How did Christopher Columbus transform life in the Americas?  

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Columbus' journeys to the Americas, life for First Nations people in the North, Central, and South Americas was changed dramatically. Exploration by Europeans with economic or religious motivations increased in popularity, and many Europeans felt that it was their duty to "civilize" the native peoples and exploit their land and labor for their own benefit.

Indigenous ways of life were obliterated and replaced with European languages and cultural material. At the same time, many of the goods important to First Nations people such as gold, cacao, and corn, were being shipped back to Europe as luxury goods for the elite.

Colonization of the Americas was enabled by the wealth of diseases Europeans brought with them (such as smallpox, typhus, and tuberculosis,) which natives had no resistance to. European diseases killed many, and European violence killed most of those who remained. 

Much of this happened as a result of Columbus' voyages. He initiated this cultural exchange and legacy of violence with his own capture of slaves and seizure of resources, as on his first journey throughout the Caribbean and Central America. He encouraged his soldiers to rape, kill, and steal from the natives of Hispaniola, and fully supported the transatlantic slave trade to colonize the Americas. Columbus' journeys initiated the systematic slaughter, dehumanization, and obliteration of the First Nations peoples of the Americas. This tragedy has lingering effects which we can observe today, as very few First Nations populations still exist. Those that do live under very poor circumstances and are systemically oppressed by dominant governmental and cultural forces in their homelands and beyond.