Before Europeans set foot in the Americas (Vikings excepted), it was a world full of diverse civilizations. The Chico Norte civilization in modern-day Peru arose about the same time as Ancient Egypt. The indigenous people of the Americas developed math, astronomy, agriculture, aquaculture, and just about every mark of civilization.
Side Note: You might have heard Central and South American civilizations never invented the wheel. This is silly and possibly racist. They knew what round things were. Go roll a wheelbarrow through a dense jungle and then tell me how effective it was. They had wheels; they just didn’t use them very much. No one says the ancient Romans never developed pyramids; they probably just didn’t find them very useful.
I’m getting off-topic, but the nonsense about wheels actually highlights my point. The pre-Columbian Americas were every bit as civilized as Europe of the 1400s. Then, on three separate September 6s, their world began to end.
September 6, 1492 — Christopher Columbus Sets Sail
On September 6, 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from the Canary Islands. He sailed for five weeks to the Bahamas. The King had offered a lifetime pension to the first person to spot land. The lookout on Columbus’s ship spotted the land, but Columbus claimed that he’d actually seen it hours earlier. So, he was entitled to the money. He called the natives “Indians” because he thought he had reached an island near India.
Many historians theorize Columbus went to his grave believing he had reached the western coast of Asia because he was an idiot. He was also a monster. He kidnapped women and girls to keep as sex slaves. He brutally raped them. He forced men to find gold for him and his crew. If a person failed to bring him enough gold, Columbus would cut off their hands. He was a dumbass and a murderer.
September 6, 1620 — Pilgrims Set Sail on The Mayflower
The pilgrims were English Calvinists who believed that they should be separate from the state-mandated Church of England. Their separatist beliefs made them apostates. They were discriminated against in England, so they fled to Holland. Eventually, they decided to come to the New World.
By most accounts, the Pilgrims and the Native Americans actually got along pretty well. However, European diseases ran unchecked through Native populations. They suffered immensely, though unintentionally. As the Plymouth Colony grew, it became more and more European. Walls went up, guns and swords proliferated, and war arrived. The Plymouth Colony went to war against local Native Americans because that’s what Europeans always do. By the 1680s, between sixty and eighty percent of all New England Native Americans had been killed, sold into slavery, or fled the terror.
September 6, 1628 — Puritans Establish Salem
Salem was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After a few years, Plymouth joined as well. Much like Plymouth, the settlers in Salem had pretty decent relationships with the Native Americans until the late 1600s. They participated in the destruction of several local tribes during King Philip’s War.
The settlement at Salem and the Massachusetts Bay Colony was not the most cataclysmic event of the European invasion of the Americas. They were, all things considered, some of the most magnanimous White settlers. However, their success inspired many more to journey to the “new” world.
Those privileged enough to be chronic contrarians like to say that any particular catastrophe is “not the end of the world.” These three September 6s were, in fact, the end of the world. European colonization led directly to the destruction of dozens of civilizations, the deaths of millions, and the theft of unimaginable wealth. If that’s not an apocalypse, the word has no meaning.
The pre-Columbian world had to end to make way for the New World. America remains the last best hope for humanity on earth but, I think, it’s undeniable that the arrival of America proved horrific for the Native Americans.