The noble savage (a.k.a. Indigenous People) versus the reality of human nature

The narrative that purports to justify the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day goes something like this. Before the arrival of European colonists, the indigenous peoples of the Americas lived peacefully in idyllic harmony with nature. Christopher Columbus was not an intrepid explorer who opened up new vistas but a vicious slave trader who initiated the genocidal murder of native peoples by rapacious Europeans.

David Deming takes on this myth in Why We Celebrate Columbus Day.

Before the era of European colonization, the indigenous peoples of the Americas existed quite literally in the Stone Age. Their level of technological development lagged Europeans by thousands of years. With the single exception of Mayan ideographs, American Indians did not possess a written language. There is some evidence of Pre-Columbian smelting in South and Central America, but metallurgy among North American tribes was confined to working native metals. Not only was the effectively wheel unknown in the Americas, Indians lacked even horses. Their only mode of transportation was walking.

The indigenous peoples of the Americas were not peaceful. Indigenous lives were “nasty, brutish, and short.” Archaeologists such as Steven LeBlanc believe that conflict between Indian tribes was endemic and intense. Warfare was usually conducted with the genocidal aim of complete annihilation. The homicide rate in Pre-Columbian America is estimated to have been about a hundred times higher than in the present day U.S. About one-third of adult males died in warfare. In the healthiest communities, life expectancy at birth was probably no more than thirty-five years.

Pre-Columbian America was not a pristine wilderness and indigenous peoples did not live in ecological harmony with nature. On the contrary, native Americans profoundly altered the landscape by burning forests, despoiling wildlife and vegetation, and constructing earthworks, roads, and settlements. Their exploitation of nature was often destructive. Mayan civilization collapsed around AD 900 due to soil erosion and unsustainable agricultural practices.

There’s more. Basically what is comes to is that the reverence for the Indigenous People as an attempt to impugn Western Culture. The reality is that many of the unbridled ugliness of human nature, as illustrated by the Indigenous People of the Americas, was tamed by Western Culture and its evangelism of the message of Christ. This taming is anathema to many who now loathe what they deny and have never experienced.  Why? Do they really want to go back to a society where slavery, torture, tribal warfare, cannibalism, starvation, disease, and death were common every day experiences? Why do they want to celebrate these things?

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