I know that many modern day people, even those from the Christian Right, like and or admire “Indians”, Native Americans. They think it is sad that the white people nearly killed every last one of them. There are other US citizens that believe the Indians were “savages” and the white man was just God’s hand eliminating a people that did not worship the one true God. One thing I know for sure is that at a critical moment in the Indian’s survival they were hated, without question, by the most powerful nation on earth. Some of us look back, as we read the accounts of the atrocities committed by the US upon the Indians, and shake our heads and think “how could our ancestors be so cruel?”
I do not find our ancestor’s cruelty very hard to imagine at all. All I have to do is listen to present day conservatives advocate the death and destruction of Muslims. They praise the destruction that the US has rained down upon Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t have to step back in time to hear liberals denounced as “enemies of the State” for daring to think that killing civilians might be wrong. They are alive and well, front and center, both then and now, the conservatives are in a blind rage for the blood of “our enemies”.
Caracas, October 13, 2004--Yesterday in Caracas, on what used to be celebrated in Venezuela as the day of the Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, a group of young men and women tore down the statue of the 15th Century explorer during this national holiday that was renamed the Day of Indigenous Resistance.
Statue of Christopher Columbus located in the Plaza Mayor in the Old City of Santo Domingo. Beneath Columbus the Cacica, Anacaona is depicted beneath Columbus and immortalized as the first Indian to learn to read and write. Anacaona was captured in an act of trickery whereby her village was burned and all the inhabitants slaughtered by troops under the command of Nicolas de Ovando, then Governor of Santo Domingo. Ovando was under orders by Columbus to wipe out the remaining unsubjugated Tainos who were beginning to rebel against the Spanish. Anacaona was subsequently hung in a public square in santo Domingo.
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Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.
They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe's, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.
John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: "Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace."
Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that "myth." Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.