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Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress

From A People’s History of the United States
By Howard Zinn

Reconsider Columbus Day -&gt
Transform Columbus Day -&gt

Arawak men and girls, naked, tawny, and complete of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They… brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and a lot of other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned…. They were properly-constructed, with very good bodies and handsome attributes…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are created of cane…. They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands have been considerably like Indians on the mainland, who have been remarkable (European observers have been to say once more and once more) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its 1st messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.

Columbus wrote: &quotAs soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the very first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they may possibly understand and may give me information of whatever there is in these components.&quot

The details that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold?

The Indians, Columbus reported, &quotare so naive and so totally free with their possessions that no one particular who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they by no means say no. To the contrary, they provide to share with any person….&quot He concluded his report by asking for a tiny assist from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his subsequent voyage &quotas much gold as they need . . . and as many slaves as they ask.&quot He was full of religious speak: &quotThus the eternal God, our Lord, provides victory to these who comply with His way more than apparent impossibilities.&quot

Since of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was offered seventeen ships and much more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives. But as word spread of the Europeans’ intent they located far more and much more empty villages. On Haiti, they located that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, soon after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking ladies and children as slaves for sex and labor.

Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They identified no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some sort of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, girls, and youngsters, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the 5 hundred very best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and have been place up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves had been &quotnaked as the day they had been born,&quot they showed &quotno more embarrassment than animals.&quot Columbus later wrote: &quotLet us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.&quot

But as well several of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to these who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, exactly where he and his males imagined large gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a specific quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they had been given copper tokens to hang about their necks. Indians discovered with out a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

The Indians had been offered an not possible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and have been killed. Attempting to put collectively an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Amongst the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants have been killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, by means of murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti had been dead.

When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians have been taken as slave labor on large estates, identified later as encomiendas. They had been worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were possibly fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there had been five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.

The chief supply-and, on a lot of matters the only supply-of in formation about what happened on the islands following Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty.

In Book Two of his History of the Indies, Las Casas (who at very first urged replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks) tells about the therapy of the Indians by the Spaniards. It is a special account and deserves to be quoted at length:

Endless testimonies . . . prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our operate was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy modest wonder, then, if they attempted to kill 1 of us now and then…. The admiral, it is correct, was blind as those who came soon after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians.. ..

Las Casas tells how the Spaniards &quotgrew a lot more conceited every day&quot and following a although refused to stroll any distance. They &quotrode the backs of Indians if they have been in a hurry&quot or had been carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. &quotIn this case they also had Indians carry large leaves to shade them from the sun and other folks to fan them with goose wings.&quot

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards &quotthought nothing at all of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.&quot Las Casas tells how &quottwo of these so-known as Christians met two Indian boys 1 day, every single carrying a parrot they took the parrots and for entertaining beheaded the boys.&quot

The Indians’ attempts to defend themselves failed. And when they ran off into the hills they had been located and killed. So, Las Casas reports. &quotthey suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, realizing not a soul in the planet to whom they could tun for help.&quot He describes their operate in the mines:

… mountains are stripped from prime to bottom and bottom to prime a thousand times they dig, split rocks, move stones, and carry dirt on their backs to wash it in the rivers, while those who wash gold remain in the water all the time with their backs bent so continually it breaks them and when water invades the mines, the most arduous task of all is to dry the mines by scooping up pansful of water and throwing it up outside….

After each six or eight months’ operate in the mines, which was the time required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the men died. Even though the men had been sent several miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and generating thousands of hills for cassava plants.

Therefore husbands and wives were together only when each eight or ten months and when they met they have been so exhausted and depressed on both sides . . . they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early since their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, although I was in Cuba, 7000 kids died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation…. In this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at function, and youngsters died from lack of milk . . . and in a quick time this land which was so excellent, so powerful and fertile … was depopulated…. My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I create….

When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, &quotthere had been 60,000 folks living on this island, including the Indians so that from 1494 to 1508, over 3 million individuals had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it….&quot

Therefore began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning, when you read Las Casas-even if his figures are exaggerations (have been there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or significantly less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or eight million as other people now believe?) is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history books offered to youngsters in the United States, it all begins with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.

The remedy of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks) the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one particular aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the popular Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a complete. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as &quotthe United States,&quot subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of folks with common interests. It is as if there actually is a &quotnational interest&quot represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the choices of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.

&quotHistory is the memory of states,&quot wrote Henry Kissinger in his initial book, A Planet Restored, in which he proceeded to inform the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from these states men’s

policies. From his standpoint, the &quotpeace&quot that Europe had just before the French Revolution was &quotrestored&quot by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored folks in Asia and Africa, ladies and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a planet not restored but disintegrated.

When the Pilgrims came to New England they also had been coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, developed the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the region legally a &quotvacuum.&quot The Indians, he said, had not &quotsubdued&quot the land, and therefore had only a &quotnatural&quot correct to it, but not a &quotcivil correct.&quot A &quotnatural right&quot did not have legal standing.

The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms two:8: &quotAsk of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost components of the earth for thy possession.&quot And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:two: &quotWhosoever therefore resisteth the energy, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall obtain to themselves damnation.&quot

The Indian population of ten million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would eventually be lowered to much less than a million. Enormous numbers of Indians would die from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that &quotthe Indians . . . affirm, that ahead of the arrival of the Christians, and prior to the smallpox broke out amongst them, they have been ten times as many as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this illness, whereof nine-tenths of them have died.&quot When the English first settled Martha’s Vineyard in 1642, the Wampanoags there numbered probably 3 thousand. There had been no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians have been left there. Similarly, Block Island Indians numbered perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 in 1662, and by 1774 were reduced to fifty-one.

Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that specific powerful drive born in civilizations primarily based on private home. It was a morally ambiguous drive the want for space, for land, was a actual human need to have. But in circumstances of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competitors, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples.

Source -&gt

Columbus Statue Toppled in Venezuela on Day of Indigenous Resistance -&gt

Hero-making, Christopher Columbus – Lies My Teacher Told Me -&gt

Christopher Columbus: Extracts from Journal -&gt

Corporate Avenger – Christians Murdered Indians -&gt

When I was writing Dune

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I came across this in an extra copy of Dune (which I donated to our regional library). This 1984 foreword by Frank Herbert was not in my older copy of Dune. As a aspiring writer, I discovered it inspiring.

When I was writing Dune

… there was no space in my mind for concerns about the book’s success or failure. I was concerned only with the writing. Six years of research had preceded the day I sat down to place the story with each other, and the interweaving of the many plot layers I had planned needed a degree of concentration I had in no way ahead of experienced.

It was to be a story exploring the myth of the Messiah.

It was to create another view of a human-occupied planet as an power machine.

It was to penetrate the interlocked workings of politics and economics.

It was to be an examination of absolute prediction and its pitfalls.

It was to have an awareness drug in it and tell what could take place through dependence on such a substance.
Potable water was to be an analog for oil and for water itself, a substance whose supply diminishes each and every day.

It was to be an ecological novel, then, with many overtones, as well as a story about individuals and their human concerns with human values, and I had to monitor every of these levels at every single stage in the book.

There wasn’t space in my head to believe about significantly else.

Following the 1st publication, reports from publishers had been slow and, as it turned out, inaccurate. The critics had panned it. Far more than twelve publishers had turned it down ahead of publication. There was no marketing. One thing was happening out there, although.
For two years I was swamped with bookstore and reader complaints that they could not get the book. The Whole Earth Catalog praised it. I kept acquiring these telephone calls from men and women asking me if I were beginning a cult.

The answer: &quotGod, no!&quot

What I am describing is the slow realization of achievement. By the time the first three Dune books have been completed, there was little doubt this was a popular operate – 1 of the most common in history, I am told, with some ten million copies sold worldwide. Now the most common question men and women ask is: &quotWhat does this good results mean to you?&quot

It surprises me. I did not expect it. I did not expect failure either. It was a operate and I did it. Components of Dune Messiah and Youngsters of Dune had been written just before Dune was completed. They fleshed out a lot more in the writing, but the essential story remained intact. I was a writer and I was writing. The success meant I could invest far more time writing.

Hunting back on it, I comprehend I did the correct factor instinctively. You don’t write for good results. That takes portion of your interest away from the writing. If you’re really carrying out it, that’s all you are carrying out: writing.

There is an unwritten compact among you and the reader. If a person enters a bookstore and sets down tough earned cash (power) for your book, you owe that particular person some entertainment and as considerably much more as you can give.

That was truly my intention all along.

Frank Herbert

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