Columbus Brought Peace to the Violent Americas

Before Europeans arrived in the Americas, tribal warfare and human torture/sacrifice was widespread.

The high rates of homicide in Latin American nations can seem shocking to observers, until they consider that before Columbus opened the door to Europeans, the Americas were even more murderous and violent.

On a per capita basis the pre-Columbian Americas displayed a greater level of violence than did the bloody 20th century with its European and Asian world wars, genocides, and communist purges.

Human Sacrifice

In ancient Mesoamerica, many cultures practiced sacrifice for various reasons. Evidence has shown of this tradition to have existed in the Maya and Aztec, as well as the Moche civilizations.__

Human sacrifice has existed throughout human history, but seems to have been quite prevalent among native Americans, Pacific islanders, and Austronesian aboriginals.

Empire Building and Tribal War

Empire building developed over thousands of years in Mesoamerica and in Andean South America. More Empire building involved multiple long series of inter-tribal warfare, often for centuries. Empires continually raided surrounding tribes for human sacrifices to their gods.

One does not see the grand native imperial structures in North American regions that typified Mesoamerican empires. Pre-Columbian native Americans in North America lived in smaller tribal societies and generally cultivated a “warrior culture” in order to protect themselves from raids by neighboring tribes, and to facilitate the tribe’s own raiding on its neighbors. Tribal coalitions of extended clan relations were sometimes called upon as allies if the tribe was threatened by a large outside warring group that threatened to displace the tribe off its tribal lands.

Genocide and ethnic cleansing were particularly common in times of resource scarcity due to extended changes in climate. Mergers of already diminished clans were also likely to take place after any severe pruning of numbers for whatever reason. Below a certain number of warriors and fertile women, a tribe would not be viable.

There are no likely modern native populations that share the genetic makeup of Native Americans of a thousand or ten thousand years ago. Not only the genetic makeup but the cultural or spiritual foundations of the evolving tribes will have changed significantly over the millennia along with tribal names and languages.

PreColumbian America Was a Roiling Mass of Hatred and Vendetta

The Spanish were welcomed by many tribes of Central and South America, because they were seen as potential allies against the hated Aztecs and Incas. Without the aid of these non-imperial tribes, Cortes and Pizarro would not have had the ability to roll up the defending war formations so readily.

The human-sacrificing empires and tribes of pre Columbian America were simply behaving in the same way that preceding native empires had behaved. Similarly, any outside confederation of tribes capable of overthrowing the current empire du jour would naturally fall into the same patterns of behaviour.

It Required European Intervention to Stop the Cycle

Only after Europeans entered the arena with their horses, cannon, and muskets, was this cycle of imperial human sacrifice and genocidal tribal warfare choked off. The widespread disease pandemics suffered by native tribes after contact with old world peoples would have further reduced inter-tribal violence due to reduced numbers of warriors.

The Aims of English Settlers Was Different from Spanish/Portuguese

In North America, settlers wanted to farm and ranch, which required the importation and distribution of large numbers of farming and ranching families — except in parts of the deep south where African slaves were depended upon. In South America, opportunistic Spanish and Portuguese mercenaries were looking to “strike it rich” by using slave labour — both African slaves and native American slaves. Land grants and franchises were given by the royal courts to specific head men, who oversaw the various money-making operations using slave labour. In this way, fewer absolute numbers of Spanish and Portuguese were imported in the early and intermediate stages of colonial settlement, compared to the English in North America.

Today in North America, natives are a small minority of total populations and live peacefully in separate tribal homelands, receiving several types of preferential treatment and monetary tribute from the national headquarters at Ottawa and Washington DC. Special tax treatment, healthcare, legal casinos, mineral rights, direct cash payments, and many other special preferences are afforded to these tribal entities.

In Central and South America, natives are accepted into the mainstream nation — often according to the degree of interbreeding that has taken place. Natives and mestizos tend to form a plurality of populations in most countries of Latin America except Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay.

Violent crime rates are quite high in Latin American nations where mestizos and natives predominate, resembling — and sometimes surpassing — the rates of violence one sees in sub Saharan African nations.

But imagine how violent things would be if Columbus had not come on the scene when he did!

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5 Responses to Columbus Brought Peace to the Violent Americas

  1. Matt Musson says:

    It is clear from carbon 14 dating that someone was already here when ‘native Americans’ trapsed across the land bridge from Asia.

    The Old Americans were never numerous but enough remains have been found to show they were not Oriental.

    • alfin2101 says:

      It is a tricky puzzle with no clear answers. Human occupation of the Americas goes back further than originally believed to be sure. It is also likely that the Beringian land bridge was not the only point of entry from the old world to the new.

      The entire migration from Africa to EurAsia to America probably began earlier in time than anthropologists want to believe. Perhaps as much as 100,000 years earlier. Or more.

    • Jim says:

      The recent genetic evidence is quite extraordinary. When I was growing up in the fifties I read about human skeletal remains found in the Amazon that appeared to resemble Australian aborigines. But this seemed so unlikely that little attention was paid to them.

      But recent genetic studies of Amerindian populations in the Amazon revealed the existence of a “ghost population” making up a few percent of their genome. This lead to a reexamination of the anomalous “Australian-like” remains. It turned out to be possible to get DNA from these skeletons and the results showed that the living population most closely resembling them were Andaman Islanders!

      No trace of these people, genetic or otherwise has been found in North America. This is one of the most extraordinary discoveries in human prehistory. People from ancient populations of Southeast Asia somehow got to South America more than 20,000 years ago.

      Incidentally the oldest evidence of humans living in the remote islands of the Pacific goes back to only about 1000 BC on Guam.

      • Jim says:

        There are genetic resemblances between Europeans, particularly Northern Europeans, and Amerindians. It is now believed that these resemblances date back to a population living long ago in Siberia called Ancient Northeast Eurasians. This population split in two, one branch crossed to North America and became the principal ancestors of most Amerindians (later migrations brought in the Nadene and Eskimo-Aleut people but modern Nadene show considerable admixture with the previous people which is not so for
        Eskimo-Aleut). Another branch moved to the Southwest to the Pontic-Caspian steppes. These people became the Proto-Indo-Europeans who eventually spread into Europe, parts of the Middle East and India.

        These steppe people contributed about 60-70% of the genetic makeup of Northern Europeans and also about 60-70% of high caste Brahmins. Steppe ancestry in Southern Europeans is more like 30%-40% or so ( similar to middle caste Indians). The genetic resemblances noticed between Northern Europeans and Amerindians are due to their common descent from Ancient Northeast Asians.

        These discoveries also explain another phenomena. Joseph Greenberg in his studies of Amerindian languages concluded that the Old World language family they most closely resembled was Indo-European. It now appears likely that Indo-European and the languages of the New World (other than Nadene and Eskimo-Aleut languages) are both descended from the languages spoken by Ancient Northeast Eurasians more than 20,000 years ago.

  2. Jim says:

    Europeans may have brought some benefits to New World populations. However they also brought a large number of new diseases to the New World. While Europeans picked up new diseases such as syphilis from the Amerindians the much smaller populations of the New World had far fewer diseases than Old World populations. Apparently Beringia filtered out most Old World pathogens and the time that Amerindians had been present in the New World had not been sufficiently long for the evolution of many new diseases. Note that New World primates other than humans are genetically very distant from Old World primates so new human diseases like Ebola and HIV are unlikely to emerge from New World primates.

    So there is no question that the impact of these new diseases on Amerindians was horrific. That is a big difference between European colonization of the Americas and say Africa. In the latter case it was the existing African populations who had the “disease advantage”.

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