As Europeans tried to place American Indians into a cognitive space that was consistent with their world view, two concepts arose that continue to color discourse about Indians. Because they could not conceive how Native Americans could have descended from Adam and Eve, some Europeans believed them to be innocent of original sin and characterized them as being more pure than previously known races of men. Others, however, speculated that they were not human at all and characterized them as a perverse, devilish creation. The clash between these two views was officially settled in 1551 when the Catholic Church declared Indians to be human and to possess souls, but images of the Noble Savage and the Ignoble Savage remained fixed in the European imagination.

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