There exists a commonly recognized opinion that Christopher Columbus is the person who discovered America and this is why he is considered to be almost a hero, as there is even an official holiday in his honor, Columbus Day, that is celebrated on October, 21. In fact, this heroic imaged is attributed to a real thief, who found the land he was not looking for, and what is more, brought numerous disasters and terrible misery for the indigenous population. Unfortunately, the role of indigenous people in American history is greatly underestimated, because it is difficult to contradict generally accepted opinions that may be found in every history textbook.
Negative consequences of Columbus’s “discovery”
As the saying goes: success is never blamed. It means that since times immemorial conquerors were always right, only positive sides and consequences of their experiments mattered, while negative impact and bad consequences were suppressed. Christopher Columbus, for instance, was the person who showed the natives a horse and they started hunting and raiding neighboring villages using a horse. However, the traveler’s negative impact was terrible, as it caused the death of human beings, and death is, certainly, not a problem of minor importance. “The Spanish also brought diseases that wiped out thousands of people” (Doak 94). Such great losses were caused by the absence of an immunity to diseases like smallpox, measles, chickenpox, typhus and yellow fever (Doak 94). To prove the danger and damage of these diseases, it may be mentioned that “by the early 1600s, the native Taino people were extinct – and they weren’t the only natives affected” (Doak 95). On the whole, only a tenth part of all native people manages to struggle against the diseases and remained alive.
However, Christopher Columbus did something that was as bad as fatal maladies, or even worse. He introduced slavery to the native people. It is known that Columbus took many native people by force and brought them to Spain in order to sell them, though many of them could not even survive the voyage and died in the sea. As a governor of the land, Columbus was known to be the very severe and brutal treatment of native people was characteristic for him. If there occurred any rebellion organizes by the native people on the land, he was sure to take severe measures, like the execution of the participants discontented with the present state of things and the parade of their dead bodies along the streets.
One more forcible action of Columbus deserves mentioning, it is a forced conversion of the indigenous people into Christianity. The whole atmosphere of the situation may be vividly proved by one citation:
Princes and Indians, there is one God, one pope, and one king of Castile, who is lord of this country. Come at once and render him obedience, or we will make war on you, kill you, and put you into slavery (Giles par. 2).
Many native people found it possible to accept military conquest, but many of them could not put up with the conquest of spirit. Still, many Indians were open to the faith of Spaniards, and the main mistake that was made by Columbus was that he tried to impose Christianity by force as is stated in the above-mentioned citation. This is why the indigenous people resisted the Christian faith, they simply got the impression that Jesus was worshipped by bad and brutal people only because they had hardly seen a decent Christian man.
The legacy of the ingenious people
It is wrong to think that before Christopher Columbus no foreign person had disembarked on the American coast. There are proofs that travelers from Egypt and Phoenicia had been here. Certainly, they made a certain impact on the native tribes and their culture. This means that the very statement that Columbus discovered America is wrong in itself and if the hypothesis is proved to be wrong from the very beginning, there can be no adequate proof of its adequacy.
It is wrong to think that “aboriginal” always means a primitive person, who obligatory justifies cannibalism. In fact, the assumption that native people were not primitive at all may be proven by the following citation of Lord and Burke: “They lived in temples as well as teepees, dined on succotash and 9-inch oysters, and developed customs, including daily baths, that Europeans abhorred” (par.1). A good example of the development of America before Columbus was the city of Cahokia, which had a ceremonial mound that was even bigger than the Great Pyramid in Egypt (Lord and Burke par. 2). The city had a developed trade network with other regions and could even be considered a metropolis. It is evident that its designers and builders had the necessary stock of knowledge to build such an impressive city. Unfortunately, it was destroyed long before Columbus’s discovery of America, and this territory was thought to be never inhabited.
In conclusion, it must be stated that with the discovery of new information, stereotypes must be reconsidered. This statement refers to Christopher Columbus, whose historical personality is proved to be controversial. Our main mistake is that we accept the principle that there was no American history before Columbus and we turn a blind eye to the negative consequences of his arrival. Consequently, further study of ancient American cultures and the analysis of the life of indigenous people are needed.
Doak, Robin Santos. Christopher Columbus: Explorer of the New World. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006.
Giles, Thomas S. “How Did Native Americans Respond to Christianity?” Christian History Issue 35. Vol. XI, No. 3. 2009. Web.
Lord, Lewis and with Sarah Burke. “America Before Columbus”. U.S. News and World Report. 1991, pp. 22-37. 2009. Web.