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In July of 1536, a group of Spanish businessmen were surprised to find themselves approached by four uncouth figures. The men had a scattering of rags and bits of animal skin, but were otherwise completely naked except for a covering of ground-in filth. Their skin showed the effects of long exposure to sun, the scars of injuries, and the attention of millions of insects. Their bearded faces were gaunt with hunger and exhaustion.  

The initial wariness with which these men were greeted soon turned to open-mouthed amazement as they addressed the businessmen in good Spanish. The four were survivors of an expeditionary force that had originally numbered over six hundred men, a force long assumed lost. Over a space of seven years, these four had been part of pitched battles, withstood a siege, aided in a astounding escape from encircling forces, and watched hundreds of their countrymen fall to conflict, starvation and disease. Most of all they had walked thousands of miles across a strange land no European had seen before and which few others would ever see. They had seen wonders. They had seen North America.  

The Spanish conquistadors of the 15th and 16th centuries are generally reduced in high school history books to a sentence or two listing out their primary accomplishment. Balboa drove his men across the boggy Isthmus of Panama, becoming the first Europeans to see the eastern shore of the Pacific. Pizarro and his small band of men destroyed an Incan army numbering in the tens of thousands and collected a golden ransom measured in tons. Cortés made a desperate retreat across the causeways of Tenochtitlan only to return, lay siege to the city, and destroy the heart of the Aztec Empire. De Soto, trekking across Florida, marching his armored men incredible distances across forests, mountains, and plains to reveal the heart of a continent that the Spanish had not even been sure was a continent. If we're lucky, these accounts are accompanied with an engraving or two – bearded men in iron chest plates whose long features and piercing eyes are topped with oddly peaked metal helmets. Men who clutch a blunderbuss in one hand, and a pike (likely bloody) in the other.  

While one-line descriptions make fine multiple choice material for a seventh grade history quiz, they don't really tell us much about how, or why, these men went through hardships to tick off all those "first to" whatever boxes. The era of the conquistadors is often just a couple of paragraphs wedged between the Santa Maria and Plymouth Rock, and it's not until years after middle school that we get a glimpse of that other side of 16th century vacation activities in the New World.  

They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance... They would make fine servants... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.  (Christopher Columbus)

It's little wonder that for most people today, these men blur into a kind of lumpy amalgam: two parts self-righteous religious hypocrisy, three parts gunpowder, one part cold steel -- add slavery, theft, rape and destruction to taste and far beyond -- but when we skim past these stories, or look away from their cruelty, we stand the chance of missing something more important than who was the first European to dip their toe in a particular body of water.  Sometimes we miss something quite odd.

The Narváez expedition is one of those extraordinary bits of history that rarely makes an appearance in standard texts. Maybe that's because it's difficult to boil down what was accomplished to a bullet point. Over a decade before de Soto launched his own expedition into North America, Carlos, King of Spain and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, granted Pánfilo de Narváez a claim to Florida -- with Florida meaning more or less everything north of Mexico. It was a chance for Narváez to become one of the richest, most powerful men in the world. All he had to do was not screw up.

Narváez was already famous for his involvement in one of the strangest battles of the time; a fight between two European armies conducted in the middle of the Aztec Empire. The battle occurred due to a series of events, most of which came back to the undeniable fact that Hernándo Cortés was an untrustworthy, ruthless, massively ambitious, bastard who lied to both the Aztecs and the Spanish. Feeling that Cortés had gone completely off the rails, the governor nominally in charge of Cortés sent Narváez to stop the wayward conquistador at the very moment Hernándo was busy in the capital negotiating with the hapless Aztec leaders. Cortés left a large portion of his men behind, dashed off to face Narváez, and defeated him handily despite being outnumbered over two to one. Afterwards Cortés even talked many of Narváez' surviving soldiers to come over to his side (wound, meet salt). Then he went back to finding creative ways to torture and dismember his Aztec hosts. Cortés got Mexico, a title, and very, very rich. He also got to enjoy himself by hanging the governor who had send Narváez after him. Narváez got to return to Spain and sulk.

Understandably, Narváez held a bit of a grudge. Forming a company for the colonization of Florida and collecting the blessings of the king looked like a golden chance redeem himself and to match the success of Cortés.  

Narváez' charter called for him to found a couple of towns (no less than one hundred people each), lay in a pair of forts, and settle down as potentate. Based on the rumors he'd heard about La Florida, he expected arable land, gold, and sizable heapings of glory. What he got was a series of errors that would have been comedic, if it wasn't for all the dying.

Storms held the fleet of ships out of port and denied them supplies. Ships sent off to find safe harbors disappeared. Arguments over the direction of travel ended up with the main body of the expedition starving while a supply ship wandered the Gulf looking for them. Painfully short on food after only a few days in their new home, Narváez turned to trade with the locals as their only chance to survive. The natives at the first fishing village they entered seemed friendly enough, but disappeared after the initial meeting, taking their food with them. The next village might have made more time for the visitors, but the people there were already deeply engaged in dying when the expedition arrived (using handy Spanish shipping crates for coffins).  Within weeks, Narváez force was starving, confused, short on options, and coming apart.

When they finally staggered into a well-made town with dozens of houses and hundreds of inhabitants, they thought they had found the capital of the local tribe and decided it might be a good idea to attack, capture the town, and do to the locals what Cortés had done further south.  As it turned out, the town was actually a backwater village of the extensive Apalachee nation, and capturing the place neither impressed nor cowed the Apalachee rulers.  Within days, hundreds of warriors were harrying Narváez, using a combination of direct attacks and guerilla tactics to inflict sizable losses on the Spanish. During these assaults the Indians lost only a handful of men – a reversal of the lopsided results inflicted on native cultures by Pizzaro and Cortés. Unable to hold onto the town they had taken, the harried Spanish retreated inland, where they found themselves mired in swamps and more confusion. Now they had no food, no idea where to go, and no ships on which to escape. The Apalachee helped them along by keeping up a rain of arrows as the armored Spanish aimlessly waded waist deep in muck.  

Reaching the water near Apalachee Bay, the remainder of the force found themselves under nearly constant attack and with no way of sending for relief.  At that point, Narváez' expedition came up with a plan so desperate it beggars belief. They would eat their warhorses for food, then weave the horsehair and hide into ropes. At the same time, they would use trees and stones to create a makeshift forge and literally melt down their weapons and armor to create saws, hammers, and other tools. Then, using the ropes and implements they'd made, the Spanish would harvest local trees and turn them into boats they needed to escape. Amazingly, even though the Indians were still taking out men at a fairly steady clip, this worked well enough that a month later Narváez' force had constructed five small boats and launched out into the Gulf.  

Of the six hundred who arrived in Florida, 242 survived long enough to set sail. As you might expect from the way this story has gone so far, they sailed directly into a hurricane. Three of the boats (including the one holding Narváez) were lost along the way. When the remaining boats – lacking pretty much everything that would have been helpful on a sea voyage, including food and water – crashed into the barrier islands near Galveston, Texas, there were eighty people still alive. The survivors became entangled with local tribes (who, having never met them before, were less inclined to kill them on sight) and settled into a life of hard work as they were traded like mascots around different villages and groups, all the time suffering disease and hunger. The combination of poor food, hard conditions, and disease was as hard on the survivors as the Apalachee had been. A rough census a couple of years later showed only fourteen members of the expedition still alive.  Not long after that, it was four.

Finally, not quite understanding where they were but understanding well enough that seventy-six of their number were already dead along that coast, these last survivors decided they had to go inland to find a Spanish outpost. However, they were not completely clear on where they were relative to the Mexican outposts, so they walked west. Then west some more. And then west. Eventually, unbelievably, they walked right across Texas and northern Mexico (and quite possibly portions of New Mexico and Arizona) before hitting the Pacific Ocean and taking a turn to the south.

Along the way they saw a vast panoply of nations. Some had structures similar to that seen among the Aztec and Maya in Mexico and in the other empires of Central and South America – large capital cities complete with rulers, priests, and temple complexes connected by roads to smaller towns and villages. Others appear to be individual communities of farmers, fishermen, craftsmen and traders. Some seemed closer to the cultures we would now associate with Amazonian tribes. But they were not Aztecs or Amazonians, they were unique. Few were seen or described thoroughly enough to make sense of the details we get in accounts of the survivors (the written accounts are heavily fixated on the type and amount of food available, which was understandably more important to the starving men than any details about the natives' beliefs or social structure). They certainly encountered peoples who would never again be met by any European explorer.  Their biggest conclusion about the people was that they were both poor and plagued by disease, because disease and death was what they saw everywhere they went. Ironically, the wandering Spaniards acquired a reputation as faith healers, and were followed along the way by a retinue of natives displaced from their failing settlements.

It was once thought that, pre-invasion, the Americas had a population of less than ten million – like taking half the population of New York City and spreading it over an area of 15 million square miles. At nearly a thousand acres per person, that's a pair of pretty lonely continents. The image we get is of a few wandering bands, hunting buffalo over vast ranges. For settlers from the time of the Pilgrims on, the understanding was that they were moving into a place that was just shy of empty, with the few inhabitants making light use of a land that was to all intents a primordial wilderness. It's now known that the population previous to 1492 was certainly at least five times greater, was probably at least ten times greater, and may well have been higher still.  The Aztec Empire alone held around 15 million people at the time of first contact, and that may not have been its peak population.  Everywhere across the Americas there were villages, towns, cities, nations.  It wasn't a land of scattered tribes.  It was a land of waring empires, extensive trade, and delicate diplomacy.

When we say that Cortés conquered the Aztecs, that's not really true.  What he conquered was the shadow of the Aztecs, a nation already decimated several times over by disease and wracked by the conflict that ensued. The Inca that Pizzaro met were the actually the remnants of an empire that had already descended into a bloody and exhausting civil war after disease took out not only sizable parts of the population but also much of the ruling family. It was not so much conquest as grave robbing.

Still, we know something about the Inca and the Aztec because the Spanish arrived while their crumbling empires were staggering along in their death throws. About most of the Americas, north and south, we know next to nothing. We have only the accounts of Narváez survivors, the de Soto descriptions from a decade later, artifacts and traditions passed on to living descendants.  

However, even the earliest accounts don't give us an image of these cultures as they existed before Columbus. The reason for this is contained within that moment when the four survivors staggered up to the Spanish businessmen. Of the four men, one was a slave. The businessmen themselves were slavers. The reason the villagers back in Florida were already dying (and had Spanish crates to use as coffins) was because this first official expedition to the mainland was far from the first encounter. Slavers had been there for years. In fact, slavers had been plying the waters up the chain of the Bahamas since 1494 – less than two years after Columbus stepped onto San Salvador and declared of the people who were providing food and drink to his crew, "They would make fine servants". Long before the wretched Narváez expedition left Spain, slavers had been in Florida, raiding villages and spreading disease. The first European to see mainland North America didn't come to explore, to search for gold, or even to conquer. He came with chains.

If our perceptions about early European activities in the Americas are often wrong, our view of pre-invasion Native America is just as shaky.  The Indian cultures we both attack and romanticize are for the most part very poor representations of actual societies that existed in North America previous to the 16th century. In a very real sense, it can be said that we never defeated the majority of nations that existed in the Americas – because we never met them. They died or fell into ruin before we got the chance to destroy them up close and in person.  We're forced to scry for meaning among their burials and artifacts, and we often miss the evidence that's bigger than all the rest.

The idea that we have of Native Americans existing only in small bands and scattered villages is a distorted, wholly skewed image. The idea that we understand Native American traditions and beliefs is just as skewed. We understand the traditions of the survivors as they were shaped in the aftermath of disaster. The Native Americas we know were as diverse the Cherokee and the Lakota, the Hopi and the Chumash, but this is only a sliver of the diversity that once existed. In the Middle East, cultures as different as the Philistines, Hebrews, and Egyptians were neighbors. The Americas were almost certainly far more varied.

With the population densities that existed previous to the 16th century, it's clear that many Native Americans not only lived in large communities, they conducted extensive trade, had stratified and complex societies with specialized craftsmen and officials, and conducted sophisticated forms of agriculture and ranching. The results of that last activity lingered on the land centuries after the practitioners were gone. Huge monospecific herds of buffalo weren't something the Indians discovered, they were something native societies had cultivated and tended. This included not only management of the animals themselves, but keeping the land they roamed open and suited to pasture in areas that were far beyond the limits of grassland as defined by soil and rainfall. The open woodlands that spread east of the Mississippi didn't grow by accident, they were carefully culled and cleared to provide space for grazing and agriculture.  Along the banks of rivers, some of the ancient temple sites, like those at Cahokia near St. Louis, are still visible because of the large earthen mounds, but it's not just the mounds that are artificial. Much of the flat grounds of the "river bottom" are no more natural than the mound. Natural rills have been filled and ridges cut to provide ground suited to irrigation and raising the food for the 10,000 priests, rulers, and court officials who lived at the site.

In the Appalachians, some mountains are still topped with grassy "balds" free of large trees. These features were more widespread a few decades ago (and much more common two centuries ago) but over time the balds have gradually been overgrown and many crests that once offered a fine view are now topped by unbroken forest. For many years scientists thought the balds were natural features, created by some fluke of climate or perhaps by fires triggered when lightning struck the mountain summits. But as the balds have shrunk in and disappeared, it's become clear that they were both built or maintained by men. They were cleared by men, though for what purpose we can't be sure.

Pre-invasion America was neither an untended wilderness nor the Garden of Eden, it was a working farm.

In Europe, both Justinian's plague and the Black Death took between a third and a half of the population. In each case, it took centuries for the population to return to pre-plague levels and the loss of population trigger major changes in society. In America, the population loss may have been as great as 90%. From that information alone, you can assume that it would take much longer for the continents to rebuild the population levels previously seen and there's no doubt that the shape of the societies on the other side of this bottleneck would have been vastly different than those going in.

The effects of the population loss might have pushed the New World into it's own Dark Age, or it might have stimulated a second Renaissance. We'll never know. The destruction of the varied civilization in the Americas was not caused by disease alone. Slavers, conquerors, and settlers followed on the heels of smallpox and measles. Libraries were burned, temples smashed, languages and traditions rooted out like weeds. The work that was started from the (mostly) unintentional spread of germs was followed up with malice aforethought.

Natural disasters – whether they are earthquakes, storms or plagues – can go a long way into weakening a society.  But if you really want to do in human civilization, it's best to call in the experts – humans.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 05:58 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Another Sunday, another disaster (104+ / 0-)

    As most of you are (painfully) aware, I'm in the midst of writing a book titled This is the Way the World Ends that focuses on dismissing the silly disaster porn that litters the media and looks instead at the real threats to our society (and species).

    About 1/2 the chapters have now run on Sunday Kos -- though not in order, and a long way from final draft -- and the comments and corrections that I've received both here and in email have helped to not just improve, but substantially reshape the book.

    We're getting pretty close to the end now. This chapter is intended to be the bridge piece between the "natural disasters" and the "death by suicide" section of ends authored by humans.  The magic "The End" is in sight.

    Many thanks for the terrific help in putting this thing together.

    If you're interested in reading more about the survivors of the Narváez expedition and their incredible walk across the continent, a translation of the account by Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca is available on Google books, and really, how can you not want to read a book by someone whose name means "cow head?"

    •  The Spanish were butchering scum (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LuLu, Aldous

      And your diary is too damned long.

      Stupid Quaternary Period!

      by obatanga night on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:07:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ahem. [cough cough]. Them's fightin' words (24+ / 0-)

        about the "butchering scum" part.

        The sixteenth century in Europe wasn't known for gentleness, outside of inventions in poetry and fantasies in books.  It was a pretty brutal time to have to survive and to figure out how to get what you wanted in life.  Spaniards weren't the only ones guilty of bringing such behaviors to colonial ventures.  The Portuguese had done it before them; and the Dutch were not known for their kindness when it came to treatment of slaves and captives in the seventeenth century.  Nor, for that matter, were the Italians in their later, African ventures.

        And I do recall reading something about how the Aztecs were fierce invasive warriors who had their own ways of pushing around their indigenous, other tribal conquerees.

        Just sayin'.

        •  And I was just reading about Oliver Cromwell. (7+ / 0-)
        •  Aztec Foreign Policy Failures (16+ / 0-)

          As I recall, the Aztecs' terrible relationships with neighboring states prompted many of those polities to side with Cortez in his fight against the Aztecs.  Anyone who has read anything about the Flower Wars knows that the Aztecs were not a benign ruling entity.  Few empires of any sort really are.  

          "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

          by PrahaPartizan on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:36:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  yes, the Aztec were that. (14+ / 0-)

          The irony of course is that when we don't get the whole story .....
          La Leyenda de Oro, but not La Leyenda Negra
          The Glory of Spain, not the evil deeds we still don't even get the whole picture of what was going on at the time IN SPAIN!

          http://en.wikipedia.org/...

          The Inquisition was originally intended in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave.

          Which caused many people to leave Spain and flee to the Canary Islands.
          Some of the conquistadores were of these folks, in spite of an injunction again Christianos Nuevos (converted Jews). Except for the northern part of Mexico that was bad and riddled with poor indians, they allowed these folks to settle.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/...

          To pacify and colonize the new territory, Carabajal was allowed 100 soldiers and 60 married laborers, accompanied by their wives and children. It is safe to assume that a number of these early colonists were Spanish Jews, who, under the guise of Marranos, had hoped to escape persecution and find prosperity in the New World. In this expectation they were disappointed, for within a decade after their settlement a score of them were openly denounced and more or less severely punished for Judaizing. In 1590 there seems to have been an extensive colony of them in Mexico.

          So Northern Mexico and part of New Mexico and south Texas became a settlement of Marranos escaping persecution from the church and hid their identities as Jews for generations from each other and their children.
          Some Mexican Americans have begun to explore this through genealogy and some are even converting back.

          http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

          by TexMex on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:45:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The last bit is still controversial, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TexMex

            and I don't really believe it. At least not as Stanley Hordes describes it in To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of
            New Mexico
            , which I thought was a really poorly argued book.

            For the US State Department and its allies, it is all a ruthless chess game, and every pawn matters. - Mark Weisbrot

            by Anak on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:21:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  poorly argued or not, It resonated with me. (7+ / 0-)

              As my forebears include  Tamez/Salazar from Monterrey, Cavazos/Garza  from the south Texas.

              Geneological forums lead me to find that book and then connect reading my grandmother's personal diary and thinking about how as Catholics my family deliberately ignored the "must go to church on Sunday" and Sunday was the day to spend with whole extended family.  Once a year at Easter, which in Spanish is La Pasqua, we would go but only then.

              pascua f
              (Christianity) Easter
              (Judaism) Passover

              I don't know but something is fishy in this matter.
              undisputed fondation of Monterrey
              Monterrey....

              In the 16th century, the valley in which Monterrey is located was known as the Extremadura Valley, an area largely unexplored by the Spanish colonizers. The first expeditions and colonization attempts were led by Alberto del Canto, naming the city "Santa Lucia", but were unsuccessful because the population was attacked by the natives and fled. The Spanish expeditionary Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva negotiated with King Philip II of Spain to establish a territory in northern New Spain, which would be called Nuevo León, the "New Kingdom of León". In 1580 he arrived in the newly granted lands but it was not until 1582 that he established a settlement called San Luis Rey de Francia within present-day Monterrey. The New Kingdom of León extended westwards from the port of Tampico to the limits of Nueva Vizcaya ("New Vizcaya", now State of Chihuahua), and around 1,000 kilometers northwards.) For eight years Nuevo León was abandoned and uninhabited, until a third expedition of thirteen families led by Diego de Montemayor founded Ciudad Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de Monterrey ("Metropolitan City of Our Lady of Monterrey") on 20 September 1596, next to a water spring called Ojos de Agua de Santa Lucia, where the Museum of Mexican History and Santa Lucía Riverwalk are now located.

              http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

              by TexMex on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:52:54 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  there were efforescences of warmongering, brutal (6+ / 0-)

          cultures in Mezo-america as well as in Pre-Inca Andean culture.
          It's a universal human trait, for the most part.

        •  Can you point to a good book about how (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          yaque

          "the Portuguese did it" ... sorry don't know how to express myself. But I always wanted to learn what the differences were between the Portuguese colonial adventures compared to the Spanish one. I might read it when I retire... kind of gathering a book list for myself.

          •  Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            neroden, KenBee, yaque

            It's old (a classic) but it's worth a look.  He knows less about recent discoveries than a lot of other authors but he covers the gamut.  He also wrote another book on Portuguese expansion around 1960 whose title escapes me.  

            Disney's History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire to 1800 (Cambridge, 2009) is probably the most recent but I haven't read it so it's hard to recommend.  

            I've heard good things about Bethencourt and Curto, Portuguese Oceanic Expansion (Cambridge, 2007):

            http://www.worldcat.org/...

            I hope this gives something to bite into.

        •  In other words (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cdreid

          They were all butchering scum. Whereupon, where are the fighting words?

      •  On the contrary, the diary is too short (looking (37+ / 0-)

        forward to the book). The Spanish weren't "butchering scum." Most Spaniards never saw the Americas. The Conquistadores were ruthless butchers...16th Century entrepeneurs.

        200 A.D.-The city of Teotihuacan with a population well over 100,000. The town of Caral in Peru dating back to 2,000 B.C. Mayans inventing the concept of zero for the first time anywhere. The Americas were vast & diverse beyond our comprehension. By comparision with what we don't know-this diary is short.

        Meteor Blades seems to do an outstanding job of community moderation despite the abject failure to be perfect.

        by catilinus on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:26:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Humans are butchering scum. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sweettp2063, Oye Sancho
      •  As for the Spanish being 'butchering scum,' (7+ / 0-)

        you're probably correct.

        Based on their treatment of their fellow Indians in Mexico, though, imagine how the Aztecs would have treated the folks had the exploration process been reversed and the Aztecs invaded and conquered Europe.

        Had they been able to get there (and I've never seen any refernces to Aztec seamanship but I assume it was minimal) in any numbers, and considering the reduced population of Europe at certain points because of plague, I'm betting the Aztecs would have kicked butt there.

        As usual, a great diary. I look forward to the book.

        I visited Cahokia Mounds two years ago when back in St. Louis for a visit and found the site impressive.  

        I will give up my atlatl when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

        by wheeldog on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:45:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's because of who took up the mantle, not Spain (6+ / 0-)

          The system of concessions, and the dangers of the voyage and landing, meant that your average Spaniard was not prone to taking such risks.  So you got a lot of real scoundrels and wastrels, people with nothing else to keep them tied down, taking up this whole "exploration" thing.  They were mercenary bastards in it for the money, pure and simple.  Lip service was paid to the forms of Spanish rule and its moral grounding but the reality was that this was a sanctioned kleptocracy and the people who took up its challenge wanted nothing more than to get filthy rich and powerful far beyond their station in life back in Spain.  I can't think of any of the conquistadors who gave up privilege in Spain for brutal adventurism in the Americas; I'm sure there were a few, but not many.  It sucked to go there, and you could only hope to luck into the riches.

      •  Maybe so, but...... (8+ / 0-)

        So were the English, the Dutch, the French, the Portuguese, the Germans, etc. etc. The Belgians, too, in their misbegotten adventure in the Congo, were perhaps exemplary in this regard.  The Aztecs, themselves, were known for their cruelty and arrogance as they built their ill-fated empire across Meso-America.  In modern times we've seen the same, perhaps a bit less blatant, but purposeful and with singular intention nevertheless.
        I've had more than a few discussions on this topic over the years, and my take on it is always the same:  It's deplorable, it's execrable, and it's what was done in those days. Everywhere.  Read the Bible and you'll see plenty of the same stuff.  If you look at our species objectively and realistically, it's almost surprising that our moral codes so emphatically condemn abuse of our fellow humans; it's what we do best!!

        Liberal = We're all in this together
        Conservative = Every man for himself
        Who you gonna call?

        You can’t claim the higher ground in a pit of quicksand.

      •  um (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cdreid, KenBee

        humans are butchering scum.

      •  But just right (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Predictor, MichaelNY

        for a chapter in a book!  Thanks for this diary - I've wondered about the inhabitants of this country throughout history.

      •  The Spanish sold concessions. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cdreid, neroden, KenBee, MichaelNY

        Like the Portuguese, they granted "rights" to whoever promised them a good return.  It was basically an empire built on graft and theft, by mercenaries backed with investments from Iberia.  Butchering scumosity is less of a shock with that in mind.  (The Portuguese-flagged bunch, in my opinion, were at least as bad if not worse.)

        And no, the diary is not too long.  If anything, it's not long enough, and I'd have loved to see more links.

        Nobody forced you to read it.

        •  That is the way feudalism worked (0+ / 0-)

          It is why the american plutocratic structure is what it is. It is why all of western civilisation is as it is. Our entire system is based on the remnants of feudalism that has simply morphed into a purer plutocracy.

          When you really think about it our system is disgusting. There are people on rodeo drive right now buying $10,000 handbags whove never contributed anything. Whos family for generations never contributed or did anythying. Yet there are literal geniuses, organisers, hard working people on the streets begging for food.

          ..but if youre a writer you say all i wanna do is leave behind one story - Harlan Ellison

          by cdreid on Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 10:27:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't find the diary too long at all (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh, yaque

        It was fascinating, and a good read.

        As for objections to your accurate characterization of the Spanish at the time, is it really a defense to say that other Europeans also practiced genocide? The colonial empires were all characterized by butchery and thievery, and though there were some particular times and places where colonial authorities were more benign, those were certainly the exception.

    •  I've been enjoying this series and look forward (8+ / 0-)

      to buying two copies of your book, one for myself and one for my father.

      Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

      by darthstar on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:44:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My 7th grade kid just wrote a report on Cabeza (11+ / 0-)

      de Vaca, whom I never studied in school. He was a proto-anthropologist and advocate for indigenous rights. As my kid wrote, he was 500 years ahead of his time.

    •  Mark -- sign me up for a copy. (6+ / 0-)

      This was great, and I'm looking forward to more.

    •  I read excerpt's of de Vaca's account (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, yaque, MichaelNY, Prairie D

      of his survival in a history program at my library in 1992.  Focusing on the 500th Anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America, it explored changes that happened to the European population in Europe and the Native American population in America as the two people came into contact.

      We read a book that explored the changes wrought by the European discovery, including the question whether syphilis came from the new world or was a mutation of an endemic African disease called Yaws that began to infect Europeans coincidentally at the time of contact with the New World.

      Perhaps you know the work I'm referring to?  I'd love to read it again.

      I'll look up your other diaries - this one makes me want to read more of your work.

      Good luck!

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:00:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  An outstanding post! Thanks very much! n/t (5+ / 0-)

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:01:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Couple of paragraphs... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, MichaelNY

      My 5th grader's class has spent months on the Spanish explorers and conquistadors - it might have been a couple paragraphs years ago, but now they spend a lot of time on it.

    •  The film? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oye Sancho, rk2, yaque

      I recall that ten or so years ago there was a more-or-less well-known film made from  the Cabeza de Vaca diary.

      Are you familiar (or is anybody) familiar with this film and can comment on its accuracy as a depiction of the expedition?  After reading this piece, I'm very tempted to  try and find it to view it.

      None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

      by Toddlerbob on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:16:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Google it. Really. It turned up (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee

        When my kid researched him for school. There is a Mexican (?) film and a PBS series that covered him. I didn't watch either.

        •  PBS or history channel last 2 weeks or so (0+ / 0-)

          it was the first I'd heard of the fight between Narvaez and Cortes' armies. Brutal.

          It was a good enough intro to the topic, aided by reasonably interesting, hopefully accurate settings and costumes, but it's pretty hard to get it terrifying and ugly enough.

          One criticism is that there's always a little more time spent on the 'cutting out the heart' bit, as if the Aztecs were the worst ever in this regard. But it is dramatic tv a good exploration of that aspect of the time.

          I'm thinking it must have been PBS because there were no aliens 'in theory' anywhere in the explanations.

          Good stuff Mark , thanks, look forward to the book.
          As a follower of Ojibwa's series and  other reading it's just staggering to even begin to understand what was lost, and what might have been.

          History! Bah!
            We're stuck with it, I'm wanting some aliens.

          Responsible people leave neither loaded guns nor paranoid, eliminationist ideologies laying around for the mentally ill to play with.

          by KenBee on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 01:54:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I've seen the film a couple of times (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee

        It's a pretty good depiction of the events surrounding the Narvaez expedition and the subsequent travels of Cabeza de Vaca, although necessarily brief and incomplete.  An excellent visual rendering of an extraordinary adventure.

        http://www.imdb.com/...

        Liberal = We're all in this together
        Conservative = Every man for himself
        Who you gonna call?

    •  Mark, I just can't tell you how much (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      one of 8, MichaelNY

      I look forward to your book !

      big badda boom : GRB 080913

      by squarewheel on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:36:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  As a professional historian, kudos on this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, yaque, MichaelNY

      It's readable and riveting, and gets right at the heart of how much we don't know.  It's hard to get students to understand that the turning the "unknown unknowns" into "known unknowns" is in some ways as important a step as transforming them into "knowns."  (Sorry for the Rumsfeldism there.)  

      I teach pre-1800 Africa, so we run into a variety of similar misconceptions--though unlike North America, even with the horrors of slavery and war enough survives to rebuild the past of these great empires and understand their achievements, including vast cities, highly complex engineering and agriculture, and trade networks extending thousands of miles (sometimes all the way to China).  Were it that we could do the same for the Americas--although fortunately many are working on just those questions now.  The stories we know are fascinating, but what we don't know would make them pale in comparison.

  •  In Central Europe (26+ / 0-)

    In the Middle Ages, towns would maintain a nearby "bald hill" if they had one for strategy reasons.  If all else failed, you scoot everybody up to the top of the hill.  An advancing enemy has to move uphill without cover while you fend them off.

    "It's always been a class war, Frodo."

    by bink on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:11:42 AM PST

  •  Additional reading on the topic... (17+ / 0-)

    Brutal Journey by Paul Schneider is a very readable account of the ordeal.  Makes Lewis & Clark look like a luxury cruise.

  •  A colleague just told me that the editors of (24+ / 0-)

    The Norton Anthology of American Literature have recently removed the selections that had to do with the early Spanish conquistadors and settlers.  There used to be included, within the Norton Anthology view of "American literature" and its vast and diverse scope, representative selections having to do with 16th and 17th century Spanish America--- as in, North America.  

    But apparently they're no longer in there.

    I think this is huge, if it's true.  It's so important that we recall that up into the 19th century a good chunk of what we think of as "the good old U S of A" was Spanish.  It's so important to remember that some of the first non-indigenous explorers and settlers of this country were Spanish.  Our ties with Mexico extend well beyond the Alamo and our ties with Spain have deep roots well beyond the Louisiana Purchase.  Our place in the history of North America is linked to the global reach of other peoples and countries, to trade, to battles over natural resources, to the spread of disease, etc., in ways that it is crucial for us to comprehend.  

    •  The re-writing of American history continues. (11+ / 0-)

      Not as bad as the Texas school board, but significant in what is ommitted.   I went to school 50 years ago, but I doubt much has changed in average public schools.

      We alternated learning English history with American history.  Anything about China, the Middle East, or Africa was only in the context of European contact.   (Plus anything about the Depression was excluded.)

      It's probably a big reason why Americans don't really understand any country but their own - it's not taught in school.  And for many Americans, if it's not taught in school, they're not going to learn it on their own.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:17:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My Yesterday's Thought Experiment (10+ / 0-)

    If we were to find a land today that was fully isolated, what would be the sane and respectful steps needed to make contact and establish relations --presuming conquest and plunder weren't the goals?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:17:02 AM PST

  •  I'm confused (8+ / 0-)

    What were the natives dying FROM? Was there a local Black Death epidemic that was wiping people away across the entire American bi-continent? Something that the visiting Europeans were immune to? Or was it something like diseases that came with Columbus that spread quickly and killed everybody off between conquests? Or were there simultaneous plagues? Can you clarify?

    Guilt should never be decided by anyone who sells rope.

    by pucklady on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:17:04 AM PST

    •  good question (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LuLu, Jimdotz, mkor7, HylasBrook, yaque, MichaelNY

      I am also curious about this.  Did the European diseases spread that quickly and effectively?

      To bring it into modern times, try to imagine 90% of this country dying of disease in a matter of a a decade or so.  Upheaval is a mid term for the effect on our society.

      www.dailykos.com is America's Blog of Record

      by WI Deadhead on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:26:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If Eurasia-based diseases so efficiently... (5+ / 0-)

        decimated Native American populations after first contact with Europeans, wasn't the demise of their civilizations, tragically, inevitable?

        On some day, at some time, from some source, Native Americans would have encountered these diseases and fallen to them regardless of the sometimes-nefarious intentions of the explorers/conquerors/colonists who did happen to bring them?

        Human understanding of the disease process is insufficient to stop such epidemics now, let alone at any other time in the past five centuries.

        There are two political aisles: Center-Left and Center-Right. It's impossible to cross them both. Republicans know this and govern accordingly; Democrats don't.

        by Jimdotz on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:07:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Only Reason the Mayflower Pilgrims Had a Spot (5+ / 0-)

          to inhabit was that disease from passing trading fishermen had wiped out the local tribe.

          As I understand the situation, you're right certainly about the past. It'd be very tricky making a first contact even today.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:11:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's "herd immunity" (9+ / 0-)

          A person growing up with people that have survived smallpox, measles, other diseases will have built up some immunity to the disease.

          When they come in contact with an isolated population who have had no prior contact with the disease, it overwhelms the population and kills most of them.

          We're most aware of this because of the devestation caused by European explorers in the New World, but it also happened periodically to Icelanders because their population was essentially isolated.  There were several measles epidemics that wiped out a signficant portion of the Icelandic population several times.

          Missionaries who came to Labrador Canada brought TB with them and killed more natives than they saved with medicines & Christianity.

          HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

          by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:32:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Introduced diseases (22+ / 0-)

      European diseases spread very quickly from the first points of contacts -- points that were more numerous than the named expeditions.  Smallpox and measles were likely the two biggest killers (based mostly on the symptoms) but other diseases, including flu, certainly played a role.

      Jared Diamond's very popular book Guns, Germs, and Steel does a good job of explaining not just the diseases, but the factors that caused the vector of infection to be so lopsided.

      •  So, Mark - this Spaniard was not the first (0+ / 0-)

        there? You say,

        natives at the first fishing village they entered seemed friendly enough, but disappeared after the initial meeting, taking their food with them. The next village might have made more time for the visitors, but the people there were already deeply engaged in dying when the expedition arrived

        Who had been there first? And why didn't he get the governorship or title to the land?

      •  let me offer that IIRC the indigenous peoples (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brein, Oh Mary Oh, MichaelNY

        of the Americas, pre-contact, had their own waves of plagues as indicated in the forensic archeology/ physical anthropology. When I studies this I was more interested in the 19th Century imperialist myths of the lost civilizations that had to explain the advances of the indigenous cultures just like Hiram Bingham may have assumed that Latin Americans might never have legal counsel.

        Präsidentenelf-maßschach;Warning-Some Snark Above;Cascadia Lives

        by annieli on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:10:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well Contemporary Flu Often Comes From Asia (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jim J, KenBee, HylasBrook, annieli, MichaelNY

          via migrating birds, don't they?, and there would've been vastly more bird migration 500+ years ago. Were Asians already raising pigs and birds together in close quarters by then? I'd guess so. That's the incubator I always seem to see mentioned for the source of the flus.

          It'd be interesting to try to discover when Asian influenzas began hitting native Americans. Could've been a long time ago, and the results could've been severe.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:14:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I bet there were a fair number of Europeans (6+ / 0-)

            that washed up along America's shores before Columbus - they just never made it back.

            The Basques were killing and processing whales for oil 50 years before Columbus in Labrador.

            Like many things in history, a specific 'point' is deemed to be a first historical event.  Gutenberg wasn't the first European to invent the printing press - other men were experimenting with it too, but his was more successful.  So, in school we're taught that Gutenberg invented the printing press.  Forget that the Chinese had invented it about 400-500 years before Gutenberg did.

            So there would have been earlier European contact than Columbus'.  

            Was it likely that there became a tipping point?  A contact with a few ship wrecked sailors may not have made a difference, but as the amount of contact grew, the disease germs started spreading.

            HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

            by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:39:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  and the Chinese were here earlier (0+ / 0-)

              if the premise of '1421' can be believed.

              What I can believe however is that people have traversed the Atlantic for a long dam time before somebody came back, claimed anything ("Now we can make Tortillas"..firesign theater) and was listened to.

              People have crossed in rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and when the water was 300' lower, crossing along the Artic ice edge from both Asia and Europe is so likely it's silly to even argue against it. From Asia it's almost a pond inside the kelp, a kelp highway, as anyone who kayaks knows.

              The Aleutian people went far out to sea in skin boats to hunt and fish.

              And people would have brought their bugs with them.

              Responsible people leave neither loaded guns nor paranoid, eliminationist ideologies laying around for the mentally ill to play with.

              by KenBee on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 02:05:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The claim about China can't be believed (0+ / 0-)

                From Wikipedia, but please note the extensive footnoting:

                Within the academic world, the book (and Menzies "1421 hypothesis") is dismissed by sinologists and professional historians.[19][20][21] In 2004, historian Robert Finlay severely criticized Menzies in the Journal of World History for his "reckless manner of dealing with evidence" that led him to propose hypotheses "without a shred of proof".[5] Finlay wrote:

                   Unfortunately, this reckless manner of dealing with evidence is typical of 1421, vitiating all its extraordinary claims: the voyages it describes never took place, Chinese information never reached Prince Henry and Columbus, and there is no evidence of the Ming fleets in newly discovered lands. The fundamental assumption of the book—that Zhu Di dispatched the Ming fleets because he had a "grand plan", a vision of charting the world and creating a maritime empire spanning the oceans—is simply asserted by Menzies without a shred of proof ... The reasoning of 1421 is inexorably circular, its evidence spurious, its research derisory, its borrowings unacknowledged, its citations slipshod, and its assertions preposterous ... Examination of the book's central claims reveals they are uniformly without substance.[22]

                A group of scholars and navigators, Su Ming Yang of the United States, Jin Guo-Ping of Portugal, Philip Rivers of Malaysia, Malhão Pereira and Geoff Wade of Singapore questioned Menzies' methods and findings in a joint message:[23]

                   His book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, is a work of sheer fiction presented as revisionist history. Not a single document or artifact has been found to support his new claims on the supposed Ming naval expeditions beyond Africa...Menzies' numerous claims and the hundreds of pieces of "evidence" he has assembled have been thoroughly and entirely discredited by historians, maritime experts and oceanographers from China, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.[23]

                In a later review, Wade also pointed out Menzies had a propensity for making claims of dramatic, forthcoming evidence that never arrived.[15]

            •  Can you offer more specifics (0+ / 0-)

              or documentation on your points? I'm not contesting them; I'd just like to know more.

      •  There's also a book called 1491 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        la urracca

        that attempts to describe the state of the American civilizations before the arrival of the Europeans. Lots of stuff I never learned in school.

    •  Generally thought that.... (18+ / 0-)

      the diseases were European in origin and moved faster than the conquistadors, e.g, small pox, venereal diseases, measles, plague. Once the Spaniard conquistadors and priests/monks actually arrived, then they finished them off by making them work on farms or produce tribute like serfs. Many were herded into living compounds that heled spread disease even more.

      Population estimates are derived from tribute lists in archives in Sevilla, Spain. These estimates show that the population of Mexico may have been around 30 million in 1520 and declined to 1 million by 1620.

      This has been known since the 1960s and as the diary suggests, is largely forgotten....

    •  Small Pox (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jimdotz, Oh Mary Oh, HylasBrook, MichaelNY

      Small pox came with the conquistadores but as a virus could spread quickly in advance ot the Spaniards as the runners spreading the new of first contact spread the contact of the Small Pox virus well ahead of the advancing troops to a population who had no resistance.

      http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

      by TexMex on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:54:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  which diseases and why they spread (13+ / 0-)

      Smallpox, measles and influenza.  They were far more devastating to the Americans than they were to Europe (and they were plenty devastating in Europe) for two big reasons:

      1. The shock of the new.  Europe had lived through waves of all three diseases, plus the Black Plague.  So if you or your ancestors had lived through all that, you had a pretty toughened immune system.  The New World hadn't seen any similar plagues, because the natives had far superior hygiene to Europeans, and didn't domesticate animals, who are big spreaders of disease.  The average European lived on a farm and probably had dogs, cats, and even pigs and sheep in his house.  For a variety of reasons, Americans hunted animals, but didn't generally keep them around the house.  So Americans were far, far less exposed to diseases, and didn't have anywhere near the immunities Europeans had.
      1. Lack of genetic diversity.  The entire population of the Americas - tens of millions of people - were all descended from a group of maybe 10 to 20 thousand people who came across the land bridge from Asia, only a few milenia before.  Whereas Europeans had a much larger gene pool, which had been evolving and diversifying since the first people came over from Africa millions of years earlier.  So while the Plague wiped out half the population, there were also plenty of folks who either got the disease and survived, or were unaffected.  The Americas didn't have that kind of diverse reaction to disease - if it killed somebody, it killed everybody.

      You can't compromise with someone whose only aim is to destroy you.

      by schroeder on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:54:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They Might've Been Getting Asian Flu Centuries (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HylasBrook, MichaelNY

        before though, via migrating birds as we get them today.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:16:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's more isolation than lack of genetic (6+ / 0-)

        diversity - with no exposure to disease there's no chance to develop immunity.

        That's why the possibility of the small amounts of the smallpox virus would be so devastating to the world.   The only people that have a chance of immunity were the children vacinated against it in the 40's and 50's.  No one is sure that even that still carries immunity (or some degree of resistance) having been administered so long ago.

        The world population is incredibly diverse, but smallpox OR a virulent virus would spread and kill rapidly.

        HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

        by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:44:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  measles, smallpox, plague, typhus, influenza (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, yaque, MichaelNY

      the list is long.

      Measles to first contact peoples could kill off an entire village. It is not the benign childhood illness that we think.

      fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

      by mollyd on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:15:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Outstanding read. (8+ / 0-)

    I look forward to reading the book.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:17:11 AM PST

  •  as always, nicely written, Mark. I would worry (13+ / 0-)

    that the K-12 curricula of Az and TX with their reactionary leaders will never hear a story that is other than pre-feudal and post-columbian.

    With the population densities that existed previous to the 16th century, it's clear that many Native Americans not only lived in large communities, they conducted extensive trade, had stratified and complex societies with specialized craftsmen and officials, and conducted sophisticated forms of agriculture and ranching.

    Präsidentenelf-maßschach;Warning-Some Snark Above;Cascadia Lives

    by annieli on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:17:37 AM PST

  •  I would like to see the research for all of this! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LuLu, LI Mike, HylasBrook

    I cannot believe the populations that you talk about could have existed.  The main reason is life expectancy.  You need many people living into their 50's and 60's to get millions of people.  

    •  do some research? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David, SuetheRedWA, Anak, yaque, MichaelNY

      although from the tone of your comment you probably wouldn't believe what you find anyway.  Go to any respectable library catalog and start with the words "pre-columbian population".

      All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

      by Dave in Northridge on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:39:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am a high school science teacher who knows (0+ / 0-)

        how to research.  The problem is very little was  was written down.  What I would be reading is what others have written down centuries later.  

        Please examine what I have said - do some math!  Most people in the Americas died before they reached 50.

    •  Once you get past 5 years old (9+ / 0-)

      your life expentancy easily reaches the 50s.

      It's about time I changed my signature.

      by Khun David on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:44:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Show me the research and how this applies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HylasBrook

        to people living 700 years ago!

        •  I can give you Eleanor of Aquitaine (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Anak, yaque, MichaelNY

          born in 1122, mother of 10 children (Queen of France and England) died at age 82, after withstanding a seige of a castle at age 80.

          She, of course, had the best food and care available, but even in that day, people could and did live into their 80's.

          Queen Elizabeth I, lived to be 69 1/2.

          Very few

          HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

          by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:53:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Royalty always lived to a ripe old age! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            HylasBrook

            I have traveled across America many times and I doubt very much that there could have been enough food production to have populations of 15 million.  Most of the West is arid and has been that way for over 1000 years.

            •  Yes - it helps to have a plentiful supply (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              yaque, MichaelNY

              of food and (slightly) better living conditions to navigate the hazards of living in the Middle Ages.

              As for the Southwest - you have a good point.  We do know there were great civilizations like the Anasazi around 800AD.  Then weather conditions changed and no one is sure of what happened to them.

              The population of the Southwest could have been greater at that time, but centuries of dry conditions would have winnowed the native population down quite a lot.

              HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

              by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:39:33 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Try the book '1491' (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KenBee, opoponax

          by Charles Mann...looks at North and South America just before Columbus.

          I will give up my atlatl when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

          by wheeldog on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:58:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  In what is now Northeast Washington State (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David, brein, rk2, yaque

      the tribes had been decimated by disease long before the white fur traders showed up.  

      Also, I suggest you read Gary Taubes's Good Calories, Bad Calories.  You'll have a better idea how the European diet was very unhealthy.

    •  Common misperception! (13+ / 0-)

      Life expectancy is an average.  Populations that have a high infant and maternal mortality have a lower life expectancy than a population with a lower rate of infant/maternal life expectancy.

      This does not mean that no one lives beyond 50.  If you leave in the East, go to graveyards in Boston, Concord, other old towns.

      You will see graves for men and women who lived into their late 70's, 80's and even 90's.

      Yes, there will be plenty of graves for children and women in their 20's, but the people who made it through that bottle neck can  live for a long time.

      Plus, current archeological study puts the time of the migration of Native Americans into American as early as 30,000 years ago, not 11,000.

      With abundant, productive land and fauna, a population in the 10s of millions is quite possible.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:50:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very true. Our own "greater life expectency" has (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Anak, HylasBrook, MichaelNY

        as much to do with declining infant mortality than actually living longer, although both are true.

        Once or twice a year a local wildlife refuge opens access to a couple of abandoned cemeteries from the late 1800's - early 1900's. Several of the plots have small "infant" headstones but one was particularly notable for having one large patron stone, two "wife of" stones and seven "infant" daughter or son of stones. What was really heart wrenching was reading the date separations of the infant stones, several were less than 12 mos.

        •  Yes - I was once looking at gravestones (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          geez53, MichaelNY

          in the town of Shirley, MA.

          I was admiring an unusual 4 part headstone until it sunk in that this family had lost 4 daughters in the space of 3 weeks to diptheria.  I cannot imagine the grief those parents felt.

          HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

          by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:42:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Declining infant mortality allows us to (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          geez53, MichaelNY

          stabilize our population.  Frankly people had infinite numbers of kids in the past partly because so many died so young.

          Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

          by neroden on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:16:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  White Man's Legacy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HylasBrook

    Ask the Jews...
    Ask the Palestinians...
    Ask the Gypsies...

    •  sorry (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HylasBrook

      Ask the Africans and the aborigines.

      Apres Bush, le deluge.

      by melvynny on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:42:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Those People Are "White" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hannibal, KenBee, mkor7

      Are you saying that in the final analysis, the remnants of the "white" races will be left to the Jews, Palestinians and Gypsies?  Nothing really binds these groups together in any cohesive intellectual package.  Language doesn't, since the first two speak a Semitic language while the last speaks Indo-European.  The first two come from the east Mediterranean littoral while the last comes from the Indian subcontinent.  The first two are fighting each other, while the last havent' fought anybody in an organized way in a long time.  The last, despite being part of the original Aryan nation, were slaughtered wholesale by the leaders of the last putative Aryan nation, along with the first but not the second.  What is the statement intended to convey?

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:44:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not quite. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim J, KenBee, yaque

      ask the Tai, the Shan, the legacy of the Han people.  ask the Ainu, the legacy of the Japanese people.  Ask the San, the legacy of the Zulu.  Heck, part of the reason why the Mayans fell was that they did not ingratiate themselves with their neighbors.

      It's about time I changed my signature.

      by Khun David on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:53:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Every ethnic group has, at some point, been... (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim J, figbash, Hannibal, filby, rk2, yaque

      the victim of a horrible conquest. We should remember them all, and not demonize any one group for the offense to the exclusion of all others.

      We are all guilty; we are all victims. History is often just a record of Who did What to Whom, and When. No-one is excluded from this truth.

      There are two political aisles: Center-Left and Center-Right. It's impossible to cross them both. Republicans know this and govern accordingly; Democrats don't.

      by Jimdotz on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:16:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My late and really cynical father (7+ / 0-)

    used to say "white man is a plague on the world" when I was growing up. It offended me greatly, as were are a Caucasian family.

    As I learned more about what the Europeans did to the "New World" I began to understand more what he was trying to say.

    Your diary brings his comment into sharper focus.

    Thanks.

    Because you can't spell Reinse Priebus without RNC PR BS.

    by LuLu on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:31:53 AM PST

  •  homophonous botch (8+ / 0-)

    throws: couch blankets
    throes: convulsions of suffering and pain

    circa paragraph 18

    Splendid and engaging account.

  •  Excellent stuff, Mark (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tari, HylasBrook, rk2, MichaelNY

    I first learned about the indigenous population and European settlers/conquerors when I visited St Augustine years ago. The Timucuans were a native group.

    Florida's aboriginal population of about 100,000 was nearly decimated by exposure to deadly diseases that were brought to Florida by European settlers. Smallpox, measles, influenza, even the common cold were deadly to Indians.
    Of course, wars with Spain and other Europeans contributed to the near extinction of early Indians of Florida.

    What I remember most was the description of the Timucuans as very large people.

  •  Great Read.... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilex, tari, HylasBrook, yaque, MichaelNY

    Your diary is indeed a great read.  

    On a recent car trip from Chicago out to Mt Rushmore I was so intrigued by the stories we were hearing, I bought a book titled 1491 which tries to give one a look at what the Americas were like just before Columbus arrived and the world changed forever.  Not an easy read but interesting.

    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke

    by CyberDem on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:46:40 AM PST

  •  Great Read (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilex, tari, HylasBrook, yaque, MichaelNY

    My son spent a half a year in the Fourth Grade reading about the Spainish in Florida.  Of course, we live in Florida.  I have to say for the most part the textbook was reasonably balanced.

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:48:35 AM PST

  •  Thank you Mark (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    filby, HylasBrook

    for this well written diary on a fascinating topic.  To others here who want to read more on this topic, I highly recommend the book 1491, which was one of the most interesting reads I can remember

  •  And speaking of Florida . . . (7+ / 0-)

    Excellent diary, Mark, and I'm waiting eagerly for the book.  The deal with Florida was that the Spanish weren't even the first European settlers.  French "privateers" had figured out the route the Spanish treasure ships took from Mexico to Spain and they set themselves up on the Atlantic coast near where Jacksonville is today in about 1556. By 1560, the revenues from plundering Mexico had fallen so much that Philip II sent a posse to clear out the French (and these men were not just French but Huguenot French) as a strike against piracy and heresy, and Saint Augustine was founded in 1565 as a result.

    (Source: Tony Horwitz, A voyage long and strange : rediscovering the new world [New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2008])

    All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:50:40 AM PST

  •  question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HylasBrook, MichaelNY

    When did Spanish women arrive in the Americas?  Did their arrival change how natives were treated?  Finally, when did the proselytizers come--and were they a positive influence?

    Apres Bush, le deluge.

    by melvynny on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:51:30 AM PST

  •  As always, simply fascinating. Thank you Mark./nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Desert Scientist, MichaelNY

    " It's shocking what Republicans will do to avoid being the 2012 presidential nominee."

    by jwinIL14 on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:53:29 AM PST

  •  This is enthralling! (5+ / 0-)

    Mark, thank you so much for this.  I love learning things I didn't know before.  I knew the conquistadores were pretty much bastards, but I didn't know much about the native populations in North and South America.

    Thank you for this fascinating slice of history!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:59:24 AM PST

  •  thank you, Mark. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, MichaelNY

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

    by TexMex on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:01:08 AM PST

  •  and an upcoming movie! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, annieli, rk2

    by Ron Howard!
    The Serpent and the Eagle
    http://www.film-releases.com/...

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

    by TexMex on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:06:12 AM PST

  •  It is difficult for some people to realize ... (8+ / 0-)

    that the Southwest US had Spanish settlers over 20 years before Plymouth Rock.  Yes many (but not necessarily all) of the Spaniards were cruel and self-seeking adventurers.  Don Juan de Onate, who started the settlement of our part of the world, had the feet cut off of those who opposed his rule and made slaves of the Pueblo.  They finally revolted in 1680 and drove the Spaniards back to Mexico.  I was shocked to find that many conservatives in our state objected to the celebration of the Pueblo Revolt in 1980 because they did not like the political implications of Native Americans celebrating a victory over Europeans!  Yet the Pueblo society was one of the most peaceful in the country.  It took a lot of abuse before they kicked out their oppressors.  When the Spanish came back they wisely appointed someone who did not rule with an iron fist.

    On the other side the Aztecs were unbelievably cruel, one of the reasons Cortez was able to defeat them.  Their lust for slaughter made the Spaniards look positively benign.

    We never hear much of the history of the period between the Conquistadors and the Mexican War  (say 1600-1848).  Nearly 250 years apparently of nothing happening of importance!

    This was a very good and interesting diary.

    •  Kind of ironic that some Americans (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zett, sweettp2063, tari, HylasBrook, MichaelNY

      are so against allowing Spanish language and Latino culture in the US today.

      •  Nor realize that some of the "Hispanics" (8+ / 0-)

        whose immigration status they want to check have been in the Southwest 300 years before the "Americans" arrived.

        As to who was here first, there is always miffed feelings in Virginia because Jamestown was settled by the English before the Pilgrims arrived.  

        Pilgrims  are considered the 'first' settlers because they had far more impact on the future of the US than the people at Jamestown.

        Also, the people at Jamestown saw their stay as temporary -- theycame to make money through trading and mining. They planned to return to England with this wealthy and become English gentlemen.

        The Pilgrims & Puritans came to stay and to build a new society.  So they get the credit for "settling" America.

        HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

        by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:11:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Don Juan de Onate (6+ / 0-)

      got his comeuppance a while back when some of the locals sneaked into the site and cut the feet of his statue.

      I noticed on my last trip past there that they have it fenced and gated now so that won't happen again.

      I will give up my atlatl when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

      by wheeldog on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:04:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Of course we here lots of what happened to the... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, rk2, MichaelNY

      eastern states, but I'll wager a few things happened in the Southwest during that time (for one thing the Pueblo Revolt).  I'm an Easterner by birth, but I really don't think that we get a balanced history of our country be ignoring what was happening in Spanish and later Mexican territories that later became part of the U.S.

    •  Almost like the U.S. colonies! ;-) (0+ / 0-)

      You know, each state that had been a British colony gets its founding story (likely told only within that state), and then kazam! it's 1763 or so and they're about to pass the Stamp Act in London.  What stories don't get told anymore that had great impact on people when they were happening?

      It'd be interesting if some writer were to come up with an epic story that takes place entirely within Colonial British America; it could span 50 years and still end well short of the French and Indian War.  (Speaking of which, I wonder what the story of the U.S.A. would be like if they'd gotten the Québecois on board in 1775...)

      The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

      by Panurge on Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 10:20:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Now why did I get this turned around? (0+ / 0-)

        No--the British North American colonies are almost like New Spain!

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

        by Panurge on Tue Feb 01, 2011 at 07:39:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  One of...if not the...first drawings from America (5+ / 0-)

    The Spanish sic their dogs on gender-variant natives.

  •  Asian Flu Via Migrating Birds (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annominous, MichaelNY

    is something to investigate, which could've been affecting North Americans centuries before any Europeans arrived.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:18:19 AM PST

  •  Looking forward to the book! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    "This country is not overrun with rebels and free thinkers. It's overrun with sheep and conformists." Bill Maher

    by willkath on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:31:15 AM PST

  •  Never realized the Spanish (5+ / 0-)

    were slave raiding Indians up the coast, makes sense just never thought about it.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:31:40 AM PST

  •  Esteban and the Zunis (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, HylasBrook, annominous, MichaelNY

    I came across an interesting part of the Narváez story as part of a team of folks creating "America: History in the Making". Just thought you'd like to add this to your research.
    Esteban was the slave you wrote about and reportedly he was the linguist who was willing to talk with and learn about the various groups they encountered and keep them going. After surviving the long ordeal, he was sent back north by the Governor of Mexico City to search for gold and, legend has it, died in a Zuni village.

    http://www.learner.org/...

  •  This was fantastic, and very informative. (9+ / 0-)

    My area of "armchair expertise" (as in it's a hobby) is 19th C. central European history. I have to admit, that aside from what I might have learned as a kid (and your descriptions are accurate of the kind of coverage in textbooks; your description reminds me of what Loewen wrote in "Lies My Teacher Told Me") and reading Howard Zinn, I am embarassingly ignorant of this history. Now, I am still ignorant, but a little less ignorant. Thank you.

    I look forward to your book.

    This space left blank intentionally.

    by commonmass on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:46:18 AM PST

  •  What an exceptional (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nag, tari, HylasBrook, MichaelNY

    piece of writing!

    Schools may have to change their textbooks.
    Much of our recorded history needs to be recalculated.
    You have demonstrated this beautifully.
    I can't wait to buy your book.

  •   Tampa just celebrated José Gaspar (5+ / 0-)

    by getting drunk since 1904, and "Captiva" island near Ft. Myers named from the "Captive" women held for sex.

    In 1904, members of the Tampa business elite put on an "invasion" of their city based on the increasingly popular figure of Gasparilla. Under the guise of "Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla", an organization modeled after the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade krewes, the invaders donned pirate costumes and rode through the streets on horseback. The event was a hit, and the Krewe planned an even more elaborate spectacle the next year, when all 60 of Tampa's cars were paraded through downtown. Now the invasion is led by the pirate parade float, pictured on the left. The Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been celebrated every year since then, with only two lapses, and today, over 400,000 attend the event,

    Mark any thoughts on the thruthiness of the
    Jose Gaspar stories?

    José Gaspar, known by his nickname Gasparilla (supposedly lived c. 1756 – 1821), was a purported Spanish pirate, the "last of the Buccaneers," who is claimed to have raided the west coast of Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though he is a popular figure in Florida folklore, no evidence of his existence appears in writing before the early 20th century.

  •  I read somwhere anecdotal accounts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hannibal, MichaelNY

    of the first europeans coming across abandoned village after abandoned village.  

    Obviously, a Cahokia leaves archeological evidence, but these settlements and small cities would not.  So only the most contemporary of observations would have given a good grasp of how many had disappeared from disease and resulting disorganization.

    Nobody ever bombed a pro-life office.

    by Inland on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:52:01 AM PST

  •  Outstanding. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HylasBrook, MichaelNY
    Really excellent. Thanks.
  •  Excellent Dairy! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    one of 8, MichaelNY

    I'd like to order a book too

  •  As so often happens when I read one of your (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    filby, MichaelNY

    diaries, I usually don't have time and start in, thinking "Damn, I don't have time to read this, but I can't stop," and then I read it to the end. Exceptional writing and fascinating content.  Can't wait to buy your book.

    Sarah Palin: All pistol and no squint.

    by CanyonWren on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:03:58 AM PST

  •  It's as if there's a limit (0+ / 0-)

    to the amount of people that can co-habitate a space before natural selection takes place. Our technology has conquered sanitation and disease, for now, but it won't be much longer, years or centuries, before a new diseases arrive that our technology can't contain.

  •  Death throes… (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Sumner, HylasBrook, MichaelNY

    not "throws".

    But that's offset by scry, a word I've never seen before, and I have a pretty good vocabulary. So, on the whole, I'm better off now than I was an hour ago.

    Thanks

  •  Interesting read. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zett, MadMs, HylasBrook, yaque, MichaelNY

    One of the things I learned from it is how much of the landscape and the animals living on it had been managed and changed by the original inhabitants. I hadn't seen very much on that before.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:10:56 AM PST

    •  The Native Americans did manage the landscape (10+ / 0-)

      to make it productive for them.

      What happens is that some people make a false equivalence between what the Native Americans did and Europeans did.

      Yes, Eastern Woodland Native Americans regularly burned forests and fields to encourage open spaces from which to encourage the presence of prey species and to provide room for agriculture.

      But this land management is nothing like the wholesale deforestation of New England (and elsewhere) the European settlers did.

      The Europeans gave managing the land a really bad reputation.  So some people feel justified with what Europeans did to the land because "the Indians did it too."

      I don't think any human didn't manage/change the landscape even back in the hunter/gatherer days.  

      To survive, humans have to make the landscape work for them.  They just don't have to destroy it as we are doing now.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:27:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I knew someone with a buffalo jump (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee, HylasBrook, rk2, MichaelNY

        on her family ranchland in Montana. It was studied in the mid 60s and then protected since then. I'm not sure if that comes under landscape management exactly although I think some of the features leading to the jump had been arranged in some way. Rocks or something. Can't recall specifics anymore. It had been used for generations, though, judging by the number of bones there.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:09:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, Indians funnelled Buffalo to a (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KenBee, billmosby, tari, MichaelNY

          cliff and drove them over - much safer than trying to spear a buffalo.

          First Nations Indians in Canada used a trap of branches and trees to drive reindeer to a small area where they could be easily killed.

          Fish weir work on the same strategy - funnel prey to a small area where they can be harvested.

          I think archeologist have discovered that the earliest American Indians did the same with Mastadons.

          I would love to see the remnants of a buffalo jump - would be really interesting.

          HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

          by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:52:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Back in 1991 Spanish TV (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anak, HylasBrook, rk2, yaque, MichaelNY

    produced a film about the adventures of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who led the four Spaniards Mark talks about in the post.  It's a great movie.

    http://www.imdb.com/...

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
    ¬°Boycott Arizona!

    by litho on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:24:15 AM PST

  •  It's been said that the Spanish and English were (6+ / 0-)

    brutal colonizers because each had embarked on a program of exploration after a period of civil war in their own homeland. In each case, there were plenty of ex-soldiers knocking around with experience at carving up Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Irishmen and Basques.

    Both kingdoms had acquired experience with the process of ethnic cleansing and re-settling depopulated territory with plantations of loyal citizens.

    The French also experienced civil war during the Reformation, but it consisted mainly of feudal conflicts among the French nobility and massacres of Huguenots conducted by urban mobs. So the French adventurers who journeyed to North America for gold and glory weren't as ruthless as their Spanish and English counterparts.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:25:07 AM PST

    •  Interesting note: (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mark Sumner, zett, HylasBrook, yaque, MichaelNY

      In 1562 French naval officer Jean Ribault led an expedition to the New World that founded Fort Caroline as a haven for Huguenots in what is now Jacksonville, Florida. Trying to keep control of La Florida, Spanish soldiers killed Ribault and many of his followers near St. Augustine in 1565.

      Have you noticed?
      Politicians who promise LESS government
      only deliver BAD government.

      by jjohnjj on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:25:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Many of the French came to North (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zett, neroden, KenBee, yaque, MichaelNY

      America (particularly Canada) to trade more than settle -- they traveled widely and married into local tribes to secure trading rights.

      I think these traders saw no need to destroy the Native American population because they helped them get the furs they wanted.

      In Canada, there is a whole race called 'Metis' who are descendents of French traders and Native American women.

      After the traders, French settlers(many of them Hugenots)came and settled what is now Quebec.

      The French seemed to be more accepting of Native Americans than the English, but the Catholic priests came with the French, and that of course changed the Native American culture.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:34:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  yes, but in the south west, in NM (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, MichaelNY

      at Acoma and Taos pueblo they still live in their original pueblos because the Spanish did not kill all.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...
      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

  •  A fascinating read. Thank you. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY
  •  Excellent, informative and thought provoking... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I anxiously await your book.

  •  I grew up (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    one of 8, Hannibal, KenBee, MichaelNY

    A stone's throw from Epps, Louisiana, home of the Poverty Point site. . . a great earthwork complex from the Late Archaic, the largest known from that period in North America. Among its artifacts is evidence for trade that extended as far as the Great Lakes.

    There were Empires here, once, lost to time and memory.

    There comes a time when every team must learn to make individual sacrifices.

    by Jaxpagan on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:01:37 AM PST

  •  Just read Cabeza de Vaca's account (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    one of 8, neroden, rk2

    Fascinating and very short.

  •  Very interesting stuff! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    figbash, ravenwind, MichaelNY

    I love these kinds of posts, not just for the historical archeology, but for the triggering of cool "alternate history" fiction ideas.

    What if Europeans didn't make contact until a century later, and instead found a North American civilization that was their equal in technology and military capability? How would the world look today?

    What if, for some reason it was the Aztecs, in their renaissance, that sailed the ocean blue and caught Europe during it's "Dark Age?"

    These notions have probably already been explored. I wish I was a more prolific writer.

  •  Huichol (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    figbash, ravenwind, KenBee, Anak, MichaelNY

    You can see a glimmer of what Mexico was like with the Huichol of today. When Guzman started his march of death, the Huichol just upped and left for the mountains of the Sierra Madres. They did mount small attacks on the Spaniards, but by in large they simply withdrew. They are some what unique in that they never accepted Catholicism, although they have adopted a few pieces. I have a beaded doe that shows Jesus as a buck running away with a Sun God burst on his side. The Huichol believe that when Pontius Pilate came for Jesus to crucify him, Jesus turned himself into a deer and ran away.

    Even today they still live in extended family villages that are called temple districts overseen by a local shaman. All the houses and building are communally owned by the village.

    They still are allowed to pass through what should be hostile territory to collect their peyote for their rituals, as they have done for generations now unnumbered. They have two governments. One sanctioned by Mexico and another of village elders.

    So, imagine thousands if not tens of thousands of temple districts spread throughout Western Mexico run by shamans and you can start to glimpse what Mexico was like. It wasn't bands of nomadic hunters; it was well established temple districts that shared a rich cultural and religious heritage. Sense the peyote was some distance away, it appears that free travel was not impeded.

    Four out five sock puppets agree

    by se portland on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:33:06 AM PST

  •  well written; excellent series (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I am always looking forward to seeing your next piece in the series. Thanks for taking the time and doing the hard work of writing these. Good job!

  •  Minor point, NYC has only 7 million. nt (0+ / 0-)
    •  Not so (0+ / 0-)

      Where do you get those figures from? I've fruitlessly spent the last several minutes trying to find the official 2010 Census results for New York City, but every figure I'm turning up (usually, based on estimates) is well above 8 million. Wikipedia, for example, shows the population at 8,363,710, based on an annual estimate by the US Census Bureau..

  •  Great post BRAVO!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    one of 8, Anak, MichaelNY

    I visited the "new" Native American museum on the mall in DC last fall and this story is told in graphic detail. The plexi glass wall filled with examples of the many different varieties of weapons used by the European conquers and they're native helpers really drives home how this was accomplished. Of course the real killer was disease the guns just finished off the survivors.

    "It's better to die on your feet then live on your knees" E. Zapata

    by Blutodog on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:46:47 AM PST

  •  One word only, Mark: Spectacular. n/t (5+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:54:45 AM PST

  •  Thank you for sparking my curiousity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I too would like a copy of your book when it is available.  

  •  Thanks-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Wonderfully done.

  •  "1491" by Charles Mann (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, filby, Anak, MichaelNY

    I assume someone has mentioned this great book already in the comments, but it's not near the top, so let me just say that Mann goes through the latest scholarship on pre-Columbian America and it's a real eye-opener. The decimation of two continents by disease following first contact - and the loss of those societies' philosophies, science, art and history - was the greatest catastrophe in human history, hands down.

    •  You mean the greatest catastrophe yet. :-) (0+ / 0-)

      Global warming is lining up to be the greatest catastrophe ever -- the loss of biological diversity is even less replaceable.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:20:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this...look forward to more! (0+ / 0-)
  •  A Voyage Strange and Long is an excellent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee

    read, as the author attempts to trace the true story of earliest explorers and their encounters with native peoples. He has many strange encounters, and some that proved helpful, in trying to recreate the routes taken (mostly by the Spanish, which, as you point out are absent from American textbooks). I highly recommend the book, not only for historical fact, but also for humor.

    I think, therefore I am. I think.

    by mcmom on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:35:53 AM PST

  •  They landed at the wrong spot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Thanks for the great reading!

    One interesting point that Rolena Adorno makes in her introduction to a more recent translation is that they were not actually trying to go to the peninsula at all, rather they wanted to land at a northern part of the Gulf of Mexico on the western side. That explains why in Cabaza's account, they talk about looking for things like a port that they know to exist. They couldn't find that port cause they were on the wrong side of the Gulf.  

    Though "Florida" first meant the peninsula, at the time of this expedition it meant a huge swath in the north reaching the Pacific Ocean.

    For the US State Department and its allies, it is all a ruthless chess game, and every pawn matters. - Mark Weisbrot

    by Anak on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:40:12 AM PST

  •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Excellent post.  

    "There is little separating those that see cells as tiny machines from those that see the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich". H. Humbert 2/6/08

    by JDog42 on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:50:05 AM PST

  •  Thank You !!! (0+ / 0-)

    read Guns Germs and Steel with fascination at the time when it came out.

  •  Let me add one more accolade (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lonelyutahdem15

    I love coming to Daily Kos for the education one gets here.  You are a fantastic part of that, Mark.  Thanks a million!

    Have you ever stopped to think and then forgot to start again?

    by figbash on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 11:38:41 AM PST

  •  Not much to say except: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Excellent diary, thanks very much for writing it.

  •  Ever wonder what would have happened if horses (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, KenBee, MichaelNY

    had not gone extinct in the Americas? I suspect Columbus would have found an empire greater than the Cathay he was searching for.

    Horses enables Eurasian empires to communicate over great distances, to plow fields and haul produce to markets, to move timber and stone, and to prevail in war.

    The Aztecs and Incas used foot runners to communicate with their subject provinces. If they had possessed horses, Columbus may well have met Aztec galleys plying the waters of the Caribbean.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:05:15 PM PST

  •  thanks for the very good diary n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY
  •  Excellent diary. Excellent. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

    by neroden on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 09:12:56 PM PST

  •  Thank you so much for this article (0+ / 0-)

    It's fascinating.

  •  gold, guns, glory (0+ / 0-)

    This is an excellent diary. So many text books gloss over the 'discovery', especially when it reduces interaction with Native Americans (or what life was like for them) to less than a paragraph usually.

    Thanks for sharing.

  •  Wow (0+ / 0-)

    This is just awesome. And you should put it in book form i'd certainly read it.

    ..but if youre a writer you say all i wanna do is leave behind one story - Harlan Ellison

    by cdreid on Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 07:43:29 AM PST

  •  Once again a great read (0+ / 0-)

    Any time I see a diary from Mark Summers a.k.a. Devilstower, I read it.
    What a great perspective on America. Having just read a book about the Indian Wars in west Texas it brought some of this to light.

    His other diary right after the wall st collapse started was soooooooooo good. With Rolling Stone writher Matt Taibbi substanciating all of it.

    I look forward to your book sir.

    "There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life." Frank Zappa

    by da888 on Wed Feb 02, 2011 at 12:55:33 PM PST

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