Isaiah “…the Indians were totally deprived of their freedom

Isaiah Files

HST 105-005

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Mr. Chapman

January 18, 2018

Primary Reaction I

            The five chosen readings of Foner’s Voices of Freedom help to illustrate the various relationships and
potential conflict of interests between the Europeans and the Natives of the
Americas. Specifically, they highlight the harsh treatment of the Native
Americans, how their customs and culture differ from that of the Europeans and
how the Europeans view the Native Americans as sources of labor, while also as trading
partners. The importance of these five readings is that they help to shed light
into what motivated the Europeans to trade with the Native Americans while also
illustrating the harsh conditions that the Natives were forced to face at the
hands of the Europeans. These readings help the audience to gain a better
understanding of what the interactions between the Europeans and Natives were
like and the Europeans views of them. While the prevailing views was bleak and
depressing, there were some aspects of Native culture that the Europeans views
favorably.

A
description of how poorly the Natives were treated is detailed in the first
reading which details Bartolomé de las Casas’ account of the Spanish Treatment
of the Indians, he explores in depth how poorly the Spanish treated their
Native servants. He explicitly discussed how he believed that “…the Indians
were totally deprived of their freedom and were put in the harshest, fiercest,
most horrible servitude and captivity which no one who has not seen it can
understand”1.
The Spaniards put the Natives in the most dangerous and precarious servitude
jobs because they did not value them as anything more than manual labor. The
Natives were also subjected to starvation and illness due to the fact that they
were not use to the type of work that they were being forced to do for the
Spanish. Casas notes this by stating that the Natives were “delicate people who
were unaccustomed to such work”2 and how when the Natives
did fall ill the Spanish “did not believe them and pitilessly called the lazy
dogs, and kicked and beat them”3. This one account helps to
envision how the Europeans did not see the Native Americans as equals and that
they only valued their goods and resources while disregarding them as nothing
more than savages.

Another
source of conflict between the Natives and Europeans is the trade of goods
between the two groups and how there were miscommunications on both ends of the
exchanges. This idea is highlighted in the exchange between John Smith and
Powhatan where Smith wanted corn in exchange for Smith trading weapons to
Powhatan. The problem stemmed from the fact that both leaders were holding back
on each other, Powhatan claimed that he “neither had corn; and his people much
less”4 while Smith stated that he
did not have enough weapons to give to Powhatan, stating that “As for swords
and guns, I told you long ago, I had none to spare”5. What’s interesting about
this exchange is that Powhatan asked Smith when he planned to leave, yet Smith
did not reply to his question which leads to the idea that the Europeans had
plans to take over the regions of the New World. The growing conflict between
the Natives and the Europeans is also a driving force of the Bacon’s Rebellion,
where Nathaniel Bacon talks about how Governor Berkeley favored the Natives
over his loyal subjects and envisioned no place for them after their rebellion,
stating that “our design not only to ruin and extirpate all Indians in general,
but all manner of trade and commerce with them”6. Even with all the
negative aspects of interactions between the Europeans and the Natives, there
were parts of their culture that were appreciated by them, specifically two aspects
of the Huron tribe noted by Father Jean de Brebeuf where he noted that the
Hurons only had one wife and do not marry their relatives7.

In
conclusion, these five readings help to portray how life was back during the
European’s dealings with the Native Americans. The importance of this paper is
to show how the conflicts between the Natives and European’s lead to the Europeans
eventually enslaving the Natives and taking their lands for their own. The Europeans
had no plans of living in peace with the Native inhabitants and regarded them
as nothing more than savages who were not as civilized as the Europeans. As previously
explained in the exchange between Powhatan and John Smith, the Europeans had no
plans of leaving the New World and had plans to seize control of this new land
from the Natives. However, there were aspects of the Native’s lifestyle that
were admired by some Europeans, such as the marriage customs of the Huron tribe
as noted by Father Brebeuf. Unfortunately, these aspects were not enough to
save the Natives from the Europeans taking their lands and enslaving their
people.

1
Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: A
Documentary History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013), 8-9.

2
Foner, Voices of Freedom. 9.

3
Foner, Voices of Freedom. 9.

4
Foner, Voices of Freedom. 22

5
Foner, Voices of Freedom. 23

6
Foner, Voice of Freedom. 50-51.

7
Foner, Voices of Freedom. 15.