do we still celebrate Columbus as the "discoverer"
of America? What does this tell us about
Reading: Loewen, pp.
letter (web); Indians
claim Italy by Right of Discovery (web);
Columbus Wanted poster (web)
read document: cclewis
Come to class with a sheet containing the e-mail address of
the e-mail account you most frequently check.
Columbus and European Discovery of America Sites:
and the European Encounter
with Indian America
1. Why do High School History Textbooks
portray Columbus as the "discoverer of the New World"?
2. How did Columbus initially treat the
so-called Indians that he discovered in the Caribbean?
3. What caused the Spanish to begin to
use massive violence against the Indians?
4. Why did Columbus and the Spanish conclude
that they had the right to kill and enslave the Indians of the Americas?
5. Why did the Spanish begin to bring
in Africans to the Americas as slaves?
6. What lessons did the English learn
from the Spanish conquering of South America that helped them settle
and conquer North America?
7. What does Loewen means when he argues that
"there was no Europe before 1492 and there were no 'white people'
either before 1492"? (67)
8. How should we judge the actions of
Columbus and the Spanish in the Americas?
9. Why don't most Americans understand
the brutal reality of the Spanish and European conquering of the
10. What does it tell us about American
culture and society that we still celebrate Columbus as a great
11. What do American Presidents like
George Bush mean when they celebrate "Columbus as a role model
for the nation"? (69)
12. Was Columbus a brutal murderer, a
conquering general, a brave explorer, a greedy pirate, a missionary
for Western Civilization and Christianity, or a man trapped by the
culture and society of his time? Can we see Columbus as a little
bit of each of these characterizations?
Instead of traditional notes
for our discussion of the Columbus reading, I want to give you a
series of questions that the reading led me to ask. If you approach
the reading for this class in terms of how it helps us ask and answer
a set of historical questions, you will get more out of the reading.
Sometimes it isn't the facts that the reading presents but the questions
it raises or fails to raise that proves most interesting.
How do we
judge Columbus? From whose moral standard can we judge him?
universal moral standards from which we can judge Columbus and
Spanish violence and brutality?
Columbus's objectives for his voyages to the "New World"?
Can he better understand and explain his actions based on his
Columbus to change his attitude towards the Indians he met?
Do you accept
Howard Zinn's argument that for Columbus and his men, "total
control led to total cruelty" towards the Indians?
and the Spanish were so brutal towards the Indians, why then
do we celebrate Columbus as a hero?
Why did the
Spanish use so much violence and brutality to control the Indians?
Loewen means when he argues that "there was no Europe before
1492 and there were no 'white people' either before 1492"?
How did the
discovery of the Americas change Europe after 1492?
Can we see
Columbus's so-called discovery of the Americas as actually a
meeting of three worlds--the European, the American Indian,
and the African world?
history textbooks that celebrate Columbus recognize and respect
the Indians of the Americas as human beings?
a "good guy," a "bad guy," or merely
a man of his culture and time?
Why did John
Smith use Columbus as a model for the Jamestown colony's treatment
of neighboring Indians?
really set the example and model that future explorers and settlers
would follow in their treatment of American Indians?
actions were the model for future explorers and settlers, what
does this tell us about European culture and civilization?
we learn from Columbus's first impressions of the Indians? Did the
Spanish explorers and settlers help determine the
general European impression of American Indians?
12 October. 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.
Presently they descried people, naked, and the Admiral landed in
the boat, which was armed, along with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and
Vincent Yanez his brother, captain of the Nina.
The Admiral called upon the two Captains, and the rest of the
crew who landed, as also to Rodrigo de Escovedo notary of the fleet,
and Rodrigo Sanchez, of Segovia, to bear witness that he before
all others took possession (as in fact he did) of that island for
the King and Queen his sovereigns, making the requisite declarations,
which are more at large set down here in writing.
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.
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.
Saturday, 13 October. "At daybreak
multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes,
very handsome; their hair not curled but straight and coarse like
horse-hair, and all with foreheads and heads much broader than any
people I had hitherto seen; their eyes were large and very beautiful;
they were not black, but the color of the inhabitants of the Canaries,
which is a very natural circumstance, they being in the same latitude
with the island of Ferro in the Canaries. They were straight-limbed
without exception, and not with prominent bellies but handsomely
Sunday, 14 October. In the morning, I ordered the boats to be got
ready, and coasted along the island toward the north- northeast
to examine that part of it, we having landed first at the eastern
part. Presently we discovered two or three villages, and the people
all came down to the shore, calling out to us, and giving thanks
to God. Some brought us water, and others victuals:
Others seeing that I was not disposed to
land, plunged into the sea and swam out to us, and we perceived
that they interrogated us if we had come from heaven. An old man
came on board my boat; the others, both men and women cried with
loud voices--"Come and see the men who have come from heavens.
Bring them victuals and drink." There came many of both sexes,
every one bringing something, giving thanks to God, prostrating
themselves on the earth, and lifting up their hands to heaven.
I do not, however, see the necessity of
fortifying the place, as the people here are simple in war-like
matters, as your Highnesses will see by those seven which I have
ordered to be taken and carried to Spain in order to learn our language
and return, unless your Highnesses should choose to have them all
transported to Castile, or held captive in the island. I could conquer
the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased.
16 October.They have no religion, and I
believe that they would very readily become Christians, as they
have a good understanding.