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Driven by glory and potential wealth Christopher Columbus was commissioned by the Spanish royalty to convert non-Christians on his voyage west. Through this he launched the age of exploration which would unveil the rest of the world. For European nations, it was a boastful time filled with the adventure of discovering and conquering foreign territories, but it should also be recognized as a time of ignorance and destruction. Christopher Columbus and Bartolome de Las Casa observations and opinions of the indigenous Americans revealed the true nature of the time to be arrogant and cruel fueled by deception and greed.
Christopher Columbus along with most Europeans at the time believed himself to be superior to the indigenous Americans. He viewed the indigenous Americans as non-threatening people who would be easily conquered because of their simple lifestyle. Although he did not regard them highly Columbus did initially approach the indigenous Americans respectfully in an excerpt from his 1492 journal he wrote “may (he) carry a good report of us, so that if it please…those who arrive here may receive honor, and procure what the natives may be found to possess…” (9-10). Columbus hid his true nature and intentions to gain the indigenous American’s trust only to betray it. Their goal from the beginning was to conquer. The Spanish did not seek to learn anything from the indigenous Americans nor did they intend to just observe the foreign lands and cultures. Blinded by their arrogance Columbus and the Spanish showed no regard for what they were taking from the indigenous people.
Bartolome de Las Casas had a more humane and significantly higher opinion of the indigenous Americans than Columbus. In his 1542 book, ‘A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies,’ he described the indigenous Americans as “most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve” (9-10). Casas took the time to really get to know the indigenous Americans by analyzing their ways and culture. He goes on speaking highly of their overall good nature portraying them as the enlightened and the Spanish as the uncivilized. Casas also characterizes the indigenous Americans as peaceful and humble people who held no ill will. Unlike his fellow Spanish colonists, Casas’ perspective of the indigenous Americans is more considerate and open-minded. He saw the indigenous Americans as people he could acquire some type of knowledge from not just people to be used and abused. Contrary to Columbus, Casas treated the indigenous Americans with respect and acted as a true explorer by choosing to learn from their culture and lifestyle rather than exploiting them.
Basic human rights and equality were not an important issue at the time and as a result the indigenous Americans were placed at a great disadvantage. There were indeed few people such as Casas, a rare example of those who believed in equal rights in such an unjust time, but the number of people who shared Columbus’ views on human rights greatly outnumbered the former. Columbus struggled to see the indigenous Americans as people much less as his equal. Although the two sources only included the perspective of the conquerors- Columbus and Casas and not the conquered- the indigenous Americans, the unjust and inhumane treatment done against the conquered is coherent. The explorers such as Columbus willingly and unremorsefully stole everything from the indigenous Americans. Their shameful greed cost the indigenous people their present and future lives, land, homes and freedom. The colonists attempted to convert the indigenous Americans also heavily damaged their culture. Against their will the indigenous Americans suffered greatly and were left the true victims of this time. The colonists were seeking to advance in the world but their horrific treatment towards the indigenous Americans proved how laggard they were regarding humanity.
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