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Columbus meets Native Americans

Before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Carribean, some in North America were farming. There was a large farming center, for example, as early as around the year 700 at Cahokia in what today is Illinois. People of the Americas were skilled at making tools, clothing and such, including the hunters on the plains making their mobile homes and their bow and arrows — which had a great range than spears. People on the west coast were building cabins of wood. When Europeans brought horses to the continent, native Americans became skilled at horsemanship, and they became skilled with guns. When the pilgrims arrived in what today is Massachusetts the Wampanoag showed them how to plant corn, how to cook squash and pumpkins and how to make corn pudding.

The so-called Indians had boats for river and lake travel but nothing for crossing the great Atlantic ocean. Inventions were pragmatic endeavors rising from experience and interests. People in North Americas were not interested in saving the souls of people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean or interested in trading for profit. They were concerned with opportunities at hand. We have no reason to believe that intelligence distribution among the native peoples of North America was either higher or lower than that of the Europeans.

The sailing ships that Columbus had and the navigation he used to cross the Atlantic had been developments rising historically from travel on the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. In the 1400s there had been journeys to Africa and then to the East for spices to be sold to Europen aristocrats. And the kings and queens of Europe started to fund their own spice-getting expeditions.

Columbus is commonly portrayed as an intellectual with advanced thinking, as a man who persuaded rulers and scholars to overlook accepted theories about the size of the Earth. But on his time the idea that the world was round was common among men of the sea in Western Europe. Columbus was a man of his time in Europe and made much of his first name Christopher, meaning Christ-bearer. He said his daily prayers and chanted "more than did the average priest." He wanted to sail to the East to gain wealth to finance another crusade to take the Holy Land from the Muslims — despite the previous crusades against the Muslims having failed to accomplish this. It was a crusade he "hoped to lead personally." (The Modern Age: The History of the World in Christian Perspective, Laura Hicks ed., vol 2, p 194-95.)

Columbus's calculations were way off, believing as he did that the Far East was only a couple thousand miles to the West. The distance to Hong Kong through Panama was 15,220 miles – and farther if one traveled around the southern tip of South America. Columbus's miscalculation arose from his study of scripture. He interpreted the Second Book of Esdras 6:42 as describing the earth as six parts dry land and one part sea. Saltwater oceans actually covered around 71 percent of the earth's surface.

Columbus and his crew slept on the hard deck of their tiny ships. They were to learn to use hammocks from native Americans – more of history's cultural diffusions.

The people that Columbus and his crew found in the Caribbean were friendly. And Columbus, the European Christian gentleman that he was, concluded that they could be easily dominated and that they had the makings of what he called "fine servants." People on the island to be called Hispanolia impressed him by the gold they were wearing as jewelry.

CONTINUE READING: Portugal to Asia and Brazil

Copyright © 2017 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.