Native American slavery has been nearly a taboo topic. But author Andres Resendez has brought forth a comprehensive look at how, although illegal, indigenous slavery was practiced by for centuries as an open secret.
No group protested, and no organized effort was made to free the tens of thousands of Native Americans who were kidnapped and enslaved by the conquistadors, thrown into the horrific 18th-century silver mines or, later, as servants for Mormons who were settling the West.
The author argues that mass slavery decimated Native American populations more than the epidemics that are generally blamed. That point is argued elsewhere in literature, but here at least, is an approachable telling of a chapter of nearly lost continental history.
We would not whitewash the role of slavery in development of the republic, as well as the Caribbean nations, South and Central America, and Mexico, but we attempt to understand it in its historical context. It’s true that some Native Americans — Choctaw, Chickasaw for example — practiced slave trading as well and were robustly involved in the African slave trade. Northwest Tlingit practiced slavery until about the time the District of Alaska was purchased from Russia by the United States.
This is where the story comes up short, and yet, the telling of the Spanish and early Anglo settlers’ involvement in Indian slave trading is well-documented and annotated. Surprisingly, considering the grimness of the subject, it is an approachable history of America told from an entirely new perspective.
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