Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Priests and Native Americans

In rough draft only.

Historic mythology suggests that priests were the protectors of Native Americans. This is largely false. Priests often mixed a sincere desire to convert native tribes with brutality and force. One historian observed that if the tongue didn’t persuade, the sword would. Catholic priests founded Mission Churches designed to convert native tribes. The priests used the same methods as anyone else, making natives work the land to support the priests.
            There were exceptions, well-meaning men who cared for Native Americans. Their reasoning might seem strange to us today, but their beliefs and acts were meant to help native peoples. The best and worst of Spain’s approach to the native population is shown by the thoughts of

Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda.

Bartolomé de las Casas was born in Seville, Spain in 1474. He and his father immigrated to Hispaniola in 1502. He became a landowner and participated in slave and military raids against native villages. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1510. In September the same year a group of priests arrived from Spain. They were horrified by the abuse of natives. They withheld the right of Confession from the colonists. Catholics believed that their sins were forgiven by confessing them to a priest. So this was an important step. In December 1511, Antonio de Montesinos, one of the priests, condemned Spanish treatment of native people. De las Casas paraphrased him in one of his books. Monstesinos asked, “Tell me by what right of justice do you hold these Indians in such a cruel and horrible servitude? On what authority have you waged such detestable wars against these people who dealt quietly and peacefully on their own lands? Wars in which you have destroyed such an infinite number of them by homicides and slaughters never heard of before. Why do you keep them so oppressed and exhausted, without giving them enough to eat or curing them of the sicknesses they incur from the excessive labor you give them, and they die, or rather you kill them, in order to extract and acquire gold every day.”[1]
While de las Casas opposed the newly-landed priests and helped get them sent back to Spain, he continued to think about the issue. He was eventually appointed protector of the Indians and made many suggestions meant to improve their welfare. He wrote books exposing abuses.

Spanish Abuse of Natives in Cuba from one of de las Casas’ books.

            Many in Spain rejected de las Casas’ view of native rights, and some accused him of treason. In 1550, King Charles V arranged for a debate on the issues, and we remember it as the Valladolid debate, after the city where it was held. Opposing de las Casas was another priest, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda.
            Sepúlveda argued that Spanish treatment of the native tribes was just because they were not Catholics. Their morals were corrupt, he said. This was hypocritical because every practice he pointed to except canibalism was common in Spain. He said that the natives were guilty of crimes against nature and that they were natural slaves, destined by God and nature to serve the Spanish always. Casas opposed these claims. Both claimed to have won this debate, but the judges who listened to it declared it unsettled. Nothing de las Casas or the few other priests who genuinely cared for Native Americas said or wrote changed anything, and abuses continued.

[1]              From the English language translation by George Sanderlin (1993).


  1. Griffin1:03 PM

    Your wish is granted.

  2. Wait! Wait!!! You're following my twitter feeds? Which twiternaught are you?

  3. Griffin1:32 PM

    Twitter feeds????

    More like an AVALANCHE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Griffin1:34 PM

    "Which twiternaught are you?"

    A purple fae

  5. Griffin1:47 PM

    I shall now turn my attention to your draft.....


    P'raps you should focus more on their animalistic sexuality of the native Americans, that and the fact that they chose to show a little skin, and not cover their bodies like "decent" God-fearing people.

    There, that should grip the little darlings!

  6. Griffin1:53 PM

    "You're avoiding my question"

    It was weird.

    I've got a few thousand Twitter followers of course but suddenly I get a tweet that YOU (of all people!) were included 'among some people we think you might like to follow'.

    Well there's desperation and there's DESPERATION!

    An' I don like being stalked.....

  7. Well i have this contemporary block print of Spaniards roasting naked natives over an open fire. But I'm not telling forth graders that the Spanish (noted for their royal gayness)thought they should subdue and enslave Indians because they liked little boys.

  8. you still didn't give your twitter name.You arent that person who spams me with suggestive pictures, are you?!

  9. Griffin2:09 PM

    "you still didn't give your twitter name"

    You should're following moi!



  10. Griffin2:24 PM

    "You arent that person who spams me with suggestive pictures, are you?!"


    I leave all that stuff to Harry.

  11. i'm not following you intentionally....

  12. Griffin2:34 PM

    "i'm not stalking you intentionally..."

    That's what they all say.

    This has to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

  13. I'm fairly certain I'm not following your twitter account.

  14. Griffin2:44 PM

    Now that wasn't very nice, was it?

    Shame on you!

    Is there any real difference between you and those Spaniards in America?


  15. yes, there is. and I don't pick on defenseless but annoying Welshmen, only annoying Englishmen.

  16. Griffin2:52 PM

    I think its time for your sugar/caffeine boost.

  17. Griffin3:01 PM

    "I'm fairly certain I'm not following your twitter account"

    You DO realise that you are 'following' several of my personnae?

    Just getting rid of the one don cut it.

    P'raps you need to check the IPs of all your Twitter followers?

    If only..... :-)

  18. It always seems that when I am away from the computer, all heck breaks loose. I had to go babysit while my wife had a hair appointment.

    I think the passage covers the subject of priests and slavery in the Spanish colonies as well as it can be done. It is a sensitive subject. it will be up to the teacher to explain how slavery was an accepted part of the world at that time in history.

    I just don't understand Griffin at all. I'll just leave it at that. No insults.

  19. Griffie, you lie. unless you're also writers i know personally. Which you aren't.

  20. Griffin11:01 PM

    Now for some proper history about some sympathetic settlers to the Americas..

  21. An occasional reader5:36 AM

    I checked out the link and saw I’d already seen this documentary about the Welsh seeking their version of the Promised Land in Patagonia. A sort of Welsh Pilgrim Fathers. They were promised all sorts of things by people who of course lied, but still forged out a colony before being gradually diluted with Argentina. But by historically supporting Argentina in territorial disputes with Chile they have been on the up, with Welsh culture and language surviving, and Princess Diana (late Princess of Wales) even turning up and taking tea with them. (The tea shop that had the honor has even reverently preserved the teapot and cup in a glass display case to this day). Mrs O who speaks Spanish and is learning Welsh enjoyed it, because the locals there tend to speak a sort of Spaniwelsh, much as Welsh valleys folk speak Wenglish.

    One curiosity was that the presenter is a very well known British news broadcaster, Huw Edwards – whose dulcet British tones grace the evening news most nights. The spelling of Huw should have been a giveaway. To see him launch forth in fluent Cwmraeg was a revelation. Especially as the next program on the same TV channel that night was him reading the news in English!

  22. Griffin1:08 PM

    I see you have progressed to Henry VIII and the 'Mary Rose'.

    'Mary Rose' (MR) sank at Spithead - between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. I was born in Portsmouth and lived there for decades. It is a fabulous naval city and was once the largest dockyard in the world.

    I also worked for the firm that raised MR from the sea bed - Babcocks. Even today, when sailing across Spithead, the buoys that mark the resting spot of the MR can be seen.

    There are some great Youtube vids about why the MR sank. There is also a stunning museum in the Dockyard which features the huge haul of euphemia that was also raised - clothing, utensils, weapons etc.

    Southsea Castle from where Henry witnessed the sinking of his flagship still exists.

    Don't miss the Cowdray Engraving:
    My ancestors lived on the curl of land bottom right of the engraving.

    Does America have anything like this from 1545?


  23. Does America have anything like this from 1545?

    Typically euro-centric ignorance. yes and more.