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Europeans on the Other: the Acts of Superiority

Autor:   •  September 19, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,408 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,374 Views

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Starting in the early fifteenth century, Medieval Europeans entered the Age of Discovery, a period of intense explorations into the New World. This allowed Europeans to establish direct contacts with native indigenous nations like Native Americans and Africans, whose culture, appearance, and religion were significantly different from Europeans. The culture and language of each native indigenous nation also varied from one group to another. The ways the Portuguese, Spanish, English, and other Europeans approached the native people varied significantly. However, there was one consensus characteristic in Europeans' response toward the natives in which all Europeans regardless of their social status considered themselves superior to the native people. That sense of superiority was translated into different kind of actions, from making natives to conform to the European's lifestyle, exploiting natives' natural and physical resources, to murdering the natives.

The first attempt to express Europeans' sense of superiority is by making natives people to conform to the Europeans' lifestyles. Native people's culture, technology, and religion were seen as primitive. They were described as uncivilized people as they did not care for proper clothing, housing, and eating. As illustrated in "Vespucci's Encounter with Americans and "Columbus's Encounter with the Indian's", Native Americans were portrayed naked. In comparison, both illustrations showed Europeans fully clothed and moreover wearing armor under the elegant robe in Vespucci's illustration. One of English settlers described the Pawatah were naked even in the cold weather, lived in "little cottages made of canes and reedes, covered with the barke of trees," and ate as they pleased from what they could get from their surrounding. Native people were far also behind in technology. Pawatah only used short wooden sword and bows and arrows. Columbus in the letters to Ferdinand and Isabel explained that the natives did not have iron or steel weapons. Before Europeans' arrival, native people never heard any Catholic doctrines. Thus, Europeans considered their lifestyles far superior than natives since they have already outpaced the natives' cultural, technological, and religion advancement. As self-proclaimed superior nations, Europeans felt they have the right to correct the natives regardless whether the natives actually wanted the changes or not. The letters between Kings of Portugal and King of Kongo showed that the King of Kongo had converted to Christianity followed by his subjects. In those letters, King Afonso I of Kongo glorified the Holy God and the Catholic's doctrines. Kongolese were introduced to stonemasonry, carpentry, armor, ship, and land and slave trading. Yet, all these advancements were not at the same level of knowledge as Europeans' civilization since Europeans might want to maintain their


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