'And the people are all so gentle...These are the friendliest people...there cannot be better or more gentle people than these anywhere in the world... The chiefs are men of few words and fine manners, it is a marvel...The houses of the Indians are the most beautiful I have ever seen...They are well swept and quite clean inside, and the furnishings are arranged in good order.'
On Columbus' second voyage, a compatriot of Columbus noted that the native people came out 'to greet the ships with gifts of fish and fruit, as if we had been brothers.'
Columbus thought that these people were a living expression of God, and the word Indian actually comes from the Spanish 'in Deos,' or in God. What an oddity it was, then, that they were wiped out in the name of Christianity... Pope Alexander VI issued the Bull Inter Caetera (May 3, 1493) granting the right to the monarchs of Spain to own, possess, and exploit any part of the Earth not already under control of a Christian nation. The real destruction began after his second voyage, which left for the Americas in 1493. This time there were 17 ships, and about 1,200 men. The arriving Spaniards were shown the same kindness and humanity as on the previous voyage, but this decency was not reciprocated, and in a generation's time, millions of native people were dead, and nearly every Caribbean island thoroughly devoid of its original inhabitants. As Columbus traveled through the Caribbean islands, in each place he would read the following fearsome document giving the Church and the monarchy of Spain the right to seize the lands, and if necessary, kill the occupants:
'I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and Their Highnesses. We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as Their Highnesses may command. And we shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord and resist and contradict him.'
In a generations time, millions of native peoples were dead, and nearly every Caribbean island thoroughly devoid of its original inhabitants. In time more than 95% of the first peoples of the Americas (an estimated 15 million) would perish and their way of life would be lost for ever."
Excerpted and adapted from American Indian Prophecies by Kurt Kaltreider (Hay House, 1998)
May we all, individually and collectively, have the courage to look for and listen to the stories that bring the wisdom and compassion we need to heal the wounds of our past --- and present, and learn to live together and with the Earth in ways that honor the sacredness and potentials of life.