Victims of modern imperialism: extinct ethnic groups

Drogheda445

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The period between the end of the 15th century and the middle of the 20th century marked a projection of European power across the world, not only in a political sense but also as regards culture and religion. Christianity, at one point confined the Western Europe, is now the largest religion in the world in terms of sheer numbers, regardless of particular denomination, and is now dominant to both North and South America, Oceania, the Philippines, and sub-Saharan Africa. Linguistically, Indo-European languages also maintain a considerable foothold around the world, in the Americas, Australia, the Indian Subcontinent, and as a second language throughout Africa and parts of Asia. Although the indigenous inhabitants of many areas still exist, their cultures have profoundly changed or have even been abandoned altogether. Indeed it can be said that most evident lasting presence of imperialism is in the cultural realm.

Indigenous cultures have come and gone over millenia, some gradually assimilating into the dominant one, others hybridising. But European expansion saw the elimination of cultures in a way that was absolute and often over very short periods of time. Their destruction was in many cases so immediate that they have completely faded from popular memory, even in the places where they once lived, and very few sources remain. As examples, this thread will look at three cultures, all of which were more or less annihilated in a matter of decade, and whose only traces are in the cultural identity of their modern-day descendants (with whom they otherwise share very little resemblance).

The Guanches of the Canary Islands

Almost completely forgotten about even in more detailed studies of Spanish imperial history, the Guanches were a mysterious people (probably of Berber origin) who lived on the Canary Islands for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Numbering roughly 80,000 in the 15th century, they appear to have lost most of their seafaring knowledge, and were thus completely isolated from the outside world. When Europeans finally did rediscover the islands as they sailed down the North-West coast of Africa, they found a population that was essentially Neolithic, herding sheep and goats and practising basic forms of agriculture. They were described as a tall people with fair features, although recent examination of Guanche mummies reveals that many suffered from malnutrition.



Their discovery was remarkably like that which befell the Mesoamericans a century later. The Spanish began their conquest in 1402, and lacking immunity many natives Canarians perished from European diseases. Some islands, such as Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, lacking any deep ravines for the Guanches to fall back on, were seized and conquered quickly, but in Tenerife, a very mountainous island, resistance was far stronger. The island finally fell in 1496, but not before the first Spanish expedition was decimated several years beforehand.

Their history after this is very unclear, although thousands were undoubtedly sold as slaves and sent to work in plantations in Spain's new Caribbean colonies, or in Spain itself. The rapidly diminishing population ensured that the trade in Guanches ended only a few decades later. Some continued to resist and practice their hunter-gatherer way of life, but they gradually seem to have faded from history until probably the late 16th and early 17th century when they vanished completely. Modern-day Canarians often trace some of their ancestry back to the Guanches (mostly women as men were either enslaved or slaughtered), although virtually no traces of their culture have survived to the modern day. They faded rapidly from history and indeed popular memory, to the point that very few people realise that the Canary Islands ever had an indigenous population. Spanish culture quickly dominated the island and are in essence indistinguishable from the mainland; Spain's first venture in imperialism was evidently a complete success.

The Taíno of the West Indies

The Taíno were a Native American group that were scattered across the West Indies, notably in Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Jamaica, with some related groups in the Greater Antilles. They are presumed to have migrated North from the Orinoco Delta to the islands around 600 AD, and had a thriving culture in place by the time of the Spanish arrival. The modern day nation of Haiti derives from the Taino name for the island, Ayiti (land of the tall mountains), and are the sources for a number of other placenames across the modern Caribbean. They often struggled with the neighbouring Caribs for control over the islands.



They practised a highly skilled form of agriculture, within which cassava was the staple crop, followed closely by the sweet potato. They lived in settlements known as yucayeques (some of which may have had up to 3,000 people) and their territories were divided up into kingdoms run by a chieftain (cacique), 5 of which existed on Hispaniola at the time of the Spanish arrival. Their religion, like many among Native American societies, was largely animist, and based on spirits known as cemís.

Christopher Columbus' expedition to travel west in search of Asia brought him to the Caribbean in 1492, with him first landing on an island he named San Salvador. He discovered an indigenous people who described themselves as "good" in comparison with their neighbours the Caribs, and hence the name came to be applied to the tribe. There were perhaps several million Carib scattered across the West Indies in the late 15th century, possibly up to 1 million of which lived in Hispaniola, but their population declined precipitously throughout the next century, mostly due to epidemics such as smallpox and also as a result of enslavement by the Spanish. A revolt in 1531, only a few decades after the European arrival, could barely must 3,000 people. They had been essentially eliminated as a distinct group by the 18th century.

Modern day inhabitants of the Caribbean claim to be descended from the Taíno, and certain organisations call for official recognition of a Taino tribe. This movement is particularly active in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that Taíno culture and way of life was all but eradicated centuries ago, and their destruction was one of the most thorough in all of American history.

The Aborigines of Tasmania

Aboriginal Tasmanians, known in their own language as Palawa, are among the most well known victims of imperialism in recent years, despite having been all but eliminated in the 19th century. They are known to have arrived in Tasmania tens of thousands of years ago, before the island was cut off by rising sea levels following the end of the last Ice Age. As a result their culture was markedly different from that of Mainland Australia, and a number of aboriginal tribes on smaller islands in the vicinity of Tasmania slowly perished over the millennia.

Only around 15,000 aborigines are estimated to have lived on the island prior to European arrival. Like the rest of Aboriginal society, they were hunter-gatherers. The shrinking size of the island meant bitter struggles between different tribes for land and territory, which had the effect of reducing the size of their population. The colder climate of Tasmania however, particularly in the central highland areas, meant they were generally hardier and made extensive use of animal hides. However, their complete isolation from the rest of the world, as with the examples above, made them defenceless against even the most basic European diseases.



The Dutchman Abel Tasman became the first European to sight the island in 1642, and would much later go on to give the island its name. After the discovery of Australia by the British in the late 18th century, Tasmania soon came under the control of the Empire, being colonised extensively in the early 19th century. What became known as the Black War erupted between the Aborigines and the settlers, and by the 1830s, their population was temporarily removed from the island and confined to nearby Flinders Island. Although some were allowed to return, the impact of disease had dwindled their numbers down to a near handful. The last full-blooded Tasmanian died in 1876, and the last person to fluently speak the Tasmanian language died in 1905. As a result, very little knowledge of the original culture remains.

Although Aboriginal descended people still exist in Tasmania, their culture was eliminated in a matter of decades, and to a far greater extent than even the Aborigines in mainland Australia. Very little of their society is documented, and most records of them come from Europeans with whom they came into conflict, meaning anthropological research was limited and as a result our knowledge of even the language they spoke is scattered and will likely never be known.

All of these examples were obviously not entirely the conscious work of Europeans, given the effects of disease that the native populations were previously not exposed to. Nevertheless, the arrival of European culture in several parts of the world marked the cataclysmic end of a number of others. Of course, modern imperialism was not unique to Europeans; indeed the Japanese, as they extended their hold north into Hokkaido and Sakhalin, oversaw the rapid decline of the native Ainu culture, in a similar fashion to those already mentioned. The fact remains, however, that modern global empires have witnessed an overall decline in cultural diversity around the world, and in many ways have managed to homogenise the cultural landscape (particularly in South America). The examples above are interesting in that they succeeded in thoroughly supplanting native societies, to the extent that the knowledge of them has been irretrievably lost, despite modern efforts to raise awareness of them or revive interest in their cultures.

Given this, and the effects that cultural imperialism has generally, does this it show that attempting to save endangered cultures is ultimately futile, or should diversity in the modern world be something worth preserving?
 
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between the bridges

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Good OP lad, but hardly flaming enough for P.ie...
 

Catalpast

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The Irish of Ireland are next

- this time due to immigration through Globalisation

We will be gone as a distinct Nationality by century's end....
 

between the bridges

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The Irish of Ireland are next

- this time due to immigration through Globalisation

We will be gone as a distinct Nationality by century's end....
Ffs...
 

between the bridges

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Blanchardstown is very rapidly approaching 50:50 Irish:Foreign

25 years ago it was 99% Irish

Go figure....
Thons wilde hi, teach them to riverdance and slap ball...
 

Ardillaun

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Whatever about Blanchardstown, the Beothuks of Newfoundland should be added to the list:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beothuk

TB and smallpox took their toll but starvation was a big problem when they fled inland to avoid contact with the settlers. Here is a typical story from the tribe's final years:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demasduit

The last person of full Beothuk heritage died in 1829. In recent years, I have met several people who think they are partly Beothuk - seems to be trendy now.
 
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Hitchcock

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Blanchardstown is very rapidly approaching 50:50 Irish:Foreign

25 years ago it was 99% Irish

Go figure....
And your problem is?
 

TedHankey

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Save them from what? From ourselves?
We don't have to worry about preserving other peoples, all we have to do is to leave them alone.

Btw yes it was conscious work of Europeans, entirely conscious. No Imperialists went invading and claiming the Sahara. And the Brits didn't care much about stony old Connemara. The grabbed the rich fertile places and those places rich in oil or minerals. And where they met indigenous peoples they conquered them or wiped them out. Very deliberate and yes entirely conscious.
 

Kommunist

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'All of these examples were obviously not entirely the conscious work of Europeans, given the effects of disease that the native populations were previously not exposed to. '

European empires and states literally pursued active policies of exterminating locals fairly regularly or implementing collective punishment / mass murdering the natives so I am not entirely sure if that statement stands.

Given that imperialism in the pre-industrial period was all about the complete plunder of other places, intentionally, this would clearly have had an adverse effect on the local population
 

Drogheda445

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Save them from what? From ourselves?
We don't have to worry about preserving other peoples, all we have to do is to leave them alone.

Btw yes it was conscious work of Europeans, entirely conscious. No Imperialists went invading and claiming the Sahara. And the Brits didn't care much about stony old Connemara. The grabbed the rich fertile places and those places rich in oil or minerals. And where they met indigenous peoples they conquered them or wiped them out. Very deliberate and yes entirely conscious.
Which is precisely what I mean. The people of the Sentinelese Islands for example have been left entirely to their own devices and quite honestly that is how it should remain, given how contact has worked out for societies like there's in history. Unfortunately in a globalised world the chances of such peoples being entirely undisturbed is fairly slim, despite official efforts to protect said people.

Germ theory was entirely unknown to Europeans centuries ago so yes it was unconscious in that respect. Disease spreads so rapidly and is so widespread that it can even reach certain areas long before the transmitting people make contact. The Incas were already suffering from European diseases several years before the Spanish had even arrived.
 

Hunter-Gatherer

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Blanchardstown is very rapidly approaching 50:50 Irish:Foreign

25 years ago it was 99% Irish

Go figure....
you wanna see the future of Longford, Blanchardstown, Swords, Tralee, Dundalk ? just look today at Luton, Bradford, Croydon, Darlington, Birmingham.

the future is grim.....you pay out generous dole and your go extinct.
 

johnhan278

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Rhodesians
Rhodesians are people from the southern African country Rhodesia who are white. In linguistic, cultural and historical terms, these people of European ethnic origin are divided between the English-speaking descendants of British and Irish settlers, the Afrikaans-speaking descendants of Afrikaners from South Africa, and those descended from Greek and Portuguese settlers.

A small number of people of European ethnicity first came to Southern Rhodesia as settlers during the late 19th century. A steady immigration of white people continued for about the next 75 years. The white population of Zimbabwe reached a peak of about 296,000 in 1975, representing just over four percent of the population, but numbers then started to drop, to around 120,000 in 1999, and to no more than 50,000 in 2002, possibly much less. The 2012 census lists the total white population at 28,782 (roughly 0.22% of the population), one-tenth of its 1975 estimated size.

 

Hunter-Gatherer

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Rhodesians
Rhodesians are people from the southern African country Rhodesia who are white. In linguistic, cultural and historical terms, these people of European ethnic origin are divided between the English-speaking descendants of British and Irish settlers, the Afrikaans-speaking descendants of Afrikaners from South Africa, and those descended from Greek and Portuguese settlers.

A small number of people of European ethnicity first came to Southern Rhodesia as settlers during the late 19th century. A steady immigration of white people continued for about the next 75 years. The white population of Zimbabwe reached a peak of about 296,000 in 1975, representing just over four percent of the population, but numbers then started to drop, to around 120,000 in 1999, and to no more than 50,000 in 2002, possibly much less. The 2012 census lists the total white population at 28,782 (roughly 0.22% of the population), one-tenth of its 1975 estimated size.

not sure if a 'group' named after somebodies surname does constitute an ethnic group. These are akin to those who came to Ireland in the plantation of Munster. A failed colonisation by the English.

moving on...i read somewhere that the Bantu in Africa were not thriving. Likewise the Inuit/Eskimo who seem to be putting on digital watches and abandoning their igloo's.

Also the Egyptian Coptic christians are not doing so well, along with many christian groups living in predominantly muslim countries..... not doing very well.

where does an ethnic group begin and a religion/culture end ?

for sure, the homo sapien arrival coincided with the neanderthal extinction. And dna evidence shows that all europeans are now approximately 96%-4% hybrid of the two. The more North-West you are, probably the more Neanderthal. Hence the big nose, red hair, depression, pale skin, blue eyes that are especially prevalent in Europe.

what a shame the true neanderthals are all gone. Wouldn't it be fascinating to know them ?
 
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Cellachán Chaisil

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Blanchardstown is very rapidly approaching 50:50 Irish:Foreign

25 years ago it was 99% Irish

Go figure....
Like when the Normans came?

Or the Vikings?

The previous Irish clearly disappeared, didn't they?
 


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