The Wretched Indians Summary

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“The ‘Wretched Indians’: What We Don’t Learn in History Books”

The Spanish Conquest as we know it has been largely painted as a valiant and remarkable achievement deemed justifiable through widely-accepted perceptions of European superiority. Indeed, when taught about these expeditions, rarely are we given sources that encourage us to picture the Indigenous peoples fighting on the same side as the Spaniards; After all, the textbooks say they were the ‘bad guys’ to beat, right? Matthew Restall’s Seven Myths of The Spanish Conquest reveals the subjective perceptions of the Spanish Conquest in an attempt to help modify the erroneous aspects of the Indigenous peoples’ narrative. In addition, as noted by Restall, even William H. Prescott, a historian
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This mainstream perception then spread to impressions of the peoples’ entire presence in the New World. This was mainly because in their eyes, “they lacked the attributes of human cultures and communities,” attributes that, in European perspectives, were crucial to the formation of civilized lives and developed societies (103). Restall explains how, ultimately, the perspectives came to set up the pathway towards a polarized contrast of ‘European versus Indigenous’ where such cultures ‘clashed’ in one being prosperous with “productive achievement,”and “individualism,” and the other as being “unused, undeveloped,” and uncultured (132). Furthermore, certain terms used to describe the Indigenous peoples are far from true; For example, the description of the Indigenous peoples as “pagans” is based on the religious premise that anything other than Christianity was considered outrageous and disruptive to the mission of God. As noted by Restall, the conquistador-chronicler Oviedo sums this point up with his question of, “Who can deny that the use of gunpowder against pagans is the burning incense to Our Lord?” (105). This refusal to “lament the extinction of the natives” is just one of many stubborn stances that perpetuate such degrading terms. Indeed, other attributes such as ‘cannibals’ have very subjective foundations. Overall, it is clear how the institution of inferior status on the Indigenous peoples came to expand onto the perpetuation of the ‘greatness’ of European

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