Comprare "civilized" and "ravages" societies? On the basis of your definitions, were the Native Americans civilized?Comprare "civilized" and "ravages" societies? On the basis of your definitions,...

Comprare "civilized" and "ravages" societies? On the basis of your definitions, were the Native Americans civilized?

Comprare "civilized" and "ravages" societies? On the basis of your definitions, were the Native Americans civilized?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Native Americans (particularly those who faced the Spanish rule in the southern region of the American territory in the 1500's and 1600's) were indeed ravaged, in the name of religion which, at the time, was the primary element to be considered as being"civilized"- We know that such idea is not true.

Be very aware that both terms are intrinsically misunderstood in modern society, and often interchangeably used when it comes to the treatment of Native Americans in earlier history.

For someone to "civilize" someone else means to educate and to adhere a person to the idiosyncracies, mannerisms, cultural characteristics, social expectations, and intellectual or philosophical constructs established by the "educator's" own social echelon.

Now, education and adhesion to another cultural paradigm can be done in many different ways: Forcibly, passive-aggressively, violently, philosophically, kinesthetically- you name it!

In the treatment of Native Americans, undoubtedly the purpose was to educate but the method was not as subtle as they thought- both the colonists as well as the Conquistadors did not expect that the Natives had already a well-set system of their own, that they were independent thinkers, and fully-capable leaders.

This mentality, which states that any culture who has not been conditioned by the Western, modern civilization, is called "colonial", and many modern historians try very hard to eliminate this idea from modern historical analysis.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Native American culture had been perceived as "the other" by settler culture.  In physical terms, clothing, mannerisms, religious beliefs, as well as understanding about material wealth and possession, settler culture felt that most Native Americans were "the other."  This translated into misunderstanding and apprehension, which allowed the label of "savagery" to ba applied to Native Americans, allowing the settlers to be able to be manipulated, intimidated, abused, and exploited.  From the time of Columbus, who took land, wealth, crops, and survival techniques from the Native American and delivered repression, control, and enslavement in response, the term "savage" had always been easily applied to the Native Americans at the hands of the "civilized" world of White settler society.  These terms and their use reflected how language can be and translate into power. There is a very serious debate that rages on suggesting that what the "civilized" folk saw as "savages" actually was inverted based on treatment. For example,  few could even begin to argue that the Trail of Tears was "civilized" and didn't represent the most barbaric of cruelty, the true form of "savagery."  However, it was much more applicable to say that Jackson's government was "civilized" and the Native Americans who opposed it were "savages."

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This answer is going to vary a lot depending on your definition of civilized and on which Native Americans you are talking about.

For example, even assuming you are looking only at North American Indians, you have a variety of levels of "civilization."  You have the Five Nations -- the Iroquois League.  These people were relatively sedentary and had a fairly stable system of government.  Yet they had no modern technology and no written language.

I guess I would say they were not civilized because of the lack of technology, cities, manufacturing, etc.  But that is really a value judgement.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The Native Americans had a different type of society than we are used to. They were not savage. Savage is a value-based label that has no real meaning, only negative connotation. They had a civilization, even if others did not recognize it.
krishna-agrawala | Student

I believe the word 'ravage' in the question was meant to be 'savage', which has been mistyped.

To the extent civilization refers to extent of use of advanced technology and more developed system of managing societies, the civilization of the native Americans was definitely less developed as compared to that of the immigrants that started coming to America in fifteenth century onwards. However use of the word savage do describe less civilized societies can be misleading to some other meanings attached to this word.

The word savage also means things like cruel and brutal. When we consider this meaning of the word savage, it is rather incorrect to consider native Americans to be more savage than some of the people from more civilized societies who came to America later. For example, we cannot say with certainly that treatment of American immigrants from sixteenth to nineteenth century  towards native American was less brutal or cruel than that of the Native Americans towards them.