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What Did The Earliest European Explorers Think Of Native Americans?

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Jack B Profile
Jack B answered
In general, the European explorers thought the Native Americans were "savages."  (A truly nasty word that consistently rears it's ugly head whenever you are discussing the meeting of European culture with indigenous peoples.)

In the eyes of the European explorers, the Indians were a dirty, naked, uncivilized people.  Their concept of "God" was totally different, their concept of material wealth and property was completely different (even foreign to some native people), and thus the concept of "ownership."  Using the language of the Europeans...  To the Native American, the actual ownership of land was a complete abomination of the laws of God and nature.  Especially when you consider the land, the earth was an major aspect and major deity (god) in Native American religious beliefs.

It's an interesting irony when you consider how many wars and how much blood was spilled in Europe over the ownership and dominion over land.
Julii Brainard Profile
Julii Brainard answered
They weren't sure that they were human.

There was quite a debate about this, particularly in Spain. Spain funded the exploratory voyages of Christopher Columbus. Moreover, at the time Spain was in a the grip of Catholic religious fervour, following the ejection of the country of Muslims and Jews.

The problem is that in Biblical-based folklore traditions, there was no explanation for where the people of the Americas came from. Moreover, the peoples that the Spaniards were encountering had such bizarre cultural practises (e.g., they sometimes recognised matrilneal lines and not patrilineal), that the Spaniards didn't know what to make of them.

Then the native Americans started dropping like flies, because of the European diseases (smallpox, measles, etc.) that they were encountering for the first time. The entire native population on several Carribean islands simply died out.

It was actually Catholic missionaries who stepped in and argued that the native Americans were human, and had souls (if savage and barbaric, in their eyes) that needed saving. In spite of the many brutalities that the Church may have visited on native Americans, they may have saved the natives from a far worse fate under the militaristic ambitions of other colonials.

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