In honor (kind of) of Columbus Day, which just became Indigenous Peoples day in my city, it's important to absolve ourselves of a little white guilt. Yes Columbus was a racist asshole. Yes the white settlers enslaved where they could, raped as they would, and generally stuck their dick in this entire hemisphere. The actions of most colonists and conquistadors of unconscionable. But what your school may have brushed over is why is was able to happen in the first place. You probably remember that disease killed off many First Nation people from school. What was probably never brought home for you was how "many" was "many." Around 90%, maybe 95%. Small pox alone accounted for nearly 40% of the deaths. And this was set in motion, just with the arrival of the first conquerors in the New World. San Salvador, where Columbus first landed saw a 99% reduction in native population over the first 100 years. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth the first village they found had been completely wiped out by disease about two weeks prior. Without those steep drops in population the appropriation of Native could never have taken place. They died out and we moved into their land. The population of New York when the Pilgrims landed was around 100,000, when the Dutch landed 70 years later, it was down to 9,000. And nothing could have been done about it. It doesn't matter what kind of person Columbus was, or Cortes or Pizarro. The meeting of the old and new world was inevitable, someone was going to bridge that gap, in 1492 or 2492, and when they did they were going to bring small pox, measles, rubella, diphtheria and polio. The advances that allowed us do treat those diseased relied on technology from the new world. We couldn't have developed vaccines without rubber, as a for instance. And rubber is a new world commodity. The domination of the First Nations is a tragedy, but it's made all the more tragic because there is absolutely nothing that could have been done to stop it. We are living in the midst of a disease wasteland.