The Natives and the Constitution
Before discussing the specific rights the Natives should be given, it is important to first discuss the treatment the Natives have endured by the Europeans and to dispel arguments that try to invalidate their humanity and intelligence. Bartolom?© De Las Casas provides a detailed account of what occurred on the Island of Hispaniola in An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies.
He details how many Natives had been brutally slaughtered and others dealt with enslavement (De Las Casas, 68-69; 70). Many had died from starvation on ships and if they survived they would be separated from their families. The practice of pearl diving also caused many deaths (De Las Casas, 70). These atrocities committed against the Natives had been done by people who call themselves “Christians.” In one such practice, 13 Natives would be burned at one time, the number representing Christ and his Apostles (De Las Casas, 69). It is very hard to justify any of the harsh actions against the Natives as De Las Casas notes due to the biblical principle of loving others (De Las Casas, 70).
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Moreover, these practices caused many to die without God therefore they are causing the loss of their souls (De Las Casas, 71). Some try to justify the mistreatment of the Natives by using demeaning terms such as “heathen” and “savages.” The term “heathen” in the biblical sense, as interpreted by Roger Williams in Christenings Make Not Christians, would mean someone who is not saved therefore, a heathen could be from any nation.
Likewise, the term “savages” does not correctly describe the Natives. From the writings of Hern??n Cort?©s in the Second Letter to the Spanish Crown when he describes the complexity of their markets, and the writings of Christopher Columbus in Letter of
Discovery when he discusses their lack of understanding being due to inexperience not intelligence, it is evident the term does not fit (Cort?©s, 83; Columbus, 61). The use of these degrading terms is a result of the lack of understanding of the variances in manners and practices between the indigenous people and the Europeans as illustrated by Benjamin Franklin in Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America (Franklin, 462).
In some instances, such as when it comes to hospitality and treating others they appear even more advanced than the Europeans (Franklin, 464-465). Lastly, the Natives deserve rights because they are descendants of Adam like the Europeans as Samuel Sewall notes in The Selling of Joseph: A Memorial (Sewall, 317). The Constitution should give the Natives the right to practice any religion they choose, the right to self-govern, the right to continue their own way of trading and the right to keep the land of their ancestors.
The Natives should be allowed to freely practice their own religion as long as it does not conflict with the rights of others. For example, Cort?©s notes Natives in Temixtitan practiced sacrificing in their religion. The blood of humans and other living animals were used in the process. The King of Spain, Charles V, outlawed the practice of sacrificing and Cortes did the same to the Natives (Cortes, 86). In this case, though people may not agree with animal sacrifices, the Natives are not causing harm to another.
However, the practice of using humans in the religion should be prohibited in the Constitution because it is murder. It would be hypocritical if the Constitution banned the Natives from practicing their own religion. Benjamin Franklin discusses how the King of Britain was infringing on the colonist’s religious liberty in Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One (Franklin, 453-454). Therefore, if the Constitution totally banned the religion of any Native group, they would be acting similar to the King who they were having issues with.
The Natives should be given the right in the Constitution to have their own form of government. One reason is because it can be seen historically that the Natives and Europeans can have different governments but still have a solid relationship. In the Speech at Lancaster, Canassatego discusses the strong partnership the Dutch and the Natives had (Canassatego, 987). Moreover, in the Speech at Detroit, Pontiac indicated through his story that the French also had a strong partnership with indigenous people.
The story also indicates that the issue that the Natives have with the English is due to the English not respecting them (Pontiac 990). Therefore, if the English respected the indigenous groups, they could have a strong relationship. Another reason they should have an independent government is because it is noted in Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America that there is already a complexity to their council meetings (Franklin 463-464). If both groups agree to be respectful to one another, there will be no issue with having open communication.
The Constitution should establish a trading partnership between the Europeans and the Natives. Hern??n Cort?©s discusses the structure of the markets of the Natives in Temixtitan in the Second Letter to the Spanish Crown. He also describes different items that are sold in the markets (Corts 83-84). Due to the view that the Natives should have their own form of government and the trade system that has been observed in an indigenous group, the Constitution should allow the Natives independence in trade. The Europeans should integrate into the Native trading systems.
It is also important that the Constitution prohibits unfair trading practices. In the Letter of Discovery, Christopher Columbus explains how crew members were cheating the Natives out of valuable goods and he had to stop them (Columbus, 61). Additionally, in the Speech of the Osages, Tecumseh states that the Europeans would scam the Natives (Tecumseh, 995). The prohibition will ensure a successful trading partnership.
The Constitution should allow the Natives to live on the land of their ancestors. The first reason can be found In the Speech of Lancaster. Canassatego states that the Natives have inhabited the Americas long before the Europeans came (Canassatego, 986-987). Another reason can be found in the Speech to the Osages. Tecumseh describes how the Natives supplied aid to the Europeans when they arrived in the Americas. The success of the Europeans can be traced back to them (Tecumseh, 995). It is important to note the Speech of Lancaster, indicates that the Natives are willing to sell land (Canassatego, 987).
The issue, again, lies with the need for respect between the Europeans and the indigenous people. In the Speech of Lancaster, Canassaetego describes an incident where a European tried to scam the Natives when it came to selling land (Canassatego, 987-988). Furthermore, in the Speech of the Osages, Tecumseh discusses how the Europeans became greedy for land and forgot about all the help the Natives gave them. Tecumseh also talks about the desire for peace, but the issue is the Europeans continuing to disrespect the Natives (Tecumseh, 995). If the Europeans agree in the Constitution to respect land treaties with the Natives, they will both have land to inhabit.
The Constitution should ensure the rights of the Natives to self-govern, to have religious freedom, to have protections for trading, and the right to stay on their land. It is important that the Constitution recognizes the humanity of the Natives and treats them as equal to the Europeans. Through mutual respect and communication the indigenous people and the Europeans will be able to have a functional and beneficial relationship.