Archive for the ‘Exploration’ Category

Columbus’ first impressions of Native Americans

At the time of the first discoveries, Europeans tended to view the New World from one of two contrasting perspectives. Many saw America as an earthly paradise, where the native peoples led lives of simplicity and freedom similar to those enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the Biblical Garden of Eden. Other Europeans described America in a much more negative light: as a dangerous and forbidding wilderness, a place of cannibalism and human misery, where the population lacked Christian religion and the trappings of civilization. But it was the positive view of America as a land of liberty, liberation, and material wealth that would remain dominant. In a letter reporting his discoveries to Luis de Sant Angel, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the King and Queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) paints a portrait of the indigenous Taino Indians as living lives of freedom and innocence.

As you read the following excerpt, consider the following questions:
1. Analyze why Columbus would want to describe the natives as he does in a communication to the Spanish court.
2. In what descriptions does Columbus betray a patronizing attitude? How does this judgment influence Spanish behavior on Hispaniola?
3. How would you characterize the Natives’ attitudes toward possessions?

Two excerpts from the journal of Cristofero Colon, dated 1492 and 1493:

As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk’s bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent.

Painting of a Taino
It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.

…The people of this island [Hispaniola] and of all the other islands which I have found and seen, or have not seen, all go naked, men and women, as their mothers bore them, except that some women cover one place with the leaf of a plant or with a net of cotton which they make for that purpose. They have no iron or steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well-built people of handsome stature, because they are wondrous timid. They have no other arms than the arms of canes, [cut] when they are in seed time, to the end of which they fix a sharp little stick; and they dare not make use of these, for oftentimes it has happened that I have sent ashore two or three men to some town to have speech, and people without number have come out to them, as soon as they saw them coming, they fled; even a father would not stay for his son; and this was not because wrong had been done to anyone; on the contrary, at every point where I have been and have been able to have speech, I have given them of all that I had, such as cloth and many other things, without receiving anything for it; but they are like that, timid beyond cure. It is true that after they have been reassured and have lost this fear, they are so artless and so free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts; and whether the thing be of value or of small price, at once they are content with whatever little thing of whatever kind may be given to them. I forbade that they should be given things so worthless as pieces of broken crockery and broken glass, and lace points, although when they were able to get them, they thought they had the best jewel in the world. Even bits of the broken hoops of wine casks they accepted, and gave in return what they had, like fools, and it seemed wrong to me. I forbade it, and gave a thousand good and pretty things that I had to win their love, and to induce them to become Christians, and to love and serve their Highnesses and the whole Castilian nation… And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in heaven, and in this belief they everywhere received me, after they had overcome their fear. And this does not result from their being ignorant (for they are of a very keen intelligence and men who navigate all those seas, so that it is wondrous the good account they give of everything), but because they have never seen people clothed or ships like ours. Directly I reached the Indies in the first isle I discovered, I took by force some of the natives, that from them we might gain some information of what there was in these parts; and so it was that we immediately understood each other, either by words or signs. They are still with me and still believe that I come from heaven. They were the first to declare this wherever I went, and the others ran from house to house, and to the towns around, crying out, “Come! Come! And see the men from heaven!”

Link for further information:
First Voyage of Columbus: Meeting the Islanders (1492)

Excerpt: Papal Bull Inter Caetera of 1493

Columbus’ return to the Iberian peninsula intensified the rivalry between Spain and Portugal. Apparently, he landed in Portugal, and gave details about his travels in the Caribbean when he was invited to the Portugese court on March 4, 1493. Upon hearing Columbus’ tale, King John II of Portugal claimed the lands Columbus and his crew had discovered under the terms of the Treaty of Alcacovas of 1479 and the Papal bull Aeterni regis of 1481 issued by Pope Sixtus IV. A Papal bull is an formal proclamation or order from the Pope.

Ferdinand and Isabella reported the news of the discovery to Pope Alexander VI, who was by birth a Spaniard. Alexander VI issued a Papal bull, Inter caetaera, which supported the Spanish claim to the lands claimed by Columbus while granting the Portugese a share of the new lands as well. Therefore, Inter Caetera established a dividing line running from the North Pole to the South Pole along 38 degrees west latitude. Ferdinand and Isabella eventually entered into negotiations with Portugal in the Spanish town of Tordesillas, which moved the dividing line further west to a latitude of 46 degrees, 37 minutes west latitude, thus giving Portugal claim to what would later become Brazil.

As you read, consider this question: Under what justification does the Pope believe that he has the right to distribute ownership of the non-European world?

Inter Caetera, 1493
Pope Alexander VI

Alexander, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the illustrious sovereigns, our very dear son in Christ, Ferdinand, king, and our very dear daughter in Christ, Isabella, queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, and Granada, health and apostolic benediction.

Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.

Wherefore inasmuch as by the favor of divine clemency, we, though of insufficient merits, have been called to this Holy See of Peter, recognizing that as true Catholic kings and princes, such as we have known you always to be, and as your illustrious deeds already known to almost the whole world declare, you not only eagerly desire but with every effort, zeal, and diligence, without regard to hardships, expenses, dangers, with the shedding even of your blood, are laboring to that end; recognizing also that you have long since dedicated to this purpose your whole soul and all your endeavors — as witnessed in these times with so much glory to the Divine Name in your recovery of the kingdom of Granada from the yoke of the Saracens — we therefore are rightly led, and hold it as our duty, to grant you even of our own accord and in your favor those things whereby with effort each day more hearty you may be enabled for the honor of God himself and the spread of the Christian rule to carry forward your holy and praiseworthy purpose so pleasing to immortal God.

We have indeed learned that you, who for a long time had intended to seek out and discover certain islands and mainlands remote and unknown and not hitherto discovered by others, to the end that you might bring to the worship of our Redeemer and the profession of the Catholic faith their residents and inhabitants, having been up to the present time greatly engaged in the siege and recovery of the kingdom itself of Granada were unable to accomplish this holy and praiseworthy purpose; but the said kingdom having at length been regained, as was pleasing to the Lord, you, with the wish to fulfill your desire, chose our beloved son, Christopher Columbus, a man assuredly worthy and of the highest recommendations and fitted for so great an undertaking, whom you furnished with ships and men equipped for like designs, not without the greatest hardships, dangers, and expenses, to make diligent quest for these remote and unknown mainlands and islands through the sea, where hitherto no one had sailed; and they at length, with divine aid and with the utmost diligence sailing in the ocean sea, discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered by others; wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace, and, as reported, going unclothed, and not eating flesh. Moreover, as your aforesaid envoys are of opinion, these very peoples living in the said islands and countries believe in one God, the Creator in heaven, and seem sufficiently disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals.

And it is hoped that, were they instructed, the name of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, would easily be introduced into the said countries and islands. Also, on one of the chief of these aforesaid islands the said Christopher has already caused to be put together and built a fortress fairly equipped, wherein he has stationed as garrison certain Christians, companions of his, who are to make search for other remote and unknown islands and mainlands. In the islands and countries already discovered are found gold, spices, and very many other precious things of divers kinds and qualities. Wherefore, as becomes Catholic kings and princes, after earnest consideration of all matters, especially of the rise and spread of the Catholic faith, as was the fashion of your ancestors, kings of renowned memory, you have purposed with the favor of divine clemency to bring under your sway the said mainlands and islands with their residents and inhabitants and to bring them to the Catholic faith. Hence, heartily commending in the Lord this your holy and praiseworthy purpose, and desirous that it be duly accomplished, and that the name of our Savior be carried into those regions, we exhort you very earnestly in the Lord and by your reception of holy baptism, whereby you are bound to our apostolic commands, and by the bowels of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, enjoin strictly, that inasmuch as with eager zeal for the true faith you design to equip and despatch this expedition, you purpose also, as is your duty, to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion; nor at any time let dangers or hardships deter you therefrom, with the stout hope and trust in your hearts that Almighty God will further your undertakings.

And, in order that you may enter upon so great an undertaking with greater readiness and heartiness endowed with the benefit of our apostolic favor, we, of our own accord, not at your instance nor the request of anyone else in your regard, but of our own sole largess and certain knowledge and out of the fullness of our apostolic power, by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us in blessed Peter and of the vicarship of Jesus Christ, which we hold on earth, do by tenor of these presents, should any of said islands have been found by your envoys and captains, give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south, no matter whether the said mainlands and islands are found and to be found in the direction of India or towards any other quarter, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde. With this proviso however that none of the islands and mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, beyond that said line towards the west and south, be in the actual possession of any Christian king or prince up to the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ just past from which the present year one thousand four hundred and ninety-three begins. And we make, appoint, and depute you and your said heirs and successors lords of them with full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind; with this proviso however, that by this our gift, grant, and assignment no right acquired by any Christian prince, who may be in actual possession of said islands and mainlands prior to the said birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, is hereby to be understood to be withdrawn or taken away.

Treaty of Tordesillas Map
DEMARCATION LINE BETWEEN SPANISH AND PORTUGESE POSSESSIONS

Moreover we command you in virtue of holy obedience that, employing all due diligence in the premises, as you also promise — nor do we doubt your compliance therein in accordance with your loyalty and royal greatness of spirit — you should appoint to the aforesaid mainlands and islands worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and experienced men, in order to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals. Furthermore, under penalty of excommunication late sententie to be incurred ipso facto, should anyone thus contravene, we strictly forbid all persons of whatsoever rank, even imperial and royal, or of whatsoever estate, degree, order, or condition, to dare, without your special permit or that of your aforesaid heirs and successors, to go for the purpose of trade or any other reason to the islands or mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole to the Antarctic pole, no matter whether the mainlands and islands, found and to be found, lie in the direction of India or toward any other quarter whatsoever, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south, as is aforesaid, from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde; apostolic constitutions and ordinances and other decrees whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding….

Links for more information:
Papal bull
Aeterni regis

Vocabulary for this post:
apostolic
benediction
exalted
barbarous
Holy See
Saracen
garrison
clemency
largess
tenor (number 3)
league(definition 2)
due diligence– a legal term
ipso facto,from the Latin
contravene

Facts about the Lewis and Clark Expedition

PBS has a wonderful companion website to its Ken Burns documentary about Lewis and Clark. It is found here: http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/index.html

In particular, you want to go here http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/living/index.html  and read about the historical significance of the Lewis and Clark expedition (there is a hyperlink at the bottom of this page you can use)– one of the historians interviewed is my old professor from TU, James Ronda!

The fascinating life of Sacagawea’s son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau: http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/inside/jchar.html

 

 

 

Historian Alfred Crosby discusses the Columbian Exchange

Go to this link http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nattrans/ntecoindian/essays/columbian.htm

and take notes over the questions below:

1. How have humans reversed the ancient trend of biodiversification?

2. What group of people first introduced new species to the Americas?

3. Crosby discusses European motives and intentions in their explorations in the Western Hemisphere. What were the motives Crosby lists for the initiation of contact by Europeans in the Americas? What does he describe as their intentions?

4. How does Crosby categorize where differences were most acute among the four continents considered in the Columbian Exchange?

The Depopulation of the Indies

As you read, consider the following questions:
1. Summarize how the author describes the character of the Indian natives.
2. By describing why he believes the Taino are not greedy, what implicit indictment does de las Casas make against the conquistadores?
3. Quantify what effect de las Casas claims the Spanish had upon the Taino population.

Excerpt from A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1542
Bartolomeo de las Casas

And of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve. They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world. And because they are so weak and complaisant, they are less able to endure heavy labor and soon die of no matter what malady. The sons of nobles among us, brought up in the enjoyments of life’s refinements, are no more delicate than are these Indians, even those among them who are of the lowest rank of laborers. They are also poor people, for they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods. For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy. Their repasts are such that the food of the holy fathers in the desert can scarcely be more parsimonious, scanty, and poor. As to their dress, they are generally naked, with only their pudenda covered somewhat. And when they cover their shoulders it is with a square cloth no more than two varas in size. They have no beds, but sleep on a kind of matting or else in a kind of suspended net called bamacas. They are very clean in their persons, with alert, intelligent minds, docile and open to doctrine, very apt to receive our holy Catholic faith, to be endowed with virtuous customs, and to behave in a godly fashion. And once they begin to hear the tidings of the Faith, they are so insistent on knowing more and on taking the sacraments of the Church and on observing the divine cult that, truly, the missionaries who are here need to be endowed by God with great patience in order to cope with such eagerness. Some of the secular Spaniards who have been here for many years say that the goodness of the Indians is undeniable and that if this gifted people could be brought to know the one true God they would be the most fortunate people in the world.

Illustration for De las Casas book
Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days. And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during the past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.

The island of Cuba is nearly as long as the distance between Valladolid and Rome; it is now almost completely depopulated. San Juan [Puerto Rico] and Jamaica are two of the largest, most productive and attractive islands; both are now deserted and devastated. On the northern side of Cuba and Hispaniola he the neighboring Lucayos comprising more than sixty islands including those called Gigantes, beside numerous other islands, some small some large. The least felicitous of them were more fertile and beautiful than the gardens of the King of Seville. They have the healthiest lands in the world, where lived more than five hundred thousand souls; they are now deserted, inhabited by not a single living creature. All the people were slain or died after being taken into captivity and brought to the Island of Hispaniola to be sold as slaves. When the Spaniards saw that some of these had escaped, they sent a ship to find them, and it voyaged for three years among the islands searching for those who had escaped being slaughtered , for a good Christian had helped them escape, taking pity on them and had won them over to Christ; of these there were eleven persons and these I saw.

More than thirty other islands in the vicinity of San Juan are for the most part and for the same reason depopulated, and the land laid waste. On these islands I estimate there are 2,100 leagues of land that have been ruined and depopulated, empty of people.
As for the vast mainland, which is ten times larger than all Spain, even including Aragon and Portugal, containing more land than the distance between Seville and Jerusalem, or more than two thousand leagues, we are sure that our Spaniards, with their cruel and abominable acts, have devastated the land and exterminated the rational people who fully inhabited it. We can estimate very surely and truthfully that in the forty years that have passed, with the infernal actions of the Christians, there have been unjustly slain more than twelve million men, women, and children. In truth, I believe without trying to deceive myself that the number of the slain is more like fifteen million.

Links for more information:
The Indigenous Legacy of the Caribbean
Surviving Columbus in Puerto Rico

Vocabulary for this post:
guileless
duplicity
devoid
rancors
complaisant
malady
repast
parsimonious
docile
secular
ravening
felicitous
infernal

Aztec Impression of the Conquistadores: The Messengers’ Report

The Encounter between Native and European was certainly not one-sided. The Aztecs have also left behind a record of their impressions of the Spanish. Montezuma sent messengers to meet with Cortés, to present him gifts and greetings. Cortés responded with as de las Casas described: by discharging his weapons in an attempt to awe the natives. The messengers reported back to Montezuma their impressions, which had a strong effect upon the great warrior.

As you read, consider the following questions:
1. Compare the impression the Aztecs had with that of the Europeans. What characteristics did each find remarkable about the other? What does this indicate about the cultures of each group?
2. How might Montezuma’s reaction have contributed to the Spanish conquest of the Americas?
3. What do you think was the purpose of the dogs? Why would the Spanish bring dogs with them?

The Messengers’ Report, 1519

[Montezuma] was also terrified to learn how the cannon roared, how its noise resounded, how it caused one to faint and grow deaf. The messengers told him: “A thing like a ball of stone comes out of its entrails: it comes out shooting sparks and raining fire. The smoke that comes out of it has a pestilential odor, like that of rotten mud. This odor penetrates even to the brain and causes the greatest discomfort. If the cannon is aimed against a mountain, the mountain splits and cracks open. If it is aimed against a tree, it shatters the tree into splinters. This is a most unnatural sight, as if the tree had exploded from within.”

The messengers also said: “Their trappings and arms are all made of iron. They dress in iron and wear iron casques [helmets] on their heads. Their swords are iron; their bows are iron; their shields are iron; their spears are iron. Their deer carry them on their backs wherever they wish to go. These deer, our lord, are as tall as the roof of a house.

“The strangers’ bodies are completely covered, so that only their faces can be seen. Their skin is white, as if it were made of lime. They have yellow hair, though some of them have black. Their beards are long and yellow, and their moustaches are also yellow. Their hair is curly, with very fine strands.

“Their dogs are enormous, with flat ears and long, dangling tongues. The color of their eyes is a burning yellow; their eyes flash fire and shoot off sparks. Their bellies are hollow, their flanks long and narrow. They are tireless and very powerful. They bound here and there, panting, with their tongues hanging out. And they are spotted like an ocelot.”

When [Montezuma] heard this report, he was filled with terror. It was as if his heart had fainted, as if it had shriveled. It was as if he were conquered by despair.

Links for further information:
Belize and Ambergri Caye: The Aztec Acount of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico

Was the Homestead Act a success?

Before the passage of the Homestead Act, the Great Plains had often been referred to by geographers as “The Great American Desert” due to its common pattern of drought and generally arid conditions. However, once the Homestead Act was passed, the area along the 1ooth Meridian was often advertised, especially by the railroads and their land agents, as a veritable paradise. In reality, this was a place of long droughts and sudden downpours, although the snowstorm and thunderstorms never managed to counterbalance the drought.

What were the problems with the Homestead Act? Was 160 acres enough land to support a family in the “desert” of the Great Plains? That number had been chosen because it was more than adequate for the support of a family in the Ohio Valley. But the Great Plains had entirely different soil, topography, and climate, with very little surface water available, fewer trees, and limited technology at the time to do anything about it.

First, go here: http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/stories/0501_0206.html

Of course, some scientists tried to warn about the ecological disaster that could ensue. One of these was John Wesley Powell, a fascinating character in his own right who explored much of the Desert Southwest, including the Colorado River, even though he only had one arm. Powell warned that large settlements dependent upon agriculture would not really be possible west of the 100th Meridian— the western boundary of Oklahoma and Texas.

 

Unfortunately, more people believed a discredited theory of climatology that “the rain follows the plow.” The general idea was that, once the plows of the settlers turned over the original sod, moisture would be released into the air, priming the water cycle and increasing rainfall. I know– crazy! However, just by chance, the 1870s and 1880s were unusually wet, and so many people, including some who called themselves scientists, considered this fluke of weather to be proof of man-made climate change.

Read this: http://geography.about.com/od/learnabouttheearth/a/100thmeridian.htm

Of course, eventually, encouraging thousands of small farms on the Great Plains would have devastating ecological consequences: The Dust Bowl of the 1930s: http://www.eoearth.org/article/Dust_Bowl