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[Detail] Discovery of the Mississippi: By Ferdinand De Soto

Historical Research Capabilities: The Debate on the Treatment of Indians

Following their conquest of large areas of the Americas, the Spanish disagreed about whether the Native Americans they encountered were rational human beings and whether attempts should be made to convert them to Christianity, either forcibly or through persuasion. The debate peaked in 1550, when King Charles V convened a junta, a group of jurists and theologians, to hear arguments regarding the Christianization of Native Americans. Research the conflicting arguments made by Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda regarding the treatment of Indians in colonial Spanish America that were “debated” in Valladolid in 1550.

  • What arguments were put forth by las Casas and Ginés de Sepúlveda? In your opinion, which arguments are most compelling? Why?
  • What position did Emperor Charles V adopt following the “debate”?
  • To what extent did the official policy adopted by Charles V change settlers’ relations with the Indians in New Spain?