Impact of Europeans on Indigenous People

Once Columbus found the “New World” it was the end of the Native American World (including the Americas) as they knew it. They were generally described as simple and docile people who accepted the Europeans as friends. This was one of the major contributing factors to their demise. It is safe to safe to say that the European invasion had a widely negative impact on indigenous people.

Indigenous people were enslaved for work in the gold mines, then on the plantations. In addition, because prior to the Europeans, they were isolated and had not been exposed to the diseases that plagued that population. As a result, they were susceptible to, suffered and frequently died from: smallpox, cholera, measles and influenza. Other ways in which lives were lost was through: overwork, violent circumstances due to resistance to enslavement, and suicide.

Though the exact number of the inhabitants of the islands prior to Columbus is unknown, it has been suggested that several hundred thousand inhabited the Greater Antilles alone. Of note is that the genocide of the Tainos and Arawaks of the Greater Antilles occurred within half a century of Spanish occupation.

Enslavement meant that indigenous people were not able to work for themselves. Being that they were subsistent farmers, their source of food became scarce.

This interruption of their way of living meant that family and village structures were broken up. The native women were raped and stolen, causing fighting in which many of the indigenous people were killed. Their simple weaponry in the face of European superior weaponry was incomparable.

Their belief systems were also torn from them as they were forced to accept the European beliefs, especially since a reason touted for this invasion was the capture of souls for the Kingdom of God. Their culture was suppressed, as the European way of life was imposed on them.

Since the agricultural base of the indigenous society was destroyed (re their subsistent farming) they could no longer sustain themselves and had to depend on the Europeans for food. This syndrome of dependency and eventual underdevelopment of the present day Caribbean are consequences of the European invasion.


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