“Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions, overlap.” Stated by Albreight Von Haller. Human life, during the discovery of the new world was reduced to real suffering. When the European explorers came across the seas, they brought their own thoughts, beliefs, and ways of life, while the natives already held a strong history and independent civilization. Native Americans and the Europeans conflicted culturally with their religious beliefs, militarily, and their interpretations of land.
The religious beliefs of the European explorers were completely from the bible. God made man and gave him complete control, as shown here in the book of Genesis 1:26. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let him rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”” The Europeans thought of the native peoples as heathens or non believers because they did not believe in the Christian God. In one instance the Spanish Explorers forced native Americans to give up their own religious customs. Barbra Mcall the author of The European Invasion describes how the Pueblo people were forbidden to worship the Great Spirit in ways they had done for centuries. The Indian people conducted ceremonies and other traditional activities in secret, until the Spanish found out about the secret gatherings. As a consequence the pueblo people were brutally beaten and even burnt at the stake.
Another way the Europeans and natives conflicted was militarily. The Europeans came from a much more advanced society. During exploration they traveled with many men and better weapons than the Indians. In the 1500’s, when exploration to the new land first started there were more than 1 million native people living here, by the end of the 1800’s their population had reduced to an estimated 200,000 people, a fact from The Invasion Within, written by James Axtell
The concept of land is one more example of the differences between the natives, and the European explorers. Native Americans believed the land and its riches were gifts from the Great Spirit and should be treated with the utmost respect. Tzvetan Todorov talks about the Indian perspective in her book The Conquest of America, saying. The idea of owning land had been unknown to the Native Americans, many chiefs signed treaties of land ownership to the settlers, but did not comprehend what was meant by the agreement.. While the settlers used these treaties as legal rites to alter the land, and kill the animals. These misunderstandings grew into bigger problems, and even battles.
Thus, the native Americans and the European explorers had many cultural confrontations. Throughout history there were some examples of cooperation among the Indians and settlers. The Indians taught the settlers how to grow maize and live off the land better. Settlers showed the Indians many things and even brought over the first horse to the Indians. Although there were some examples of cooperation, generally speaking the American Indians were invaded and treated very poorly because they were misunderstood.
More important is the ethical question Tzvetan Todorov raises, “How should one behave with representatives of other cultures? Can we accept them as different, yet equal and worthy of respect?” Even in today’s society we pray we will be able to learn from other cultures instead of ignorance and prejudice. Even today it is still hard to accept people with different ideas and different cultures. Hopefully, we will learn from the European invasion of the Indians, and try to accept other cultures as worthy of respect.