Were the Indians Noble Savages?

-By Don Boys, Ph.D.

The Indians in North America were sleeping peacefully in their hogans, wigwams, and long houses during the early hours of October 12, 1492. They were dreaming as they had for centuries, of flashing salmon, thundering herds of bison, an arrow striking a deer, and the sound of corn rustling in the evening breeze, with no idea of the events that would happen that day when Europeans would step out of a small boat into the pounding surf.

Columbus had arrived. He delivered civilization to this continent–and all that went with it, good and bad. As the Indians began to stir from a sound sleep, Columbus was nearing the island of San Salvador.

Columbus knew he was nearing land when he saw driftwood floating near his ship and land birds flying around the masts. He no doubt wondered what people were watching his ship from behind the screen of foliage as he neared the shore. Would the people be friendly, noble savages, or hostile, brutal savages? Both ideas would be promoted for many years back in Europe, but the idea of noble savages was popularized by humanist writers. It still is today.

The “noble savage” is a product of imaginative writers with humanistic leanings. Many of the Indians were brutal savages, even cannibals! The New Columbia Encyclopedia reported on some Northwest tribes such as the Kwakiutl: “They had a highly classified society with chiefs, nobles, commoners, and slaves….This distinctive culture, which included cannibalistic rituals, was not greatly affected by European influences until after the late 18th century….” Yes, some Indians kept slaves and ate them during hard times! Wonder why you weren’t taught that in public schools?

Indians are alleged to have been preservers of pure air, water, and the forests while modern Americans are made to feel guilty for highways, homes, and hospitals. We are told this is not progress. I suppose deer trails, wigwams, and kids dying by the thousands are preferable!

The factory spitting out smoke is supposed to be obscene and a blight on mankind but a smoking factory is a beautiful sight. It means jobs, money, bills paid, and food for children, gifts to charities, higher Gross National Product, and a higher standard of living for most people.

Yes, I choose smoking factories to silent, dark factories because I love people better than I do clean air. If I have to choose between an unobstructed view of a field of buttercups and a housing development, I will choose the houses every time. While being interested in cleaning up the environment, let us not become fanatics and follow the self-serving hypocrites in that movement who use the concern of sincere people to “feather their own nests.”

You are supposed to feel guilty for being white, middle class, and Protestant (or Baptist) especially relating to what we have done to the land since taking it from the “noble savage.” However, was the Indian so careful with the environment? The Columbia Encyclopedia tells about the Choctaws: “…They hunted with bow and arrow and blowgun, caught fish by poisoning streams….” Yes, friends and neighbors, the “noble savage” was often a polluter. Sorry about that.

Before getting into the Indians’ story, I need to “clear out the underbrush” so we can see the forest. One writer wrote of white men who “took over their [Indian] world,” but where did he get the idea that this world (America) belonged to the Indians? Need I remind you that merely living on the land does not confirm ownership? The Indians had lived here for hundreds of years but were still living in crude homes; eating and warming themselves over an open fire; and letting their old people die alone without help.

They had access to all the gold, silver, iron, water, trees, etc., that the white man had, yet it was the white man who built the greatest, most advanced society in the world. If that sounds like racism, so be it. It is also factual. Most Liberals don’t like facts; they like fantasy or faith in old, discredited theories that informed people discarded years ago.

If the white man had not beached his boats on the sands of Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, and Cape Cod, the Indians would still be huddled around their soot-lined tepees warming themselves over a fire made by rubbing dry sticks together. They would still be burying their dead children because of childhood diseases, and maybe the air would be cleaner if the white man had never come, but who would be alive to care?

Yes, the Indians in Central and South America had a much more advanced civilization but I remind you they were still savages. In Mexico, the Aztecs sacrificed thousands of young virgins every year and literally jerked the hearts out of their enemies before the terrified victims were burned on the altar.

When Cortes arrived in Mexico, his first tour of the capital turned his stomach. Montezuma (who is thought to be a highly civilized person by the uninformed) told Cortes that he could look at anything he wanted to see. Of course, what else do you tell a man who has 450 men with guns?

Cortes and some of his men walked through the market place where human meat was sold, then climbed the 114 steps to the temple for a view of the city below. They saw helpless prisoners tied to stone slabs waiting to be sacrificed to the Aztec gods. As they walked through the square, they saw a rack that held the skulls of more than 100,000 victims, a monument to Montezuma’s savagery.

Cortes and other white Europeans (who for the most part were only Christianized, not Christians) did not have clean hands in their dealing with the Indians. They proved what every honest, informed person knows: man’s heart (of all races) is evil and needs the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives, author of 13 books, frequent guest on television and radio talk shows, and wrote columns for USA Today for 8 years His most recent book is ISLAM: America’s Trojan Horse! His websites are www.cstnews.com and www.Muslimfact.com.)

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Copyright Publius Forum 2001