Hey, we’ve all heard the classic American school story of Pilgrims “discovering” the Americas: the peaceful Mayflower, the happy Pilgrims and natives, and the jolly celebration that occurred as they sung Kumbaya around the fire. Well, this is pretty far from how Native Americans and European immigrants actually got along…and Christopher Columbus, a prized historical treasure, was unbearably cruel when it came to his treatment of the natives.
Yeah, he was in it for the gold
Columbus was considered brave by the Spanish royals for sailing across the sea and plunging blindly into new territory. However, he wasn’t the sweet, naive explorer that he’s often painted as. In reality, Columbus was out to make a profit on his journies, and he wouldn’t allow anything to stop him. So, what happened when he came across his first native tribe?
Well, they didn’t exactly break bread, have tea, and discuss the beautiful landscape. When he touched down in the Bahamas and came across the Arawak, Columbus wasn’t concerned with respecting the natives. Instead, he saw nothing but dollar signs and cooked up a scheme to exploit the land, and its people, for as much as it was worth.
Well, that sure escalated quickly
Days into his travels, Columbus asked the natives to take him to where gold could be found. He wrote Spain’s royals promising major moolah, and he was certain the natives would lead him to it. Traveling to Cuba and Haiti, the cocky explorer only excavated a scarce amount of precious metals. However, a little white lie to the royals funded an even bigger exploration, with more men and ships sent his way.
Unfortunately for Columbus, he didn’t get enough gold to fill his boats…most unfortunately for the natives, he did toss approximately 1,500 Arawak slaves onboard and enact the first transatlantic slave trade in history. Not such a hero now, huh? But don’t worry: it gets much, much worse.
Okay, this guy was absolutely insane
The remaining natives were forced to dig up their land’s gold. Wild consequences were enforced if they didn’t find enough, including having their hands chopped completely off. Women were abused extremely by Columbus and his crew, often being raped/trafficked by the greedy invaders. Still, while Columbus got away with obliterating many natives, word of his insanity reached Spain…and the monarchs were far from happy.
It didn’t take long to realize that Columbus was cruel beyond belief. He was carted home as a prisoner with his tail between his legs. However, not much changed in the Americas afterward, and European immigrants mistreating natives persisted for generations after. Overall, Columbus’ tale certainly wasn’t as mild as children’s history books make it out to be.