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Page history last edited by ray.hartman@... 14 years, 3 months ago

  How the white man acquired America with a little help from their God. 


The Property Pre-Colonial  America


What is Property

    The Age of Discovery

    Discovery of America

    Divided Ground: Native American vs Europeans













 What is Property?

“Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of persons.”(Wikipedia)  Property is someplace to be, something to have, something to share, something to protect, property is something to desire, to believe in and in someway is part of everything humans are and do.  In 1492 the beginning of the loss of most "Property" for the indigenous people of America started with America being "discovered".  Europeans and later the "New Americans", would use their Religions as the reason to justify the discovery, exploration and finally exploitation of the New World in less than 300 years.  The creation of America is clouded by myths and misconceptions that have left most people unaware how Disease, Religion, Manifest Destiny and Land Grants were used in the occupation of the New World. The study of how a previously unknown part of the world and its resources were taken from the indigenous people who lived there, is the foundation to understanding how the United States of America was created. 


          Dr. Stacy Takacs in her introduction to American Studies lecture, states that the term “America” has (at least) 3 senses:


                  What is America?

                      3 of the senses are:

 Geographic          (place, setting, land)

 Political           (institutions, laws, policies)

 Symbolic   (culture; symbols, rituals, behaviors, attitudes)

The 3 senses of America in terms of Pre-American Property 


Property is the "Empty Virgin Lands" of Ameria that were "Discovered" 

Doctrine of Discovery was the Authority to claim the "Empty Lands"

God, Gold and Glory was the motivations to explore the "New World"


The Age of Discovery

To understand why the maritime countries of Europe suddenly in the second half of the 15th century began to explore the world in what would become known as The Age of Discovery or the Age of Exploration, we must look at how they were motivated by property.


Why and how did the countries of Europe begin their world wide discovery of new places, people and things? They wanted a shorter, cheaper way to the store and to get more people to believe in their God, before somebody else did.  The five major European countries, Portugal, Spain, England, France and Holland, that had access to the Atlantic Ocean and had developed sailing technologies sufficient enough to handle long ocean voyages, were the primary Discoverers of the New World. 


Gold, Glory and God was their main motivations.  Gold, represented not just that precious metal, but any resource that would generate wealth and profit.  Glory, was the property, wealth and power that expanding thier empires would bring those countries.  For the explorers it was their desire to seek immortality, riches and fame.  God, was the mission to spread Christianity outside of Europe before the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire could spread their religion.


                                        Ottoman Empire that controlled the West end of the trade routes to Asia 

The Ottoman Empire defeated the Byzantine Empire in 1453, cutting the land link between Europe and Asia. If spices were to reach Europe, a sea route to Asia had to be found.


The Europeans desire to get the spices they needed to improve the food quality at cheaper price and deney their religious enemies the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire would fuel the Age of Exporation




Italy, as a country did not have to participate in the race to discover and explore, because in the 1400s they were a collection of merchant city-states that along with the Ottoman Emprie controlled the Western end of the Spice Route.                

Italy did provide some of the great explorers of the New Wold:

                    John Cabot – Giovanni Caboto for England.

                    His younger brother Sebastian Cabot - Sebastiano Caboto for England and Spain.          

                    Amerigo Vespucci for Spain. This is man that America was named after and may have visited North America months before Columbus.

                    Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European to visit New York harbor, for France.

                    Christopher Columbus – Cristoforo Colombo for Spain. The man that discoverd America by mistake.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus “ sailed the ocean blue” and discovered what he believed to be Asia, instead he had found a new and unknown world. This discovery would change the future of the indigenous people of America forever and the rest of  the world in ways that could not even be imagined at that time.


Discovery of America 

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Religion, history and science were increasingly to form the subject-matter of his works during the 1950s and 1960s, many of them of large format. These were the years in which he painted many of his best-known works, such as Christ of St. John of the Cross, Galatea of the Spheres, Corpus Hypercubus, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (The Dream of Christopher Columbus) and The Last Supper.



This work, which is almost 14 feet tall, combines Spanish history, religion, art and myth.


 "The Painting to the left is


The Discovery of America

by Christopher Columbus


or The Dream of Christopher



by Salvador Dali, created in 1958-59.


Which title is best?


Columbus, until his dying

day, believed that he had

reached Asia, not America.


Since he was not the first

to reach North America ( the

Norsemen were 500 years

earlier) did he really "discover"

America? (Whatdoyaknow)


Maybe The Dream of

Christopher Columbus is

the better title for this painting. 


Dali symbolically portrays

Columbus as the adolescent

boy in a classical robe bringing

Christianity and the true church to a new world as a great and holy accomplishment.


The painting is full of meta-

phorical rather than historic

images and is Dali's homage

to his home country of Spain.


Dali painted himself as the monk kneeling holding a crucifix . (Wikipedia)













Was Columbus the first to discover America?  Well not really. he was searching for a direct route to India and the Far East to obtain direct access to the lucrative spice trade that the was controlled by the Ottoman Empire and believed the islands he found were part of Asia.  Since the islands he found were not part of America and were occupied by people who had immigrated there first, he was only making contact with a new unknown nation of people living on land no one in Europe was aware of.



Norsemen had discovered Greenland in 1,000 A.D. and did visit parts of North America.  Portuguese navigators as early as 1414 did suspect or even know of lands lying west of the Azores that appears on a navigational charts called Antilia. It is very possible that Chinese and  Phoenician sailors had discovered the Americas as far back as 1500 B.C. Columbus had probable only re-discovered what had been found numerous times before and the lost because no one could take advantage of the discovery.  Why then is Christopher Columbus credited with discovering America?  His discovery of a New World came at a time when the Maritime countries of Europe were eager, ready, prepared and needed to find new property, new resources, new money and new ways to extend their empires.  The Renaissance prepared Europe for the Age of Exploration that would be driven by the way of doing business called the Mercantile System or Mercantilism as it would later be called.  Robert Hooker in his Article The Beginnings reports “Mercantilism is a simple economic activity.  All it involves is the purchase of certain goods in a region where those goods are common, moving those goods to another region where they are not common, and then selling them at a profit.”  (Hooker)



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Little did the Native American Indians know when they watched the first European explorers arrive on their lands, that these guests were not just visiting, not here to share; but here to replace them. The European countries came to the new world with economic, political and religious reasons and were motivated to acquire property in the form of land and resources. Those countries that were exploring and making discovers of the Americas had an understanding, that whichever country first claimed new land could determine how that country acquired the land from the indigenous people.  The British colonist often acquired land by purchasing it from local tribes.  The Spanish by conquest, and were more concerned with natural resources like gold.


Those first contacts began the destruction of all of the Native Americans cultures and result in the loss of the lands they lived on and claimed. Europeans arriving in the new world brought with them diseases, unknown in the new world, that would decimate the Indian populations. There are no written records confirming the population of the Native Americans living in America before the arrival of the Europeans, but we do know that the epidemics that followed first contact killed extremely large numbers of Native American.  Waves of a different diseases would follow each new contact and soon those Indians that survived the first disease would perish after contracting next disease. This drastic decline in Native American population, that in some area killed entire villages, helped to create the myth that Henry Nash Smith mentions in his book Virgin Land, when he refers to new world being “free land and vacant". (Smith 128)  With the Native Americans numbers diminishing by up to 90% in some areas, David Beck in his essay The Myth of the Vanishing Race states that “American Indian nations and people were largely viewed by scholars, government officials and the public at large as a vanishing race.” (Beck) 



Divided Ground: Native American vs Europeans 

Secotan Village Showing Space Utilization
In Theodor de Bry,

Americae pars decima

Openheim, 1619, as Indian village of Secotan.
Rare Book and Special Collections Division

The people of Secotan lived in permanent villages near today's North Carolina Outer Banks. Like the northern Algonquians, they farmed collectively in the growing season and dispersed into family units to hunt during the colder months.
The engraving, based on a drawing made by John White in the 1580s, shows careful management and use of the land. Crops include tobacco and pumpkins, corn in three stages of growth, and sunflowers, while domesticated deer graze in the adjoining woods. The buildings include family units and storehouses for the surplus corn.





The indigenous people who lived in what would come to be called North America viewed property as something they used, a natural resource that was communally shared and not perceived by Europeans as valuing private property the same as the civilized people.  The Europeans who came to North America saw the new land as an opportunity to extend their national sovereignty and used their European traditions of property laws, as justifications for obtaining the land of the Native Americans.  One of the Europeans concept of property in the new world  was based on their view that this newly discovered land had been claimed by the first explorers and belonged to the monarchy, to be disposed as the crown saw fit. Since the indigenous people were uncivilized and the land undeveloped, the Europeans saw the land as a wildness, that presented them the right to claim the land and bring civilization to the Native Americans and the new world. In the words of Henry Nash Smith, "The Narrative turns constantly about the central issue of the old forest freedom versus the new needs of a community with must establish the sovereignty of law over the individual." (Smith)


Between the early seventeenth century and the early twenth century, the indigenous people of America had lost by deceit, treaties, murder and purchase almost all of the land they had occupied before the “discovery” of the New World.  The methods used by the white Europeans who claimed the new land, Religion, Hatred and so many other techniques are incontrast with the beliefs and concepts that America is founded on.  The Native Americans who lost their lands, lifes and cultures were just another race of people that lost the war of migration by a people with superior technology and sheer numbers. (Banner)






Banner, Stuart. How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power On the Frontier.    

(Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005)


Beck, David. "The Myth of the Vanishing Race” in “Edward S. Curtis (1868 – 1952) The North American Indian” (Chicago and Washington, D.C.: Northwestern University and  American Memory Project, Library of Congress, 2001). 1 Oct. 2009




Hooker, Richard. His article Discovery: The Beginnings, World Civilizations,6 June 1999, http://wsu.edu/~dee/REFORM/BEGIN.HTM (accessed 12/07/09)



Smith, Henry Nash, Virgin Land The American West As Symbol and Myth, (Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1950) 68.


Takacs, Stacy. Her Lecture Introduction to American Studies, Introduction Power Point, 17 August 2009,  11/20/09https://oc.okstate.edu/



Wikipedia contributors, ”Property, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 December 2009 at 03:11. 11/01/09 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property


























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