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Zachary Andrews Blog Post 8/29

After reading the first chapter in A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, I was intrigued by the slew of new information that I had not previously known about Christopher Columbus, his crew, and his true intentions behind exploring the New World. The thing that I don’t entirely understand is, why is it that conflict between humans always arises? When Columbus and the other explorers such as Pizarro, Cortes invaded the New World, why did they have the urge to start a conflict with the Native Americans? I understand that the explorers were there to make money, find gold, claim new land, and seize glory for themselves but could there have been a way for them to achieve these things without destroying the Native American population throughout North America?

 

About three pages into the first chapter, I read an excerpt from one of Christopher Columbus’ trip logs. The excerpt stated that Columbus had the intention of subjugating the Natives so that he could have a large workforce. My question regarding this is that why would something like this immediately come to his mind? I know that he, Columbus, needed to fulfill his promise of bringing back gold and other resources to Spain but why did he feel the need to assert his power over a community of people who welcomed him with open arms? This and other stories such as the one regarding Rodrigo, a deckhand, who was the first to spot land; however, Columbus claimed that he did and not Rodrigo. Because of this, Columbus earned a 10,000 maravedis yearly for the rest of his life as a pension instead of Rodrigo. After fulfilling his promise to the Spanish throne, he returned to Spain and earned his new title of “Admiral of the Ocean Sea”. After analyzing this, I recognized that this new title gave Columbus referent power. He could then use this title to request more funding and voyage resources because the new title proves that he is a successful explorer and that he has experience.

 

Another quote from the text that caught my eye was, “How certain are we that what we destroyed was inferior?” This quote, regarding the Natives Americans, is a question posed towards the explorers and other mass murderers of the Christopher Columbus era and beyond. Were the Native Americans truly inferior or did they have information and technology that we hadn’t invented yet? That is a question that we are still asking ourselves today… what would have happened technologically, culturally, and socially if we hadn’t destroyed the Native American population? A similar genocide event that was mentioned in the book was the failed attempt to get rid of the Jewish people. The Spaniards expelled the Jewish people from their land, alongside other nations as well. Even the Roman Empire expelled the Jews from their land. Then both the Soviet Union and the Hitler attempted to fulfill a genocide. Throughout history Jews have been picked on and shoved aside. This same concept that was applied to the Native Americans was also applied to th Jewish people. Other people regarded both the Native Americans, the Jews, and others as inferior. Luckily the Jewish population was not completely killed. The Jewish community ended up giving the world people like Albert Einstein, Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google), Adam Sandler, and more. We were able to see what the Jewish population could bring to the world but we weren’t able to see what the Native American population could have given us.

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2 Comments

  1. Maggie Otradovec Maggie Otradovec

    I think your question on why conflict followed European explorers as they arrived in the Americas is a good one to ask. Could it have been fear? Distaste for what (or in this case, who) looks different? Or could it have just been basic human nature to resort to violence as the (seemingly) most efficient way of getting what one wants? Maybe it was all three, maybe it was more. Perhaps all we can know for sure is that we will never fully be able to recover from that stain.

  2. Michael Stein Michael Stein

    The observation that Columbus and his fellow European explorers had an impulse to conquer the natives offers a piercing insight into the effects that mercantalist policy had on European relations with the rest of the world. When studying this period in history, it is important to remember the effect that policies enacted by those in leadership can have on the average person, even if the average person was not under the jurisdiction of said leader (ie. the Native Americans).

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