19 January 2008

Devastation of the Indies

Just some interesting reading I've been doing for my American Survey class.
Excerpt from The Story of Creation (of the Pima, who live along the Gila and Salt rivers in the desert of central Arizona)

And now Juhwertamahkai, rubbed again on his breast, and from the substance he obtained there made two little dolls, and these he laid on the earth. And they were human beings, man and woman.
And now for a time the people increased till they filled the earth. For the first parents were perfect, and there was no sickness and no death. But when the earth was full, then there was nothing to eat, so they killed and ate each other.
But Juhwertamahkai did not like the way his people acted, to kill and eat each other, so he let the sky fall to kill them. But when the sky dropped he, himself, took a staff and broke a hole thru, thru which he and Nooee emerged and escaped, leaving behind them all the dead people.
And Juhwertamahkai, being now on top of the fallen sky, again made a man and a woman, in the same way as before. But this man and a woman became grey when old, and their children became grey younger still, and so on till the babies were grey in their cradles.
And Juhwertamahkai, who had made a new earth and sky, just as there had been before, did not like his people becoming grey in their cradles, so he let the sky fall on them again, and again made a hole and escaped, with Nooee, as before.
And Juhwertamahkai, on top of this second sky, again made a new heaven and a new earth, just as he had done before, and new people.
But these new people made a vice of smoking. Before human beings had never smoked till they were old, but now they smoked younger, and each generation still younger, till the infants wanted to smoke in their cradles.
And Juhwertamahkai did not like this, and let the sky fall again, and created everything new again in the same way, and this time he created the earth as it is now.

Bartolomé de las Casas
He went to Hispaniola in 1502 (because he had heard about the new discoveries of Columbus) where he was participating eagerly in the exploitation of the natives. He was morally blind during this period. After becoming a priest, he grew convinced that such behavior was contrary to Christian teachings, and soon he was urging all masters to renounce the slave system as he himself had done. In 1515 Casas took the case to Spain, where the government appointed him "protector of the Indians" and gave him permission to found a peaceful, exemplary colony on the Venezuelan coast. One of his remedies for Indian suffering was a proposal to import Africans to the Indies to replace the enslaved Indians. Soon, however, Casas repented of this suggestion, for (as he wrote in History of the Indies) "black slavery was as unjust as Indian slavery, and was no remedy at all."


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