise, while others were not. They were also no different from people in other parts of the world in that they were tribal and often had intertribal warfare. They were brutal and used torture freely as a general rule. This is no different from other parts of the world either. They did this because it instills fear in the others and thus promotes the safety of the tribe and reluctance to go to war, IMHO.
You can start with Francis Parkman, the great American historian. He wrote the 7 volume "France and England in North America." The first two volumes have a lot on this stuff. They are "Pioneers of France in the New World," and "The Jesuits in North America."
Another good resource is Allan W. Eckert's book "The Frontiersmen," and his five volume "Winning of America" series.
Who needs a wheel, when you can have a nice scalp?
Supposedly, the loss of buffalo has contributed to the increase in forested land.
Don't get me wrong, I could not care less about this loss...
The "Mourning Wars" involved northern tribes that abducted children of other tribes to raise them as their own, and when pursued, they left a head on a stick every mile to taunt their pursuers.
Moreover, there are two new books out saying that essentially the Plains Indians destroyed much of the bison population long before "Buffalo Bill." As to the diseases, the numbers are shifting all the time: whereas only 20 years ago anthropologists were thinking there were 100 million Indians in North and Central America, now the UPPER-BOUND number is only 50 million, and some put it as low as 8 million. What all this means is that notions that European diseases killed 50 million Indians are baseless.
And just this week, there was even NEWER evidence that many diseases are being discovered in the pre-Columbian bones, meaning that the Indians already HAD these diseases.
The Indians also practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, hardly environmentally friendly.
These ideas are created by the same people who want us to believe modern man is a blight on the earth. It isn't true.
I remember seeing a small statue carved by a Central American artist about 500 AD. It was a captive who was tied to a tree. He had crows pecking at his eyes which were wide open. The accompanying explanation in the museum was that he had been flayed alive, and his captors had paid particular attention to the removal of his eyelids so the the birds could do their thing. Shows a low regard for human pain and suffering, but maybe they were nature-loving birders.