American Indian Colonization History
American Indians had occupied the now called America and gradually their lives were changed due to the European colonization. When the Europeans arrived and settled in their land, they had no idea that their lives would change for the worst. The colonizers arrived in America in the late 1400s. The American Indians received them with kindness and gifts as a sign of respect. At first, it seemed like the two groups would get along but the peace did not last. The Europeans established control over the indigenous people and their territories. Initially, the Europeans who took part in the colonization of America were seen as heirs; as if they were destined to be rich, own land and spread their cultures such as religious segregation, racism, and colonization targeting both American Indians and African Americans. The changes that came with the Europeans were caused by a number of factors which include illness, loss of land, attempts to export religion and laws, which were all violating the Native American culture.
European culture in America did not begin the English, but with the Spanish. For over a century, Spain managed to conquer the Native Indian societies and install a forceful presence in the now United States of America. The Native Americans believed that this religion that the Europeans were trying to introduce to them was based on the wrong principles that they were not willing to follow. “What each participated in was a culture of conquest-violence, exploitation, destruction, and dehumanization.” (Dunbar-Ortiz, 2016). The period of colonization of the American Indians came with a lot of segregation. People were secluded and could only interact with those of a similar skin color. A number of the Christian colonizers believed in racial segregation and white supremacy; which is a form of discrimination where non-white people are repressed and exploited by the whites for social, economic and political reasons based on the notion that their race is superior. Like Ortiz stated herself, “The idea of white supremacy was paramount in neutralizing …lands and properties of Moors and Jews in Iberia in Ulster and of Native Americans and African people.” (Dunbar-Ortiz, 2016). Also “what evolves in North America is the belief that being black means being a slave and to be a slave means to be black.”
The explorers strongly believed that they were bringing something good (religion and Catholicism) to the American Indians but in reality what they brought were illnesses that killed millions of Native Americans. In addition to bringing diseases, the Spanish went ahead to enslave the American Indians who were not killed and took all their natural resources. It was a very tough time for the American Indians, who fought back and won some key battles but lost in the end since they were also battling so many diseases. One of the tribes that were enslaved by the conquistadores were the Timucua tribe based in Florida. A conquistador by the name Hernando De Soto, who was looking to conquer their land sent a message tone of the tribe leaders, Urrutia. It read “I am a king in my land. I and all of my people have vowed to die one hundred deaths to maintain the freedom of our land. This is our answer, both for the present and even more.” (Josephy, 1996). When they came face to face, the tribe leader lunged at De Soto, punching his face as a last act of rebellion. At this point, the Spaniards were met with little resistance except for a few instances where the Native Americans committed suicide. This was a way for them to refuse to do what they were told; to them, it was liberating. “One of the Natives, a boy, saw the hardships, so he took a long blade and stabbed himself.” (Josephy, 1996). Other decided to kill their own children so that they do not grow up in slavery and of course others fought physically as an act of defiance. They did everything possible to fight for their land but unfortunately, they were outnumbered by the Spaniards.
Both Native Americans and African Americans were being treated like animals and to them, this is what they had to do, whatever felt right to them, to rebel. During this period there were many battles that came with a lot of bloodsheds as well as sexual violence. Since the Spaniards did not see the Native American Indians as people (probably because of their skin color), they felt like they could do whatever they wanted to them. It is sad to realize that oppressive system still exists in our present lives. Most people’s knowledge about the Native Americans is inaccurate and distorted. When the Europeans arrived in the land now called America, everything seemed peaceful at first, but as the colonizers started to spread across the continent, the natives were treated violence and other derogatory actions. The natives challenged everything the newcomers believed in Defiance was their only way to fight the tyranny of the Europeans.
Dunbar-Ortiz, R. (2016). “All the Real Indians Died Off“: and 20 Other Myths about Native Americans. Boston: Beacon Press.
Josephy, A. (1996). 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians . London: Pimlico.