Monday, March 30, 2015

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians2

He also described the "innumerable" native Indians who greeted him:
They have no iron or steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well-built people of handsome stature, because they are wondrous timid. … They are so artless and free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts; and whether the thing be of value or of small price,
However, power and greed soon took over. On the first voyage, Columbus seized men, women, and children to take back to Spain and parade like circus animals. Most died on the voyage, and all were dead within six months.
This spurred him to be more ambitious on his second voyage, in which he selected 550 of the best specimens he could find, and allowed his men to take whoever else they wanted, which turned out to be another 600. The journey back to Europe was so debilitating for the captives that Columbus ended up throwing over 200 corpses overboard. There are no records of what happened to the 600 taken by his men.
Columbus’s second voyage had been on an altogether different scale to the first. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain had kitted him out with 17 ships and 1,200 men, principally soldiers, including a cavalry troop of lancers. When they arrived at Hispaniola, the natives came out to meet them with fish and fruit “as if we had been their brothers”. In return, Columbus dispatched his troops to the island’s interior and the nearby islands to plunder the gold mines.
Columbus never found North America, from J Cohen, Christopher Columbus: The Four Voyages. 1969
Armed with the latest weaponry and armoured mastiffs trained to rip people apart, the Spanish tortured, maimed, raped, slaughtered, and burned the inhabitants in search of GOLD. Bartolomé de Las Casas, an eyewitness who eventually became a Dominican friar and fought for the Indians’ rights, left a harrowing description:
… whenever the Spaniards found them, they pitilessly slaughtered everyone like sheep in a corral. It was a general rule among Spaniards to be cruel; not just cruel, but extraordinarily cruel so that harsh and bitter treatment would prevent Indians from daring to think of themselves as human beings or having a minute to think at all. So they would cut an Indian’s hands and leave them dangling by a shred of skin and they would send him on saying “Go now, spread the news to your chiefs.” They would test their swords and their manly strength on captured Indians and place bets on the slicing off of heads or the cutting of bodies in half with one blow. They burned or hanged captured chiefs.
It was an orgy of looting and butchery, faithfully recorded by eyewitnesses. The accounts are too graphic to quote, but they detail the widespread massacres, including of children, dashing out their brains, and even feeding them to the armoured attack dogs. This senseless savagery was described as “pacification”.
Theodor de Bry, illustration for Bartolomé de las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552)
Wherever Columbus’s men landed, they seized the land outright. His letter back to Ferdinand and Isabella is crystal clear:
… and of them all have I taken possession for Their Highnesses, by proclamation and with the royal standard displayed, and nobody objected.

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