PRIMARY SOURCE ESSAY
Like most history textbooks, HIST3 by Kevin M. Schultz gives students an excellent overall overview of different events in history. However, textbooks have to cover a lot of ground and, as a result, sometimes fail to go into much detail about specific topics. HIST3 is no different.
For this assignment, you will read the four primary sources I’ve provided at the end of this handout. (Note: “Primary sources” are old letters, diaries, government documents, etc., that provide historians with the information to write about the past.) All of these primary sources deal with Native Americans, in particular with what the first Europeans to arrive in the Americas thought of these Native Americans. After you finish reading them, compare the information you find in them with what is presented in Chapter 2 of the textbook.
The following are some questions you might want to ask yourself: what have you learned from reading the primary sources that you wouldn’t otherwise know today if you had read only the textbook? What advantages do you see primary sources providing students in their efforts to learn about the past? On the other hand, when it comes to studying the first encounters between Europeans and Native Americans, is there also an advantage to reading a textbook, as opposed to reading only primary sources? If so, what is that advantage?
Be specific as you write your paper. You should use specific examples from all four primary sources and the textbook. Use direct quotes from both, but each quote should not be longer than four lines. Please be aware that I do not want to get a paper from you that is simply one quote after another. In your paper, you should not just throw the quotes into your paper without doing anything with them. Analyze the quotes. In other words, tell me what you think the authors meant when they wrote those words.
Paper length: Your paper should be at least 900 words long. This equates to about three pages, but word count, instead of page count, should be your guide for paper length. There will be a deduction at the discretion of the instructor if you do not reach the 900-word minimum!
Paper format: Your paper should be double spaced in 12 point Times New Roman type with one inch margins. Do not insert extra lines between paragraphs. Your paper should have a header for your name and a footer for the page numbers, but it does not need a title. There will be a deduction at the discretion of the instructor for incorrect formatting!
Electronic submission: You will be submitting the essay only to Turnitin.com. You will be turning in your paper as an electronic file, so it needs to be saved as a Word document. To learn how to submit your paper to this site, please consult the section titled “How to Register at Turnitin.com” after the primary sources below.
Plagiarism on ANY written assignment (discussion questions, essays, etc.) is a very serious matter. It will result in a zero for the assignment grade on the first offense, and an “F” for the course on any subsequent offense.
Citations: You do not need a Works Cited page. You will be telling me where you got your information in the essay itself. [Example: In his letter to Luis de Santángel, Cristopher Columbus mentions that the Native Americans he saw were as naked “as their mothers bring them forth.”] When you quote from the textbook, please provide the page number at the end of the quote. [Example: According to Kevin M. Schultz in HIST3, “After Columbus, a host of other explorers set out in search of treasures in the Middle and Far East” (26).]
PRIMARY SOURCE # 1:
This document is excerpted from the journal of Columbus in his voyage of 1492. The meaning of this voyage is highly contested. On the one hand, it is witness to the tremendous vitality of late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. On the other hand, the direct result of this and later voyages was the virtual extermination, by ill treatment and disease, of the vast majority of the native inhabitants and the enormous growth of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It might not be fair to blame Columbus for all of the destructive policies that followed his voyages, but because all sides treat him as a symbol, the issue cannot be avoided.
From The Journal of Christopher Columbus (1492)
Thursday, 11 October. Steered west-southwest; and encountered a heavier sea than they had met with before in the whole voyage. Saw pardelas and a green rush near the vessel. The crew of the Pinta saw a cane and a log; they also picked up a stick which appeared to have been carved with an iron tool, a piece of cane, a plant which grows on land, and a board. The crew of the Nina saw other signs of land, and a stalk loaded with rose berries. These signs encouraged them, and they all grew cheerful. Sailed this day till sunset, twenty-seven leagues.
… At two o’clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues’ distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani. … Numbers of the people of the island straightway collected together. Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: “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. 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.” These are the words of the Admiral.
PRIMARY SOURCE # 2:
Born Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa in 1451, Christopher Columbus was a product of the revived classical learning of the Renaissance. A veteran sailor of several voyages along the West African coast, Columbus became convinced that one could sail west across the Atlantic to reach Cathay (China). Playing on Spain’s rivalry with Portugal to discover a water route to Asia, Columbus convinced the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella to give him two caravels, the Niña and thePinta, as well as the Santa Maria, a square rigger. In the summer of 1492, Columbus sailed his three vessels from the Canary Islands west into the Atlantic Ocean. Determined to reach Cathay, Columbus concluded that he had encountered “islands of India” when he struck land in the Caribbean. Columbus addressed this 1493 letter to Luis de Sant’ Angel, treasurer of Aragon, who had given him substantial help in financing his expedition. As you read this letter, try to see the world as it would have appeared to an educated, veteran ocean navigator in 1492. Even Columbus’s mathematical calculations seemed to verify his beliefs that he had reached “islands of India.”
Christopher Columbus, Letter to “Luis de Santángel” (1493)
As I know that you will have pleasure of the great victory which out Lord hath given me in my voyage, I write you this, by which you shall know that in [thirty-three] days I passed over the Indies with the fleet which the most illustrious King and Queen, our Lords, gave me: where I found very many islands peopled with inhabitants beyond number. And, of them all, I have taken possession for their Highnesses, with proclamation and the royal standard displayed; and I was not gainsaid. On the first which I found, I put the name Sant Salvador, in commemoration of His High Majesty, who marvelously hath given all this: the Indians call it [Guanhani]. The second I named the Island of Santa María de Concepción, the third Ferrandina, the fourth Fair Island, the fifth La Isla Juana; and so for each one a new name. When I reached Juana, I followed its coast westwardly, and found it so large that I thought it might be the mainland province of Cathay. And as I did not thus find any towns and villages on the seacoast, save small hamlets with the people whereof I could not get speech, because they all fled away forthwith, I went on further in the same direction, thinking I should not miss of great cities or towns. And at the end of many leagues, seeing that there was no change, . . .
[I] turned back as far as a port agreed upon; from which I sent two men into the country to learn if there were a king, or any great cities. They traveled for three days, and found interminable small villages and a numberless population, but nought of ruling authority; wherefore they returned …
The people of this island, and of all the others that I have found and seen, or not seen, all go naked, men and women, just as their mothers bring them forth; although some women cover a single place with the leaf of a plant, or a cotton something which they make for that purpose. They have no iron or steel, nor any weapons; nor are they fit thereunto; not be because they be not a well-formed people and of fair stature, but that they are most wondrously timorous. They have no other weapons than the stems of reeds in their seeding state, on the end of which they fix little sharpened stakes. Even these, they dare not use; for many times has it happened that I sent two or three men ashore to some village to parley, and countless numbers of them sallied forth, but as soon as they saw those approach, they fled away in such wise that even a father would not wait for his son. And this was not because any hurt had ever done to any of them:-but such they are, incurably timid. It is true that since they have become more assured, and are losing that terror, they are artless and generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe but him who had seen it. Of anything they have, if it be asked for, they never say no, but do rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hearts. And whether it be a thing of value, or one of little worth, they are straightways content with whatsoever trifle of whatsoever kind may be given them in return for it. I forbade that anything so worthless as fragments of broken platters, and pieces of broken glass, and strapbuckles, should be given them; although when they were able to get such things, they seemed to think they had the best jewel in the world. . . .
And they knew no sect, nor idolatry; save that they all believe that power and goodness are in the sky, and they believed very firmly that I, with these ships and crew, came from the sky; and in such opinion, they received me at every place were I landed, after they had lost their terror. And this comes not because they are ignorant; on the contrary, they are men of very subtle wit, who navigate all those seas, and who give a marvellously good account of everything-but because they never saw men wearing clothes nor the like of our ships. And as soon as I arrived in the Indies, in the first island that I found, I took some of them by force to the intent that they should learn [our speech] and give me information of what there was in those parts. And so it was, that very soon they understood [us] and we them, what by speech or what by signs; and those [Indians] have been of much service . . . with loud cries of “Come! come to see the people from heaven!” Then, as soon as their minds were reassured about us, every one came, men as well as women, so that there remained none behind, big or little; and they all brought something to eat and drink, which they gave with wondrous lovingness. . . .
It seems to me that in all those islands, the men are all content with a single wife; and to their chief or king they give as many as twenty. The women, it appears to me, do more work than the men. Nor have I been able to learn whether they held personal property, for it seemed to me that whatever one had, they all took share of, especially of eatable things. Down to the present, I have not found in those islands any monstrous men, as many expected, but on the contrary all the people are very comely; nor are they black like those in Guinea, but have flowing hair; and they are not begotten where there is an excessive violence of the rays of the sun. . . . In those islands, where there are lofty mountains, the cold was very keen there, this winter; but they endured it by being accustomed thereto, and by the help of the meats which they eat with many and inordinately hot spices. . . .
Since thus our Redeemer has given to our most illustrious King and Queen, and to their famous kingdoms, this victory in so high a matter, Christendom should take gladness therein and make great festivals, and give solemn thanks to the Holy Trinity for the great exaltation they shall have by the conversion of so many peoples to our holy faith; and next for the temporal benefit which will bring hither refreshment and profit, not only to Spain, to all Christians. This briefly, in accordance with the facts. Dated, on the caravel, off the Canary Islands, the 15 February of the year 1493.
PRIMARY SOURCE # 3:
Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca came to America as the second in command for Pánfilo de Narváez’ s expedition to conquer Florida in 1527. Abandoned and shipwrecked with three companions, Cabeza de Vaca made an incredible journey across the American Southwest from 1528 to 1536. Cabeza de Vaca and his companions were captives of several Indian tribes in Texas, but eventually they walked from Texas through New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca’s detailed descriptions provide important insights into early 16th century native American life and material culture. His stories, told in Mexico City, fueled the Spanish drive for gold and led to Coronado’s conquest of New Mexico in 1540.
Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, “Indians of the Rio Grande”
The Indians are so accustomed to running that, without resting or getting tired, they run from morning till night in pursuit of a deer, and kill a great many, because they follow until the game is worn out, sometimes catching it alive. Their huts are of matting placed over four arches. They carry them on their back and move every two or three days in quest of food; they plant nothing that would be of any use.
They are very merry people, and even when famished do not cease to dance and celebrate their feasts and ceremonials. Their best times are when “tunas” (prickly pears) are ripe, because then they have plenty to eat and spend the time on dancing and eating day and night. As long as these tunas last they squeeze and open them and set them to dry. When dried they are put in baskets like figs and kept to be eaten on the way. The peelings they grind and pulverize.
All over this country there are a great many deer, fowl and other animals which I have before enumerated. Here also they come up with cows; I have seem them thrice and have eaten their meat. They appear to me of the size of those in Spain. Their horns are small, like those of the Moorish cattle; the hair is very long, like fine wool and like a peajacket; some are brownish and others black, and to my taste they have better and more meat than those from here. Of the small hides the Indians make blankets to cover themselves with, and of the taller ones they make shoes and targets. These cows come from the north, across the country further on, to the coast of Florida, and are found all over the land for over four hundred leagues. On this whole stretch, through the valleys by which they come, people who live there descend to subsist upon their flesh. And a great quantity of hides are met with inland.
We remained with the Avavares Indians for eight months, according to our reckoning of the moons. During that time they came for us from many places and said that verily we were children of the sun. Until then Donates and the negro had not made any cures, but we found ourselves so pressed by the Indians coming from all sides, that all of us had to become medicine men. I was the most daring and reckless of all in undertaking cures. We never treated anyone that did not afterwards say he was well, and they had such confidence in our skills as to believe that none of them would die as long as we were among them….
The women brought many mats, with which they built us houses, one for each of us and those attached to him. After this we would order them to boil all the game, and they did it quickly in ovens built by them for the purpose. We partook of everything a little, giving the rest to the principal man among those who had come with us for distribution among all. Every one then came with the share he had received for us to breathe on it and bless it, without which they left it untouched. Often we had with us three to four thousand persons. And it was very tiresome to have to breathe on and make the sign of the cross over every morsel they ate or drank. For many other things they wanted to do they would come to ask our permission, so that it is easy to realize how greatly we were bothered. The women brought us tunas, spiders, worms, and whatever else they could find, for they would rather starve than partake of anything that had not first passed through our hands.
While travelling with those, we crossed a big river coming from the north and, traversing about thirty leagues of plains, met a number of people that came from afar to meet us on the trail, who treated us like the foregoing ones.
Thence once there was a change in the manner of reception, insofar as those who would meet us on the trail with gifts were no longer robbed by the Indians of our company, but after we had entered their homes they tendered us all they possessed, and the dwellings also. We turned over everything to the principals for distribution. Invariably those who had been deprived of their belongings would follow us, in order to repair their losses, so that our routine became very large. They would tell them to be careful and not conceal anything of what they owned, as it could not be done without our knowledge, and then we would cause their death. So much did they frighten them that on the first few days after joining us they would be trembling all the time, and would not dare to speak or lift their eyes to Heaven.
Those guided us for more than fifty leagues through a desert of very rugged mountains, and so arid that there was no game. Consequently we suffered much from lack of food, and finally forded a very big river, with its water reaching to our chest. Thence on many of our people began to show the effects of the hunger and hardships they had undergone in those mountains, which were extremely barren and tiresome to travel.
The next morning all those who were strong enough came along, and at the end of three journeys we halted. Alonso del Castillo and Estevanico, the negro, left with the women as guides, and the woman who was a captive took them to a river that flows between mountains where there was a village in which her father lived, and these were the first adobes we saw that were like unto real houses. Castillo and Estevanico went to these and, after holding parley with the Indians, at the end of three days Castillo returned to where he had left us, bringing with him five or six of the Indians. He told how he had found permanent houses, inhabited, the people of which ate beans and squashes, and that he had also seen maize.
Of all things upon earth that caused us the greatest pleasure, and we gave endless thanks to our Lord for this news. Castillo also said that the negro was coming to meet us on the way, near by, with all the people of the houses. For that reason we started, and after going a league and a half met the negro and the people that came to receive us, who gave us beans and many squashes to eat, gourds to carry water in, robes of cowhide, and other things. As those people and the Indians of our company were enemies, and did not understand each other, we took leave of the latter, leaving them all that had been given to us, while we went on with the former and, six leagues beyond, when night was already approaching, reached their houses, where they received us with great ceremonies. Here we remained one day, and left on the next, taking them with us to other permanent houses, where they subsisted on the same food also, and thence on we found a new custom…
Having seen positive traces of Christians and become satisfied they were very near, we gave many thanks to our Lord for redeeming us from our sad and gloomy condition. Any one can imagine our delight when he reflects how long we had been in that land, and how many dangers and hardships we had suffered. That night I entreated one of my companions to go after the Christians, who were moving through the part of the country pacified and quieted by us, and who were three days ahead of where we were. They did not like my suggestion, and excused themselves from going, on the ground of being tired and worn out, although any of them might have done far better than I, being younger and stronger.
Seeing their reluctance, in the morning I took with me the negro and eleven Indians and, following the trail, went in search of the Christians. On that day we made ten leagues, passing three places where they slept. The next morning I came upon four Christians on horseback, who seeing me in such a strange attire, and in company with Indians, were greatly startled. They stared at me for quite awhile, speechless; so great was their surprise that they could not find words to ask me anything. I spoke first, and told them to lead me to their captain, and we went together to Diego de Alcaraz, their commander.
PRIMARY SOURCE # 4:
Bartolome de Las Casas served as a Spanish missionary in Latin America. After being ordained as a priest in 1510, he worked to improve the condition of the native peoples and to end their enslavement and forced labor. Las Casas succeeded in converting several tribes, but he failed to establish a model native colony. He subsequently visited Spain to urge government action. He wrote the letter “Of the Island of Hispaniola” to be read at a forum on Spanish colonization called by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Primarily because of his efforts, in 1542 Spain adopted a humanitarian code known as the New Laws to protect native peoples in Spanish colonies. Unfortunately, later governments so altered the New Laws that they proved ineffective.
Bartolomè de Las Casas, “Of the Island of Hispaniola” (1542)
God has created all these numberless people to be quite the simplest, without malice or duplicity, most obedient, most faithful to their natural Lords, and to the Christians, whom they serve; the most humble, most patient, most peaceful and calm, without strife nor tumults; not wrangling, nor querulous, as free from uproar, hate and desire of revenge as any in the world. . . .
Among these gentle sheep, gifted by their Maker with the above qualities, the Spaniards entered as soon as they knew them, like wolves, tiger and lions which had been starving for many days, and since forty years they have done nothing else but afflict, torment, and destroy them with strange and new, and divers kinds of cruelty, never before seen, nor heard of, nor read of. . . .
The Christians, with their horses and swords and lances, began to slaughter and practice strange cruelty among them. They penetrated into the country and spared neither children nor the aged, nor pregnant women, nor those in child labour, all of whom they ran through the body and lacerated, as though they were assaulting so many lambs herded in their sheepfold.
They made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow: or they opened up his bowels. They tore the babes from their mothers’ breast by the feet, and dashed their heads against the rocks. Others they seized by the shoulders and threw into the rivers, laughing and joking, and when they fell into the water they exclaimed: “boil body of so and so!” They spitted the bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords.
They made a gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground, and by thirteens, in honour and reverence of our Redeemer and the twelve Apostles, they put wood underneath and, with fire, they burned the Indians alive.
They wrapped the bodies of others entirely in dry straw, binding them in it and setting fire to it; and so they burned them. They cut off the hands of all they wished to take alive, made them carry them fastened on to them, and said:
“Go and carry letters”: that is; take the news to those who have fled to the mountains.
They generally killed the lords and nobles in the following way. They made wooden gridirons of stakes, bound them upon them, and made a slow fire beneath; thus the victims gave up the spirit by degrees, emitting cries of despair in their torture. . . .