In this essay, I will discuss how the indigenous population of the “New World” is represented in the early writings of the European encounter, exploration and colonisation of the Americas. However, I will not only elaborate on people in general, but also how the landscape shapes these representations and the differences between the colonisers and writers of the two texts that I have chosen. Regarding this, the first text to support and explain my arguments is the Letter of Discovery from Christopher Columbus, and the second one is A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams.
Concerning Christopher Columbus writings, the first impression that we have of Native Americans is that they are like another different and underdeveloped human race, that from the very beginning is automatically considered as inferior. Upon his arrival in Isla Juana, Columbus firstly observes how these indigenous people run away quickly in order to avoid him. “There were only small hamlets, with the people of which I could not have speech because they all fled immediately” (59). It is said that Native Americans were not sure whether Columbus and the rest of his men came from heaven or hell, so it is understandable that they were scared. In the Letter of Discovery, Columbus reports that these people go naked, except for some women who wore a leaf or a net of cotton to cover their intimate body parts. Reiteratively, he continues stressing how timorous they are stating “As soon as they have seen my men approaching they have fled, even a father not waiting for his son. And this, not because ill has done to anyone; on the contrary, at every point where I have been able to have speech, I have given to them of all that I had, such as cloth and many other things, without receiving anything for it; but so, they are incurably timid” (60) which I consider ironic taking into consideration the way he treated them. We can previously see his behaviour when Columbus writes “I understood sufficiently from other Indians, whom I had already taken, …” (59) taken meaning as making them slaves, which I personally see as a very logic reason to fear Spaniards. We find another example when he says, “I took by force some of them, in order that they might learn and give me information” (61). In addition, without receiving anything for it is also very ironic since he has literally taken over their land and natural resources. Besides that, continuing with the description of Native Americans, they do not have iron or steel, therefore their weapons are made of canes with a small sharpened stick at the end of it, but they would not use it because they are extremely timorous, so they flee instead.
When Columbus has more contact with them the description changes. Now they are portrayed as guileless and generous: they share everything they possess and display so much love. They are also intelligent but then they are described as savages when they are taking the things Columbus...