It was a great year, just not for the reason you think. When asked what wonderous thing happened in 1492, the average government programed individual will either mumble something about the first year of the Super Bowl, or he'll reach back and recall something about discovering America.
Now, ignoring the fact that man can't really discover a place that other men have already lived for centuries, we need to discuss what actually happened that year.
It's true that a European sailed out and landed on, eventually, the coast of America. That however is not what's important historically. What is important, is that 1492, was the year Modern Man, stood face to face, with Pre-Historic Man.
While Modern Man was navigating with the Stars, The Noble Indians had not yet discovered the Wheel. Go back and read that sentence again, I want to make sure that burrows into your skull. These "people" had no written language, unless by written language, you mean cave drawings. They hunted with rocks and sticks for crying out loud! Imagine how freaked out these "people" were when they saw these boats! Or the wagons being unloaded! I can hear them now... "WHOA! Dude! Look at that! That thing... that they move stuff in! That's a great idea!" Not to mention things like armor or swords. Kinda makes me wonder why Custer's boys didn't have platemail. Sure as hell worked for Cortez. But I digress...
When you hear an archiologist talk about how interesting it would be to examine the lives of prehistoric men, laugh in his face. It's quite simple to do that very thing. All we need to do is take a look at the way the Noble Indians lived in the 16th century! For cryin' out loud, these people are probly on a few hundered years removed from the discovery of fire!
What else would you call these people if not Savages? Today we romantisize them to the point that most people actually believe they were as advanced as the Europeans that found them. BAH!
And what of thier plight? When two cultures clash, the most advanced culture absorbes and assimilates the lesser culture and brings it's people up to speed. See Greece and Rome... or the entire catalog of human history for that matter. The plight of the Noble Indians is directly related to the Bleeding Hearts who were convinced they knew a better way of handling the issue.
The most human way to deal with a culture clash is to get it over with. We'd do good to remember that.