Howard Zinn On Colonization Essay

1133 words - 5 pages

Though a vast majority of students learn about Columbus’ great conquests and celebrate him as a hero, very few know of the horrible atrocities he caused when he first landed in America. While considered a hero by most in the United States, Zinn argues that people should think twice about Columbus’ actions, and question whether his behavior to the Indians was necessary. In quotes one and five, Zinn clearly depicts his thoughts on the atrocities done by Columbus and other colonists to the natives living in America.
Zinn first refers to the author Morrison and how he deals with who Columbus really was. Instead of “[lying] outright about the past” or “[omitting] facts, which might lead to unacceptable conclusions,” Morrison tells the truth about Columbus’ murders, and even calls it genocide. According to Zinn, Morrison “does something else. He mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him.” Zinn believes that Morrison’s choice to do this meant that he was telling his readers, “yes, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important – it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.” Zinn is right. Too many history books either don’t mention or glaze over Columbus’ actions, and simply lead the readers to believe that he was a hero who found America. Even in his own journal entries, it is clear that Columbus wanted to exploit the natives for his own benefit, and never wanted to try and work with them. He says, “They should be good and intelligent servants.” “With 50 men all of them could be held in subjection and can be made to do whatever one might wish.” He took some Indians back as slaves, and was brutal when he went to war with them. He destroyed their villages, burning everything to the ground, and killed almost everyone, sparing “neither the children nor the aged nor regnant women nor women in childbed.” The few that lived were treated horribly as slaves, and he would make them labor until they died. This behavior was done by most of the other colonists as well. In certain circumstances, bets were made between soldiers “as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two.” Other soldiers would throw children of a village they sacked into a river by their feet, shouting, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!”
Later on, as more colonists came to the new world, even more Indians were killed. When missionaries tried to convert the Indians, there were miscommunications over the teachings, which lead to even more deaths. When pictures of Mary and other religious symbols were given to the Native Americans, they buried them so as to ask God for a good harvest. The colonists interpreted this as denying the Christian faith, and therefore burned the Indians at the stake, so as to purify their souls. The actions of the missionaries and other colonists were so evil that when an Indian was being burned at the stake, he “asked the...

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