Demythifying American Indians
from: The Original Inhabitants – What They Lost and What They Retained
~ by Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
#5. The “Hindrance to Progress” Myth: In order to ensure the survival and progress of the civilized, European, Christian settlers, it was inevitable that the Indians be defeated.
Reality. European progress was impeded not because the indigenous peoples were uncivilized and incapable of living harmoniously with the settlers, but because Europeans were unwilling and incapable of accepting the American Indians’ political, social, economic, and spiritual traditions as civilized. The real obstacles that got in the way of European acceptance of Indian peoples were that they were not Christians and no visible forms of worshipping God; they made no effort to subdue the land and make it profitable; they had no understanding of the importance of private property; and they were not willing to give up their land and submit to English rule.
So what are the facts?
- Many first hand accounts describe the Indians of the North continent and of the West Indies as friendly, peaceful, and welcoming.
- Juan Rodiquez Cabrillo, when writing about his voyage along the Southern California coast in 1542, observed, “very fine valleys [with] maize and abundant food … many savannahs and groves” that were “densely populated” and “thickly settled” when Indians who often greeted the Spanish ships in friendship and traded with them of peaceful ceremonies. (Stanndard, 1992:23.)
- If such communities were not comprised of uncivilized savages who threatened European settlement and white progress, why has the myth persisted? Several historians have flatly stated that the image of native barbarism and savagery serves to rationalize European conquest. (Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cost of Conquest. Chapel Hill: Univ. of No. Carolina Press, 1975; Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., The White Man’s Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978; and David Stannard, American Holocaust. NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992.)
- What, then, were the obstacles that got in the way of European acceptance of the indigenous peoples:
- The Indians were not Christians nor did they have any visible forms of worshipping God.
- The Indians had made no effort to subdue the land – to make it profitable.
- The Indians had no understanding of private property.
- The Indians were not willing to be ignored.