1. Like many such proclamations and treaties the title…..Laws of Burgos…is based on a location. The document was formerly published in Burgos, Spain in 1512.
2. The laws were the first code of conduct governing how Native Americans should be treated in the Americas by Spanish foreigners in America.
3. At first the laws only included the island of Hispanola, but later Puerto Rico and Jamaica was included.
4. The laws addressed the mistreatment of natives and called for their conversion to Catholicism.
5. The laws were rarely enforced making the Laws of Burgos of little value.
6. The laws called for encomiendas…..a labor system where a Spanish citizen was granted a certain number of natives they became responsible for. Basically in exchange for religious instruction the receiver of the encomienda could exact tribute from the Natives including labor, gold or other products.
7. The laws were written due to the reports of Domingo de Mendoza, the cardinal archbishop of Seville regarding abuse of the American Indians.
8. The Laws of Burgos consists of 35 laws.
9. One of the laws regarding teaching the Native Americans about Christianity mandated they would be taught the Ten Commandments, the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Articles of Faith, however, the 14th law stated the Natives had the right to perform their sacred dances.
10. The 2nd law is rather interesting…..”The Indians will leave their land voluntarily to come to the ecomiendas so that they shall not suffer from being removed by force.”
11. The 13th law involved gold….”Indians in an ecomienda must search for gold for five months a year and at the end of the five months are allowed to rest for 40 days.
12. The ecomienda system was not new to some of the Natives….the former Incan Empire had a similar system in their culture. Conquistadors and soldiers were not the only ones who maintained ecomiendas. Women and even some notable Native Americans maintained them including Montezuma’s daughters.
13. The sad thing is the Laws of Burgos did nothing to actually help Native Americans. It was just a first in a long series of empty gestures that took place over and over and over.
You can see the actual wording of the Laws of Burgos here.
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