Epidemics, Slavery, Massacres, and Indigenous Resistance 1492-1599


Christopher Columbus makes four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean from 1492 to 1502. Spain is focused on establishing dominance and subjugation across the southern portion of North America, particularly on the lands now known as Mexico (Cortes); Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi (de Soto); and Arizona and New Mexico (Coronado) (Nies, 1996). Conquistadores wreak violence and havoc. An estimated 90 percent of the populations they encounter are exterminated due to introduction of foreign diseases, such as smallpox, measles, chicken pox, and plague, to which Native peoples had no immunity. Millions die, death and disease in numbers that fail to capture the social upheaval and devastation. The Spanish stretch their colonial reach from the Caribbean to California. By the end of the century, France establishes colonial outposts in Canada, into the Mississippi Valley, and along the Carolina coast. By 1588, after the Netherlands and England defeated the Spanish Armada, they begin to identify potential colonies in New England (English) and in New Amsterdam (Dutch) (Nies, 1996). By the end of the 1500s, the Mississippian chiefdoms and ancient Moundbuilder cities and their descendants, the Timucua, Calusa, Coosa, Mobila, Natchez, and Caddo, are facing annihilation. Remnants are absorbed into the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and other southeastern Mississippian descendant peoples. European colonizers always “settle” and establish their colonies on dispossessed Native lands that are already developed for agriculture and yielding crops (Nies, 1996). They traverse already developed Indian highways and utilize technologies and tools captured from Native communities. “Without Indian villages, it’s entirely possible there could have been no successful European settlements” (Nies, 1996, p. 73).