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When We Were Slaves: Natives of the Americas

Historical perspective is not as linear as most would like, but it puts understanding in the hands of the reader. Trust your mind to truth.

Columbus was inspired to find the Americas for Europe, even though he did not know why he felt the need to go west to find a path to Asia. Without his bravery to travel where no other of his people knew, where would we all be today?

America is a direct result of Columbus. Where would the world be today without America? When people heard there was a place they could go to start a new society they went. This did not occur when the other explores touched down on the soil of the "new" world.

The people already on the land were considered heathens by the Spanish and eventually the British. Those so-called heathens saved the lives of the Europeans creating what eventually became America. Tragedy and death followed the Europeans into the native populations who had centuries before also migrated to the Americas.

Natives were not innocent of wrong-doing as some would revise history to appear. Human sacrifice, rape, and murder in ancient America did not begin with the arrival of the Europeans. Those things ended to some degree, but that is not the purpose of this article.

Columbus opened up to the Europeans a new era of human trafficking that created multiple cultures throughout the Americas. Slavery became a staple to American success.

An image from 1595 depicting conflict between Native Americans in Mexico and Spanish colonists led by Francisco de Montejo. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

An image from 1595 depicting conflict between Native Americans in Mexico and Spanish colonists led by Francisco de Montejo. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

The only way the slave trade made economic sense included a system where one native tribe defeating other tribes to sell to Europeans.

Native American Slavery

Myths about the unreliability of the native slave went abroad following the unsuccessful venture to enslave them when Europeans initially settled the Americas. The key to the failure of enslaving the natives of the Americas to the degree that the Africans were enslaved had nothing to do with the undesirability of or uselessness of the natives. It had to do with the fact that the natives lived where the settlers lived first and could easily escape back to their tribes.

European colonists attempted to enslave the native people of America, thinking them to be lesser in value as human beings--subhuman. The natives also practiced slavery: however, their endeavors did not assume that other humans inherently possessed some lesser status due to skin color or tribe.

Natives generally captured enemies of other tribes to replace the injured warriors from their tribes, eventually adopting the captives into full society after years of service. Not all tribes of natives adopted their captives. Some sold the captives to European colonists and adopted cultural norms from the Europeans to become more friendly with them so that some semblance of society could exist where the natives and colonists could live in proximity without conflict.

The Europeans did not accept the equality of the natives. The only protection the natives wielded were their knowledge of the lands the colonist occupied and their existing tribes. Native lived on the American lands for generations and could escape to freedom from the colonist. European slaveholders attempted to send the native slaves to other places abroad but lost many of their assembly attempting to enslave natives in the process. The only way the slave trade made economic sense included a system where one native tribe defeating other tribes to sell to Europeans. This eventually occurred while slave traders sought to capture other natives to trade into slavery.

Such commerce worked in some areas, but not all native nations agreed with such practices. Wars between the natives and European colonists raged throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries mainly because the natives did not want to be enslaved--most humans abhor it!

Colonists enacted laws to support their view to tame the savages called natives. The result of those laws and wars did not conclude with the slavery of the native populations. The natives fought and died from the wars and diseases the Europeans introduced to the environment until their desire to enslave a native diminished. The hatred that arose between natives in America and settlers was not due to the natives disliking the idea of White settlers taking residence in native lands. The animosity was the result of decades of attempts to enslave natives--in addition to taking up residence in aboriginal lands.

The problems with enslaving the natives of America were numerous--starting with the slaves being able to communicate with each other besides them remaining in familiar terrain.

Incomprehensible Inhumanity

Searching for slaves among the natives proved less expensive initially, but more burdensome in the long run when there existed a source from Africa of slaves that did not know the terrain and had no connection to their new environment other than to work the land as servants. The 18th century helped train the colonists how to properly traffick and enslave humans in the Americas without the headache native Americans provided being enslaved in their homelands: ship them across the sea and mix up their tribes.

The problems with enslaving the natives of America were numerous--starting with the slaves being able to communicate with each other besides them remaining in familiar terrain. One tribe defeating another tribe and enslaving the men, as the Europeans did, meant seasoned warriors who knew the land potentially posed a rebellion or flight risk. Some natives did try the European brand of slavery.

Women and children suffered the most at the hands of the slavers because they assumed these natives easier to control and mold into what they intended as life-long workers. The attempts to do so never proved popularly successful. Purchasing native women and African men did provide more stability for the slaveholders, overtime, before breeding the Africans became the norm in the States to produce bodies for the slave trade.

In his 2007 research, Guasco said well that "Indian slavery in early Anglo-America differed in almost every regard from the enslavement of African peoples and it did so because it was contemplated less in light of labor demands and more as a problem related to the construction of legitimate Anglo-American societies."1

The European colonist did not view the natives with the same disdain as they did the African; therefore, slavery appears to be a construct of capturing defeated foes of war. Colonists did not view the natives as equals in society as a group. Individually, people held varying views of the natives which coalesced into the general fear of and disdain of natives as equals in civilization to those of European heritages.

Natives did suffer slavery at the hands of the White European settlers who claimed native lands as their own. There is nothing easy or less dramatic about having home and freedom slowly taken away by a superior military force who raped and enslaved their victims when able.

The death of possibly millions of native people and enslavement of tens of thousands go unreported because records during the time of the native enslavement attempts are sporadic diminishes in no portion the human suffering the natives endure in the loss of men, women, and children.

Native Americans, as a body, did not suffer the privations in the same manner that those of African ancestry suffered in general during their turn as slaves to their oppressors. Human suffering has scarred both groups for generations after to the point where it seems that natives in America exist only as tokens to their own past.

Though some attempt to make natives of American slavery seem in contest with those of African slavery, there exists no graph to measure the loss of human dignity of either group. Native slavery is the precursor to African slavery if any comparison deserves attention here.

when-we-were-slaves-part-2

The natives of America had to fight several wars before they lost and were relocated to Oklahoma for their efforts. There, these people await a time when they will rise up and claim the lands back that they once ruled.

Relative to Modern Times

The animosity of past generations is alive in the hearts and minds of modern people due to social media. Instantly reports travel around the world of singular incidents of aggression towards people in America be it justifiable or not. The truth of the matter is: American society has grown towards its declaration of liberty for all since the infantile sentiments of the Declaration of Independence.

The new colonists are police officers and the new natives are Black men in the minds of many. What we must recognize is that what happened on a grand scale in the past is not happening on a smaller scale today. It is easier to hear about what happens now. The natives of America had to fight several wars before they lost and were relocated to Oklahoma for their efforts. There, these people await a time when they will rise up and claim the lands back that they once ruled. It will come by commerce and contract this time--with maybe a little bit of war.

There is a prophecy that I interpret from The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ that mentions the scattering of the people, who modern interpretations assume (of which the native peoples of America are a part) the gentiles, who are interpreted as the White Europeans. Once the scattering is over, the White Europeans will have the offer from God to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness at some point. If the gentiles reject that offer--the offer of salvation with the people of the House of Isreal, the native peoples--Jesus is recorded to have said:

I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.3

The native people of the Americas may have suffered for decades because of their past, but Jesus told those He visited in the Americas that their descendants will come to a knowledge of their heritage and rise to power again in the Americas to take possession of the lands with the help of the gentiles or in spite of the gentiles.

Supporting Sources

Guasco, M. (2007). To "Doe Some Good upon Their Countrymen": The Paradox of Indian Slavery in Early Anglo-America. Journal of Social History, 41(2), 389-411. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/250964841

Slavery among Native Americans in the United States [Open source media] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_among_Native_Americans_in_the_United_States2

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ: 3 Nephi 20:16 3

© 2020 Rodric Anthony

Comments

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 13, 2020:

Rodrics, you're welcomed.

Rodric Anthony (author) from Surprise, Arizona on September 12, 2020:

I hope to be on the right side of history when it occurs. Thanks for reading and commenting. I enjoy reading people's comments whether they are in agreement or in disagreement.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 12, 2020:

Hi Rodric, thanks for these comparative historical informations. I found them useful. Already, the process of the 'natives' taking back their land is in earnest.

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