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Indian perceptions - From 15th century to Benjamin Franklin´s "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America"

Hausarbeit 2002 12 Seiten

Amerikanistik - Literatur

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Table of content

1. Introduction

2. Indian images throughout the centuries
2.1. 15th and 16th century perceptions
2.2. 17th and 18th century perceptions
2.3. Benjamin Franklin´s “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

Indian perceptions – From 15th century to Benjamin Franklin´s “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”

1. Introduction

Since the early days of American discovery by Christopher Columbus and its Native peoples, the European settlers have never stopped learning about Indian life, culture, personality and how to cope with the cultural differences that seemed so difficult to reconcile. Since then, there have always been various opinions about the cultural differences between the New and the Old World´s civilization. Confusion, scepticism, denigration and war have always accompanied the relation between Native people and European settlers until present time. Within this paper these perceptions of the Indian life, as well as the Indian view of the strangers from the Sea shall be examined and evaluated. The most interesting question to ask will be: how and most of all why did the image of the Indian people develop from the 15th century and the discovery of American Natives to Benjamin Franklin´s “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America” in 1784 and who or what reason caused this change in the minds of the people?

2. Indian images throughout the centuries

2.1. 15th and 16th century perceptions

Even before the discovery of the Indians through Christopher Columbus in 1492, European settlers started to speculate about new found American peoples. Explorers´ reports from the discovery of Asian and African peoples provided a kind of preview[1] and the settlers´ own imaginations finally initiated a more or less striking conception. In view of a land they expected to colonize, it was an obvious matter of seriousness and importance to know about its origin “owners”. Columbus and numerous other early explorers like Amerigo Vespucci presented a very relieving image that showed an Indian culture marked by great generosity and sharing. Within his reports Columbus characterized the Indian people as very curious about the Europeans and everything they brought along “in which they took so much pleasure and became so much our friends that it was a marvel.”[2]

Even before Europeans knew whom to expect, the image of the “noble savage” was created with regard to the new peoples.[3] But the fact of their expectations being fulfilled did not exlude the possibility of a sudden confrontation with a barbarous and rude society of Natives. So it seems unclear why this image was so well received within European society. Maybe it was just a very idealistic and most of all hopeful idea. With the discovery of the Indian culture European people got in contact with a completely new society of minimal restrictions and an amount of liberalness they had never experienced within the Old World. Indian hospitality towards European explorers went so far that they even offered Indian women to them.[4] Within this generosity some Europeans discovered their chance of making use of it.

The Indian perception of the strangers should strengthen these thoughts. Caused by superstitious naivety and innocence they regarded the Europeans as strange creatures with supernatural power and the reactions towards these “divine beings” spread from fear and the consequence of flight to fascination and reverence.[5] The exploitation of this fear of the Indians followed to control and to conquer the land and its people. The superstitious Indian belief in the power of the white men went so far that they offered sacrifices, ritually lacerated their faces in the presence of the Whites and even brought sick people of their communities to them for they might heal them. A European report from 1587 showed that Indians concidered some English colonists as “spirits of the dead returning to the world in order to draw more victims after them” because Indians had fallen ill or died after the Europeans had passed through their community.[6] That this fact was only a logical consequence of European diseases which the settlers brought to America and the Indians could not protect against was clear enough for the Europeans but not of necessity to tell the Indians.

European settlers did not see any urge to give up their advantage towards the superstitious Indians. One may suggest that the European settlers did not intentionally act with such calculation and this might probably be true for the first few contacts between these two cultures. Noone could have foreseen the Indians´ reaction towards the first European explorers. Nevertheless, somehow they realized their advantageous situation and on purpose used it for their own aims. Several events prove this fact. The Spanish conquerer de Soto for example claimed to be the “Child of the Sun” for reasons of using this power to control the Indians. After his death in 1541 “his men quickly buried him in the Mississippi River” to prevent that the Indians could ever realize that he was as mortal as them[7] and not the divine being whom they believed him to be. Through occurrences like this thousands of Indians lost their life, were enslaved or raped because of their inexperience and the calculating manner of their European conquerers.

[...]


[1] Bruce G. Trigger and Wilcomb E. Washburn (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Native

Peoples of the Americas Volume 1 North America Part 1 (Cambridge: University Press,

1996) 62.

[2] s.a. 63.

[3] s.a.

[4] Bruce G. Trigger and Wilcomb E. Washburn (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Native

Peoples of the Americas Volume 1 North America Part 1 (Cambridge: University Press,

1996) 64.

[5] s.a. 370.

[6] s.a. 371.

[7] Bruce G. Trigger and Wilcomb E. Washburn (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Native

Peoples of the Americas Volume 1 North America Part 1 (Cambridge: University Press,

1996) 372.

Details

Seiten
12
Jahr
2002
ISBN (eBook)
9783638239028
ISBN (Buch)
9783640864256
Dateigröße
494 KB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v19868
Institution / Hochschule
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena – Institute for Anglistics/American Studies
Note
2,4 (B)
Schlagworte
Indian From Benjamin Franklin´s Remarks Concerning Savages North America

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Titel: Indian perceptions - From 15th century to Benjamin Franklin´s "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America"