American Literature ing stories about continental prehistory. On the one hand, there were theories that the Americas had been visited by Canaanites and Israelites, by disciples of Christ, by Celts, by Vikings, by ancient Egyptians, and by any number of other civilizations, both real and imagined. On the other hand, there was an equal certainty about a ï¬rst discovery in 1492. Although apparently mutually exclusive, in fact both versions converged in their harmful consequences for Native peoples. Because the second scenario is still so much a part of what U.S. students learn in high school, I need to begin by acknowledging that the image of Native peoples as primitives ââoutside historical timeââ has a long and authoritative lineage. It began with Columbus, of course, but gained even wider currency in the sixteenth century when BartolomÃ© de las Casas chronicled the Spanish conquest of Mexico and South America. In a series of works that were subsequently translated into most of the languages of Europe, las Casas ââdescrib[es] the [Native peoples] as having lived since the Flood behind the âlocked doors of the Ocean Sea,â doors which Columbus had been the ï¬rst to unlock.ââ 2 The Spanish priestâs ï¬rst-hand accounts
American Literature – Duke University Press
Published: Dec 1, 2003
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