lascasas final - Anthro 200 Assignment 3 Revised December...

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Revised December 5, 2007 Anthro 200 Assignment 3 Section 5 In Debate of the Indians: de Las Casas vs. Sepulveda In 1550, half a century after the discovery of the “New World,” a classic debate raged in Spain regarding the Spanish treatment of Native Americans. Juan Gines de Sepulveda, a Spanish historian and theologian, and Bartolome de Las Casas, a priest and eventual bishop in southern Mexico, were the foremost figures in this debate. Sepulveda “defended armed expeditions against the Indians,” (de Las Casas 11), while de Las Casas proposed that Indians are not barbaric and should not be violently conquered by the Spanish settlers. While these men’s opinions of how to treat the Indians differed, both agreed that the Native Americans should be Christianized by the Spanish. Their debate concerning the Spanish treatment of the Native Americans can teach us a great deal about modern cultural diversity. Although this debate took place over 500 years ago, its basis of cultural differences and the concept of forced encompassment has many lasting lessons. Throughout history, the idea of cultural superiority has been consistently present. Many groups have sought to encompass other groups which they thought to be inferior. In the Americas, Europeans were trying to force their culture, specifically their religion, on the native people. The lack of success of this movement should strive to teach us of the dangers of forcing our culture and our way of life on other groups which may not necessarily function the way our groups do. If we do so, we may damage or destroy other cultures as the Europeans effectively destroyed Native American cultures. 1
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Juan Gines de Sepulveda, although he had never traveled to the Americas, vehemently supported the submission of the Indians because of their barbaric and immoral tendencies. Sepulveda thought that the Indians were “barbaric, uninstructed in letters and the art of government, and completely ignorant, unreasoning, and totally incapable of learning anything but the mechanical arts; that they are sunk in vice, are cruel, and are of such character that, as nature teaches, they are to be governed by the will of others” (11). Sepulveda wrote that, because of their barbaric customs, Indians “are obliged by the natural law to obey those who are outstanding in virtue and character” (11). Because the Indians communicated in unintelligible tongues and had no written language, Sepulveda thought that they were most certainly stupid and incompetent. He thought that barbarians were not descendants from Adam and Eve, as were Europeans. Furthermore, he proposed that some people were destined to be slaves and serve others.
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This note was uploaded on 06/17/2008 for the course ANTHR 1420 taught by Professor Fiskesjo,m during the Fall '06 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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lascasas final - Anthro 200 Assignment 3 Revised December...

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