Why the early European Settlers viewed the “Indians” as Savages Essay
Why the early European Settlers viewed the “Indians” as Savages
Like just about any people, the European settlers who first came to the Americas were ethnocentric and gain-driven. When they came to the Americas looking for riches and land, they encountered the indigenous people, whose ways were vastly different from the Europeans. These “Indians” were an apparently backward people, relying on apparently “primitive” methods to get things done, without the benefit of what the Europeans viewed as their superior technology and science. To the European settlers, people were savages if they did not have the European level of scientific and technological sophistication.
The Indians lived in flimsy homes and used simple tools, which the Europeans saw as inferior. Since the Indians did not possess advanced technologies, the Europeans speculated that they were probably of inferior minds. The notion that the Indians were savages was almost immediately generalized among the white population The European settlers acknowledged that the Indians were human beings, but ethnocentric attitudes and concerns over power—both political and economic—led to the treatment of the Indians as an inferior people.
Thus the native people of the Americas were viewed as savages. Added to this was the fact that the Indians were not of the “white” race, which further condemned them to a socially, politically, and economically inferior status. There was a backlash of sorts against this attitude towards American Indians. The notion of the “noble savage” surfaced. The noble savage was supposed to be a “superior” person, one uncorrupted by the evils of civilization, one who was healthy and in harmony with nature.
However, instead of raising the status of Indians, this new conception of Indians was condescending and merely further entrenched the idea of Indians as “savages. ” Ultimately, the “savagery” that Europeans saw in the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas was founded on a perceived difference between the European and Indian societies, and depended most of all on the ignorance and ethnocentrism of the settlers.