Elizabeth Vair Campus Event Commentary Kelley Lecture

The focus of the Kelley lecture was “The Other Slavery,” specifically, the lack of dialogue surrounding the enslavement of indigenous peoples. In the early 16th century, the combination of the silver and gold rush and Spanish laws prohibiting outsiders led Spanish settlers to turn to indigenous populations as a source of free labor. Despite 2.5 to 5 million Native Americans being enslaved between Colombus’ landing and 1900, the mental image most have when discussing slavery is the African slave trade. Why is this so? Why do we blame the disappearance of indigenous populations on smallpox epidemics, and not on the European slave trade? It is also important to note how drastically the indigenous populations dropped in regions- from 300,000 to 11,000 in the span of several decades-  especially Hispaniola. The indigenous slave trade centered heavily on women and children for labor. This demographic focus most likely contributed to the drastic population drops, yet, history does not acknowledge these atrocities and instead blames disease – something that could not have caused such a drastic drop solely by itself. History needs to acknowledge this genocide and make reparations, as our continual denial is only allowing oppression to strengthen.

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