Mythologies of Conquest: Demystifying Amerindian Warfare and European Triumphalism in the Americas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Despite centuries of scholarship regarding Amerindian warfare, both academic and public narratives that address the European conquest of the Americas privilege the absolute and total conquest and subjugation of the American Indian. As such, the legitimate Amerindian role in the conquest of the New World empires has entered the fray, and this in large part is due to the academy’s failure to consider more fully the role of Indian militias and allies, or  indios amigos . In those contexts where Indian militias are discussed, their role is generally treated as cursory, or in the case of Mexican nationalist narratives, as an utter betrayal of Amerindian self determination. In an effort to reassert the role of the Amerindian warrior in assuring self-autonomy and assuming defense against European forces throughout the Americas, this essay will address three primary themes. First, we introduce that pervasive mythology of conquest that reifies the wholesale destruction of the Amerindian past, and one defined solely in terms of its relevance to European triumphalism, and Amerindian subjugation, subordination, and cultural annihilation or extinction. Second, we address the implications of an ascendant body of new and revisionist scholarship that clearly chronicles and privileges the pervasive role of Amerindian militias and allied indigenous kingdoms in the authentic conquest of the Americas. Finally, we review a select sampling of those military engagements in which Amerindian forces won decisive military contests against European belligerents in the Americas. Ultimately, we contend that prevailing public and scholarly narratives that seek to pacify the Amerindian past are in effect predominantly Eurocentric creations that continue to tout an Amerindian past borne of little more than collective martyrology over substance and historical authenticity.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of Anthropology and Amerindian Research: Reporting on Environmental Degradation and Warfare
StatePublished - 2012


  • UNESCO World Heritage
  • Spanish Colonial
  • Spanish Conquest
  • Military Tactic
  • Social Violence


  • Anthropology
  • Archaeological Anthropology

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