The Conquest Of Native American Nations
As Africans, we are familiar with the experience of Colonial conquest.
The Colonial conquest of Native America by the Spanish, British and later newly formed American State represents a significant chapter in the History of Colonialism and resonates quite strongly with the African experience in my view.
In the documentary 500 Nations, we get an intimate glimpse into the brutality and tragedy of Colonial conquest from the perspective of the Native Americans.
Early Contact Trade Between Europe & Native American Nations
Early contact between Native American Nations and Europe was initiated through trade and a desire to obtain Gold for the Imperial Monarchs of Europe.
The contacts on the Caribbean Islands, South America and North America began with Christopher Columbus and the discovery of the Island that he would later rename Hispaniola.
These relationships especially in North America, may have resulted in an initial Trade in goods such as gold and Beaver Skins, but they would ultimately result in the dispossession and annihilation of the Native American Nations, that were initially happy to deal with the Europeans as equals, only to find out that their ‘partners’ had designs of their own which would come at the expense of their own existence.
In South America, ‘Conquistadors’ like Cortez acted on an explicit Imperial agenda from the outset, as the Spanish made clear their intention to conquer the Nations from the earliest contacts.
Forming equal trading partnerships was never part of the plan for Conquistadors like Cortez, and the result was nothing less than genocide for the conquered Native American Nations like the Aztec and Inca they came into contact with.
Annihilation and Conquest Of Native American Nations
On the Carribbean Islands and South America, Native American Nations like the Arawak, Taino, Aztec and Inca, were dominated, enslaved and decimated by conventional and biological warfare.
Military campaigns and foreign epidemic diseases like influenza, smallpox, measles and typhus, effectively annihilated Native American Nations, enabling Cortez, Cordoza and Columbus to claim their territories and wealth for Spain.
In North America, the conquest of Native American Nations was equally brutal as the same methods were used against Nations like the Cherokee who despite desperate and valiant attempts at both negotiation and resistance in order to preserve their existence, were unable to stop the British and Americans from achieving their Imperial designs to gain land for farming, speculation and gold mining.
The Native American frontier Wars which produced the ‘Cowboys vs Indians’ Cultural motif were in reality a monumentally disruptive experience for Native Americans which produced a cognitive dissonance so great, its tragedy cannot be captured in words.
The grief expressed by Native American leaders like Geronimo and White Horse following the destruction of Native American way of life give us a lasting grim picture of the immense tragedy and horror of the experience.
Humans have always conquered each other, from the Israelite experience with the Babylonians, the domination of Egypt, Asante and the Zulu in Africa, right up to the conquest of Africa by Europe.
Nevertheless in 500 Nations, we get an intimate and unique portrayal of the experience from the perspective of the Colonised that reveals enduring lessons on the true reality and horror of Colonial conquest for the vanquished.