María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University and the author of
Savages Welcomed: Imputations of Indigenous Humanity in Early Colonialisms
2016. "Savages Welcomed: Imputations of Indigenous Humanity in Early Colonialisms", Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States, María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo
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In this chapter I analyze the distinct terms by which colonial powers imputed humanity onto indigenous peoples in New Spain and New England. During the sixteenth-century Junta de Valladolid, Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda debated the quality of indigenous humanity and established the terms for the Indians' incorporation into the Spanish Empire. Seventeenth-century sermons and political treatises by British settlers in New England imputed humanity to indigenous peoples in terms of equal but separate sovereignties and were foundational to the construction of eighteenth-century anticolonial U.S. revolutionary rhetoric. Together, these European imputations of indigenous humanity facilitated the continued conquest of America in radically different terms. In this chapter I argue that Spanish colonists figured the Indian as potential friend and convert, while Anglo-American colonists figured the indigenous as equal owners of private property due political sovereignty. Autonomy and sovereignty as distinct models of indigenous political agency derive genealogically, I argue, from these imputations.