ORIGIN MYTHS FROM MAINSTREAM AMERICA
NOT LONG AFTER Columbus' triumphant return home, Europe began to buzz with a new question: Where did those "Indians" come from?
Columbus thought that maybe they lived on the threshold of the Garden of Eden. The Bible clearly stated that every living human was descended directly from Adam and Eve. Since only Noah and his immediate family survived the flood, the Indians either descended directly from Noah's family or were subhuman. Until the publication of On the Origin of Species, most Euroamerican thinkers agreed that human beings were a fairly recent creation and that the distribution of people across the globe could be attributed to specific migrations of Biblical peoples.
How, then, had the Indians fallen so far from their civilized state? Some believed that sin had reduced Indians to savagery; others blamed the American environment. Either way, as Indians were forced to wander in an untamed wasteland, suffering privation and beleaguered by risk, they had lost their knowledge, their religion, and all the rudiments of society they once enjoyed.