Sunday, June 11, 2017

1492 Christopher Columbus vs. Native Americans

Christopher Columbus landing on Hispaniola being Greeted by the local Natives, the ArawaksThe print was made by 2 Flemish artists: Joos van Winghe (1544-1603) was the designer and Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) the engraver.  When Christopher Columbus (1450-1506) came in contact with Native Americans, he wrote: “They all go around as naked as their mothers bore them; and also the women.” He also noted that “they could easily be commanded and made to work, to sow and to do whatever might be needed, to build towns and be taught to wear clothes and adopt our ways,” and, “they are the best people in the world and above all the gentlest.”
Christopher Columbus by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio(1483–1561)
The son of a weaver, Columbus left Spain for the world on the other side of the Atlantic with 3 ships and 39 crew members in the hopes of gaining fame and wealth. As Columbus approached land, the local Natives, the Arawaks, swam out to greet the ships. Columbus later wrote, and “They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance… They would make fine servants… With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” 

In a search for gold, which proved to be very little, Columbus enslaved, murdered, and inflicted misery upon those "gentle" people. With 17 additional ships and 1,200 men, Columbus promised to bring back to Spain  gold and slaves. In 1495, they “rounded up” 1,500 Arawak men, women and children, chose 500 of the best, of which 200 died en route to Spain. When the Arawaks could not produce enough gold, he cut off the hands of all those 14 years and older, and enslaved them on estates where they were worked to death. 
Depiction of Spanish atrocities committed in the conquest of Cuba in Bartolomé de Las Casas's "Brevisima relación de la destrucción de las Indias." The print was made by 2 Flemish artists (who did not actually witness these brutalities) Joos van Winghe was the designer and Theodor de Bry the engraver. 

Dominican Friar Bartolomé de Las Casas  (1484-1566) wrote, “The Spaniards think nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.” He wrote of 2 "Christians" who met up with two Arawak boys and beheaded them for fun. “Mothers drowned their babies from sheer desperation, husbands died in the mines, women died at work, children died from lack of milk… my eyes have seen acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write,” de Las Casas lamented.  He was a Spanish historian & social reformer who wrote A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and Historia de Las Indias, chronicling the first decades of colonization of the West Indies focusing on the atrocities committed by the colonizers against the indigenous peoples.  One of the earliest European settlers in the Americas, he initially participated in, but eventually opposed the atrocities committed against the Native Americans by the Spanish colonists. In 1515, he advocated, before King Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, on behalf of rights for the Native Americans. However, his early writings advocated the use of African slaves instead of Natives in the West-Indian colonies; consequently, critics see him being partly responsible for the beginning of the Transatlantic slave trade. Later in life, he retracted those early views, as he came to see all forms of slavery as equally wrong.
Depiction of Christopher Columbus' Soldiers Chopping the Hands off of Arawak Indians who Failed to Meet the Mining Quota in Bartolomé de Las Casas's "Brevisima relación de la destrucción de las Indias." The print was made by 2 Flemish artists (who did not actually witness these atrocities) Joos van Winghe was the designer and Theodor de Bry the engraver.  "They would cut an Indian's hands and leave them dangling by a shred of skin ... & they would test their swords and their manly strength on captured Indians and place bets on the slicing off of heads or cutting of bodies in half with one blow. ... [One] cruel captain traveled over many leagues, capturing all the Indians he could find. Since the Indians would not tell him who their new lord was, he cut off the hands of some and threw others to the dogs, and thus they were torn to pieces."

According to Boston University professor Howard Zinn’s (1922-2010) 1980 book The People’s History of the United States, over 3 million people perished at the hands of Columbus from 1494 to 1508. By 1515 there were only 50,000 left. By 1550, there were 500. Zinn said, "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."