It’s impossible to fully understand what it would’ve been like when the first Europeans landed on the shores of the New World. Everything is difficult and different and unknown when cultures clash.
It’s not just verbal communication, which everyone assumes is the difficult aspect of this sort of meeting. But it’s actually the non-verbal queues. Take this video from Papua New Guinea, for example. Almost immediately, the white man holds out his hand for a handshake, which in his culture is the universal sign for a non-threatening greeting. But watch as the tribespeople don’t know what to do with that gesture. For all they know, that could be a sign of aggression towards them.
Take the time to watch this entire 15-minute video. It’s incredibly fascinating. If you don’t have time now, then bookmark and comeback later to discuss.
Around the 4:30 mark, as one commenter on YouTube points out, it’s like the tribesmen were trying to wipe the white off the strangers. And to a degree that’s true. Imagine for a moment you’re in New Jersey and you encounter an orange person. Until you touch them repeatedly — short touches at first and then progressively longer — you might think they have a virus, or there is something wrong with them.
But who knows what the tribespeople were thinking, or what they were hoping to understand about the stranger. It’s all very new and unknown! It’s exciting and scary!
Then, later in the video, the white person busts out a box of matches and teaches the tribespeople how to use them, which might as well have been the equivalent of demonstrating his dark magic powers.
The groups share other tools, and then the white guy shares a pot of white rice with the tribal group. They don’t like it at first, so he sprinkles some salt over it. They try it again and then begin to hit their head with their fist, which is a sign of them liking it. But how would the white guy know that?
This video is so beautiful, so full of spirit, and yet it’s tinged with sadness. That tribe in Papua New Guinea has never been the same. That chance encounter with a white man changed them forever.
Better this encounter happened in 1976, because if it happened in 1492 the snuff film woulda lasted all of 30 seconds. (via reddit)