The Spanish,
specifically Queen Isabella, sent Christopher Columbus to discover a new route
to Asia, in order to compete with the rising power of the Portuguese. This one
decision however, began the race for world colonization and would eventually
lead to the death of millions of Native Americans from war, famine,
displacement, and disease. The first recorded contact between Native Americans
and European powers occurred in 1492 CE when Christopher Columbus arrived in
what would later be referred to as “the New World”. Contrary to this name
however, this new stretch of land was quite old and had been inhabited for
thousands of years prior to Columbus’ arrival, because of the use of oral
traditions by many Native Americans there is little that is known of them prior
to the invasion of Europeans in the early 16th century. In fact,
a lot of what is written about Native Americans was not written by the people
themselves until quite recently. Instead, a large number of the documents were
written by European colonizers as a way to ‘justify the slaughter and
mistreatment of the native population’ (Clare 2).

             The first native tribe to have
contact with European powers was the Lucayan who were described by Columbus as
“healthy, generous, and hospitable people, who wore gold jewelry around their
necks, hanging off their ears and even adorning their brow” (Zinn 57). When the
ship that Columbus was sailing on-the Santa Maria- was shipwrecked, the
Lucayan Natives worked for hours to rescue the ship, and save the crew and
cargo. Columbus took twenty-five Lucayan Natives with him on his return voyage
to Spain in order to show the king and queen both the wealth and the free labor
that was available in the New World. Of the twenty-five Lucayan Natives that
Columbus took, only seven survived to Spain, and none were recorded as having
returned to the their homeland. Upon returning to Spain, Columbus sold the
queen on the idea of a new world saturated in wealth and prosperity beyond her
wildest dreams. In return for his services she gave him seventeen ships, 1,500
men, and an arsenal of swords, crossbows, and cannons. Upon Columbus’s arrival
back in the “New World” he called the Lucayan elders to his ship and demanded
the people give his men not only food and gold but their women as young as
eight. When they refused they were sent back to their villages with their ears
and noses cut off as a warning to the others. When the natives eventually
rebelled Columbus used the opportunity as an excuse to go to war and take their
resources with force. Eyewitness accounts describe the fallen Lucayan warriors
being fed to hunting dogs while still alive, screaming and wailing in agony as
they died (Zinn 76). Despite having quelled the rebellion, Columbus rounded up
500 Lucayan natives, chained them below the decks of his ships, and sent them
to Spain to be sold as slaves. Of the five hundred sent, only three hundred
survived the voyage. Another 500 natives were enslaved and kept in the New
World to mine for gold (Zinn 81). The remaining Lucayans fled into the
mountains to escape enslavement and with that the Lucayan people were no more.

             Columbus’s final departure from
America in 1504 left a power vacuum through which the British rushed to steal
land and colonies from the Spanish (Morison 653-654). Thus, began Britain’s
control over the New World, especially the East Coast. The first official
British colony was Jamestown in Virginia. Jamestown was established on May 14,
1607 by a group of roughly 100 members. However, a lot of the settlers had no
knowledge of farming since a large majority came from cities. They were also
cursed with a long and colder than usual year their first year. This lead to
famine which along with the resulting diseases from the dead bodies and wars
with the local native tribes decimated the number of inhabitants of Jamestown
from 100 down to around 60. The third year however saw a forced alliance
between the Algonquian chief and the residents of Jamestown. Thus through its
consequential growth Jamestown became the first of the large British colonies.

The colonization of Korea began with the
end of the Korean Empire in 1910 and officially ended at the conclusion of
World War II in 1945. There were three treaties that progressively brought
Korea under Japan’s rule. The first of these treaties was the Japan-Korea
Treaty of 1876. The treaty also known as the Treaty of Ganghwa Island in Korea
was signed by representatives between the Empire of Japan and the Kingdom of
Joseon on February 26, 1876. There were a few things that led up to the
creation of the treaty. One of these events was the Ascendancy of Daewongun.
When King Cheoljong died in January of 1864 without an heir, 12 year old Gojong
was pronounced king and his father, Yi Ha-?ng became the Daewongun or lord of
the court. As Daewongun, Yi initiated many reforms that strengthened the
monarchy. This strength however, came at the expense of the Yangban class.

The strong dictatorship of Heungseon
Daewongun was overthrown by Queen Min, who instituted a policy of closing Korea
to European powers. During the dictatorship, both France and the United States
tried unsuccessfully to open trade with Korea. However, after he was removed
from power, many officials that pushed for the idea of open commerce with
foreigners. During this turmoil, Japan developed a plan to open and exert
influence before Western powers were able to. Their plan was put into action in
1875 when the Un’y?, a small Japanese warship was dispatched to survey coastal
waters without Korean permission. On September 20th, the ship reached
Ganghwa Island which in the previous decade had been the site of many violent
confrontations between Korean and foreign forces. The memories of these
confrontations were still fresh in the minds of the people then, when the Un’y?
sent a smaller boat to land on the island. When the Korean forts opened fire on
the small boat, the Un’y? answered back with superior firepower. It then
attacked another Korean port before withdrawing back to Japan.

The Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905 was
signed on November 17, 1905. This treaty deprived Korea of its diplomatic
sovereignty and also made Korea a protectorate of Imperial Japan. The treaty
was a result of Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. With Russia’s
subsequent withdrawal of influence after the Imperial Japanese victory, and the
Taft-Katsura Agreement, where the United States agreed not to in Japan’s
matters concerning Korea, the Japanese government sought to formalize its
sphere of influence over Korea. Delegates from both Empires met in Seoul to
resolve problems, however, with the Korean Imperial palace being under Japanese
occupation, and the Imperial Japanese Army stationed at advantageous locations
throughout Korea, Korea was at an obvious disadvantage throughout the
discussions. The treaty, which was signed by the Korean cabinet, gave Japan
complete responsibility for Korea’s foreign affairs, and placed all trade
through Korean ports under Japanese supervisions.

third and final Japan-Korea treaties were the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1907 and
the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910. The Japan-Korea Treaty of 1907 gave Japan
control of Korea’s internal affairs. The Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910 was the
most influential treaty and officially began the period of Japanese rule in
Korea. The treaty also gave the Emperor of Japan all of the rights of
sovereignty over Korea. Because of the humiliation that Koreans faced, many
call it Kyeongsulgukchi in reference to
the year and Gukchil in reference to the day that the treaty was signed. Unbeknownst
to Korea, the United Kingdom had already agreed to the annexation of Korea by
Japan in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902. The legality of the fourth treaty
was later disputed by the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, as
well as the South Korean government. Their reason for disputing the legality
was because by Korean law the treaty would have to be signed by the King of
Korea, which it was not, instead, it was signed by Prime Minister Lee Wan-yong
of the Korean Empire and Resident General Count Terauchi Masatake of the Empire
of Japan.

             According to archaeologists, ‘prior
to European influence, more than 700 distinct Native groups existed, each with
their own beliefs, languages, customs and practices’ (Hightower-Langston 15). However,
due to disease, famine and war, nearly half of the native population has been
decimated by today. Often times, 95% to 100% of a Native population was wiped
out from disease alone. This means that once wars and displacement began only
5% of a population would be left to defend themselves. In order to protect what
little community they had left, a lot of Native tribes signed peace treaties
with European powers. The treaties promised Native peoples the rights to hunt
in their assigned territories and fair and equal treatment under the law. The
treaties also set aside small areas of land where the natives could live
undisturbed by settlers, these areas were called reservations. However, despite
the written agreements between both native and European powers, a lot of
treaties were broken or were ignored all together. This meant that the small
amount of land that natives were able to hunt on outside of their reservation
was taken away and a lot of times they were forced to move to even smaller,
less hospitable areas to make more room for settlers.

with forced migration, settlers began what were called “Indian Boarding Schools”.
Native American boarding schools were established during the late 19th
and early 20th centuries for Native American children and youth in
order to teach them about Euro-American traditions and practices. The first of
these schools were established Christian missionaries. Children at these
schools were typically immersed for years on end in European-American culture.
Some of the changes they had to undergo included haircuts, being forbidden from
speaking in their native languages, and the replacement of traditional names
with more “Christian” names. These schools were often harsh, especially for the
younger children who were forcibly separated from their families. A large
number of children who entered these schools died from diseases such as
smallpox and measles which spread fast in the over cramped dorms. Those who did
make it home usually could no longer speak their native language and so by the
mid-20th century, most Native American languages had died with the
last of their speakers. Only 150 Native languages remain of the original 700 or

addition to loss of language and culture, Native American’s also lost their
religious beliefs through the spread of Christianity from colonizers. For a few
years, Native people were able to live peacefully without much interference
from settlers in terms of their religious practices. This is because Europeans
considered their lack of Christianity to be due to a lack of civilization that
would allow them to comprehend the Christian religion. Native American people
were made to feel inferior due to their religious practices. Some of these
religious practices included respect for nature, long natural hair, and a
belief in the connection of people to the earth. These beliefs were very
different from those of the Europeans. In terms of nature, Europeans believed
that the Earth was made for them to use how they want; Native Americans saw the
Earth as their mother and just as how one would not abuse or mistreat their
mother they believed that to mistreat the Earth was to mistreat one’s own
mother. Natives were forced to convert to Christianity or risk losing their
lives. However, if they did convert to Christianity they were ostracized from
their tribe and therefore lost their friends and family. At the time of
European settlement, Europeans had begun to cut their hair short with the
latest fashion trends. This trend followed them to America where they forced
the Native people to do the same. A lot of the problems that Native Americans
currently face, such as obesity and unemployment stem from losing not only
their culture, but their people and their land as well


             Native groups always suffer under
the hands of the colonizer. Whether it is for greed for simply for a show of
power, the same story plays out time and time again throughout history. Similar
to how the Native Americans were killed and their land was taken, and how the
Aztecs were completely wiped out by the Spanish; Korea also faced atrocities
under Japanese rule.

             When a colonial nation invades
another nation-moral ambiguity of the issue aside- they gain access to the
invaded country’s financial and economic aspects. The same is true for Japan’s
invasion of Korea. Prior to the official annexation of Korea, Japan began land
surveying for the consolidation of their colonial economic system. In 1912, the
Government-General established laws that granted the Japanese ownership over
all Korean land. With this land, Japan began a large-scale resettlement program
wherein 98,000 Japanese families settled in Korea prior to 1918 (Ministry of
Culture and Tourism). This meant that Korean farmers were forced to work for
the Japanese government and were constantly on the brink of starvation. In addition
to the hardships faced by farmers, an estimated 724,727 Korean workers were
sent to mainland Japan, Sakhalin, and the Pacific Islands as forced labor in
mining, construction and shipbuilding.

             While in theory, Koreans, as
technical subjects of the Japanese empire, should have enjoyed the same status
as Japanese citizens, this was not the case. Instead, the Japanese government
treated Koreans as a conquered people and attempted to destroy as many aspects
of Native Korean culture as possible. However, in order to prevent a resistance
from growing with the Korean people, the Japanese Government-General was very
careful when it came to public awareness and education. The Ministry of Culture
and Tourism states “Thus, in a nationwide search conducted in 1910 for books on
Korean history and geography, between 200,000 and 300,000 were confiscated
and burned. Some confiscated materials included Korean readers, biographies of
national heroes, and Korean translations of foreign books relating to
independence, nationalism and revolution. Japan also ordered historians at the
Research Department of the Southern Manchurian Railroad Company were ordered by
Japanese officials to rewrite Korean history in order to prevent nationalism. The History of the Korean Peninsula
written in 1915 is one example of the books written by these historians.

             Japan further expanded its control
in the area of education. As the Ministry of Culture and Tourism states that
the Japanese attempt to annihilate the Korean national consciousness was even
more conspicuous in educational policy. Many schools were closed leaving 90% of
the youth uneducated and illiterate. Between the years of 1910 and 1922 the
number of private schools dropped dramatically from 2,000 to around 600.

atrocity that Koreans faced under Japanese rule was the use of “comfort women”.
It is estimated that 200,000 Korean women were forced into sexual servitude by
the Japanese military. Often times girls were packed into trains and sent to
the front lines of the war in the Pacific and were forced to work in Japanese
military brothels. These girls were taken to shacks near the frontlines and
only given a blanket on the floor, they were identified by numbers instead of
names and were often times drugged and beaten before being raped. One survivor,
Yun Doo Ri gave a gruesome account of her experiences as a “comfort woman”:

my cuts and bruises had healed slightly, they put me back

the same room. Another officer was waiting for me. They must

warned him about me. He did not wait and did not give me a

even to think of protesting. He swiftly knocked me down,

started pushing his thing inside of me. It happened all so fast. I

myself bleeding. I wasn’t even sure where the blood was

from. I only felt pain. Something in my body was torn apart.

I put
my teeth into his cheek. Now we were both bleeding, he from

face and I, somewhere below . . . I was fifteen.”

other countries in Japan’s empire had “comfort women” Korea provided the most,
with most of the women being tricked into thinking that they would be working
in factories or hospitals. Still other women were seized by soldiers who were
sent to villages to collect virgins. Many of the “comfort women” died in the
brothels from disease or malnourishment.

             In conclusion, while both Koreans
and Native Americans faced atrocities under colonial rule both faced them in
different ways, with a lot of the atrocities differing due to era differences.
Although, Koreans went through such a horrifying time of destruction and death,
Korea has become a powerful nation and is the 11th nominal GDP in
the world. While Native American’s are slowly taking back their culture and
land and embracing what made them different from the colonizers that stole
their identity form them.


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