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Jack Kirkpatrick Blog post – 8/30

Throughout my time studying History in high school, my professors changed my perspective on history by revealing the truth behind many major events including the slave trade, former presidents, former generals, etc. However, we never looped back to 1492 and the real truth behind the birth of the British colonies and soon to be United States of America.

Just reading the opening paragraphs in Howard Zinns, “A Peoples History of the United States,” I was baffled by how outgoing the Arawak Natives were. Zinn explaines they were so eager to meet the new settles that they “swam out to get a closer look at the strange boat” and later “ran to greet the men bringing them food, water, and various gifts before trading.” It is already clear to me how mistaken I was not only on Columbus’ character, but the morality of all the “settlers.” I may just refer to them as “conquerers” from now on after reading Columbus’ writing stating “They would make fine servants… with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want… On the first isn’t which i found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever is in these parts.” It is clear the history books lied, painting Columbus and the other “hero’s” in a positive light covering up the cruel, dark reality with a mask of humility.

I also was very intrigued by the fact that Columbus was essentially risking his life doing the dirty work for the Spanish sailing into the unknown, but was only promised 10% of the profits. Columbus was also extremely lucky aiming to find gold in Asia but underestimating the size of the planet only made it a quarter of the way there stumbling upon the America’s.

Finally, Zinn writes “Beyond all of that, how certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior?” Thinking about previous information in the text, this question raised about the Native people to the settlers brings up a great point. The native Americans got less geographical luck for there civilization, not having the proper farm animals for Better and faster agriculture and not having steel or iron for weaponry. Just because they did not have the resources the settlers had in the west, does it truly mean they were superior? They had knowledge the western people didn’t know with plants and herbs, being able to abort children with a simple herb amoung other impressive knowledges. It makes me ponder, what if we learned to live with the native people and shared information and resources so that we could both profit from the relationship; symbiosis.

It is transparent to me now that it is true, the winners of history write the history books. But what isn’t clear to me is why kids are continuously being taught the wrong history. If part of the goal of studying history is so the mistakes of the past are not repeated, then why not explain our dark history in school earlier, so that kids can learn from our past mistakes and come to peace with the fact that our history might be sinister, but it’s something we can all learn from and strive to be better as they write our history books in the near future. Kids would gain a better moral compass at a younger age if they knew the truth. We all need to learn from past mistakes, it’s simply how we grow as individuals and society as a whole.

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3 Comments

  1. Michael Childress Michael Childress

    The point you brought up about the inferiority comparison of Natives compared to Columbus and his crew was one of the most important point from this reading for me. We tend to want to quantify success with either conquest or money throughout history, so I think it is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking natives were lesser because they weren’t as financially developed or didn’t have the infrastructure of European countries, but in my mind they may have been far more morally and ethically superior, which often gets swept under the rug because ethics and morals don’t lead to world conquests that attract the eyes of viewers and readers.

  2. Julia Leonardi Julia Leonardi

    I was also fascinated by the fact that he only took 10% profit for everything he did. I also absolutely loved it when he talked about this idea of inferiority. No the natives were not inferior, and in a lot of ways I think they were better people. I always wonder what the world would’ve been like if it was the other way around, and the Americas “discovered” Europe.

  3. Pierce Kaliner Pierce Kaliner

    Like you I was shocked by the first few paragraphs. While I already knew about the enslavement and mass genocide previously I never really knew what happened when he first landed. It is monstrous, that when receiving gifts of all kinds Columbus immediately thought of enslaving the people. Columbus being treated as a hero is a crime which needs to be rectified.

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