Isaiah FilesHST 105-005Mr. ChapmanJanuary 18, 2018Primary Reaction I The five chosen readings of Foner’s Voices of Freedom help to illustrate the various relationships andpotential conflict of interests between the Europeans and the Natives of theAmericas. Specifically, they highlight the harsh treatment of the NativeAmericans, how their customs and culture differ from that of the Europeans andhow the Europeans view the Native Americans as sources of labor, while also as tradingpartners.
The importance of these five readings is that they help to shed lightinto what motivated the Europeans to trade with the Native Americans while alsoillustrating the harsh conditions that the Natives were forced to face at thehands of the Europeans. These readings help the audience to gain a betterunderstanding of what the interactions between the Europeans and Natives werelike and the Europeans views of them. While the prevailing views was bleak anddepressing, there were some aspects of Native culture that the Europeans viewsfavorably. Adescription of how poorly the Natives were treated is detailed in the firstreading which details Bartolomé de las Casas’ account of the Spanish Treatmentof the Indians, he explores in depth how poorly the Spanish treated theirNative servants.
He explicitly discussed how he believed that “…the Indianswere 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 canunderstand”1.The Spaniards put the Natives in the most dangerous and precarious servitudejobs because they did not value them as anything more than manual labor. TheNatives were also subjected to starvation and illness due to the fact that theywere not use to the type of work that they were being forced to do for theSpanish.
Casas notes this by stating that the Natives were “delicate people whowere unaccustomed to such work”2 and how when the Nativesdid fall ill the Spanish “did not believe them and pitilessly called the lazydogs, and kicked and beat them”3. This one account helps toenvision how the Europeans did not see the Native Americans as equals and thatthey only valued their goods and resources while disregarding them as nothingmore than savages.Anothersource of conflict between the Natives and Europeans is the trade of goodsbetween the two groups and how there were miscommunications on both ends of theexchanges. This idea is highlighted in the exchange between John Smith andPowhatan where Smith wanted corn in exchange for Smith trading weapons toPowhatan. The problem stemmed from the fact that both leaders were holding backon each other, Powhatan claimed that he “neither had corn; and his people muchless”4 while Smith stated that hedid not have enough weapons to give to Powhatan, stating that “As for swordsand guns, I told you long ago, I had none to spare”5. What’s interesting aboutthis exchange is that Powhatan asked Smith when he planned to leave, yet Smithdid not reply to his question which leads to the idea that the Europeans hadplans to take over the regions of the New World.
The growing conflict betweenthe Natives and the Europeans is also a driving force of the Bacon’s Rebellion,where Nathaniel Bacon talks about how Governor Berkeley favored the Nativesover 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 thenegative aspects of interactions between the Europeans and the Natives, therewere parts of their culture that were appreciated by them, specifically two aspectsof the Huron tribe noted by Father Jean de Brebeuf where he noted that theHurons only had one wife and do not marry their relatives7.Inconclusion, these five readings help to portray how life was back during theEuropean’s dealings with the Native Americans.
The importance of this paper isto show how the conflicts between the Natives and European’s lead to the Europeanseventually enslaving the Natives and taking their lands for their own. The Europeanshad no plans of living in peace with the Native inhabitants and regarded themas nothing more than savages who were not as civilized as the Europeans. As previouslyexplained in the exchange between Powhatan and John Smith, the Europeans had noplans of leaving the New World and had plans to seize control of this new landfrom the Natives. However, there were aspects of the Native’s lifestyle thatwere admired by some Europeans, such as the marriage customs of the Huron tribeas noted by Father Brebeuf. Unfortunately, these aspects were not enough tosave the Natives from the Europeans taking their lands and enslaving theirpeople.
1Eric Foner, Voices of Freedom: ADocumentary History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013), 8-9.2Foner, Voices of Freedom. 9.
3Foner, Voices of Freedom. 9.4Foner, Voices of Freedom. 225Foner, Voices of Freedom. 236Foner, Voice of Freedom. 50-51.
7Foner, Voices of Freedom. 15.