Saturday, April 25, 2009

Columbus Log and Native Societies

Columbus’ log of journey throws ample light on the lives and lifestyle of several native Indian societies whom Columbus met and closely observed on his way to India through the Western sea route.

It happens to be an authentic record of the facts pertaining to these native societies that inhabited the New World prior to the massive onslaught of the west European countries that trailed Columbus’ footsteps.

The natives whom Columbus met on the island of Lucayos were very friendly, sociable and warm-hearted people. They were simple folks with cheerful disposition. They were peaceful and had no weapons to speak of. They were docile, pliable and kind-hearted.

Columbus reckoned that he could easily convert them to Christian religion without any use of force, “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.” They were expert swimmers and well-versed in the art of building canoes; carved out of single tree trunks.

They natives gladly traded their parrots and cotton balls for anything Columbus and his crew had to offer, “readily bartered for any article we saw fit to give them in return, even such as broken platters and fragments of glass”. The Indians from islands around San Salvador were equally simple.

They were so gullible that they called out, “"Come and see the men who have come from heavens. Bring them victuals and drink." These natives were also least offensive and exceedingly well-behaved.

Although there were signs that these native tribes fought with one another, they were surprisingly friendly towards the crew. These people were completely guileless and did not have the faintest idea about the intentions of Columbus and his men.

The natives of an island near Samoet were comparatively smarter and were a tad alert while dealing with Columbus. They appeared, “somewhat more civilized, showing themselves more subtle in their dealings with us, bartering their cotton and other articles with more profit than the others.”

They were conversant in the art of weaving. They weren’t naked and wore cotton clothes. They were decent people and showed finesse in their behavior. They were also familiar with farming techniques and grew grain and other crops around the year on their highly fertile land.

Most of these Indian societies had similar language and customs. These natives lived in clusters of homes not bigger than fifteen in a bunch. Their homes were neat and clean with beds woven out of cotton net.

There homes were technically good enough, “Their houses are all built in the shape of tents, with very high chimneys.” Some of these natives wore certain pieces of golden jewelery that aroused Columbus’ curiosity very much.

On the contrary the natives of Samoet island were quite unsure of the credentials of Columbus and his crew, “the people had fled in terror at our approach.” Their homes were well furnished and spoke of their civilized lifestyle. Soon, these innocent natives could be won over by Columbus through reconciliatory gestures.

The natives of Samoet too happened to be clear hearted and well meaning. They could also be easily won over by Columbus through smallest possible insignificant gifts. These natives readily helped Columbus’ crew and provided them with enough drinking water.

Our encounter with these natives in Columbus’ log is indeed pleasant. One wonders that how such peaceful and friendly native societies could be subjected to so much of violence and bloodshed by the west European countries who massacred them in large numbers in order to build colonies over their rightful land!

After knowing them and learning about their culture from none else but Columbus’ himself, one wonders why it happened in the first place?

Works Cited

Columbus, Christopher. “Christopher Columbus: Extracts from Journal”. Medieval Sourcebook.3 may 2007.

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