Source: Documenting United States History. J. Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (7)

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Christopher Columbus, Journal (1492)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (7)

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) sought a westerly route to Asia but landed in the Western Hemisphere in October 1492. The sovereigns of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, funded Columbus’s voyages in hopes of expanding Spanish trade routes to Asia. This excerpt form his journal is the first recorded contact between Europeans and native peoples.

They are very well made, with very handsome bodies, and very good countenances. Their hair is short and coarse, almost like hairs of a horse’s tail. They wear the hairs brought down to the eyebrows, except a few locks behind, which they wear long and never cut. They paint themselves black, and they are the colour of the Canarians, neither black nor white. Some paint themselves white, others red, and others of what colour they find. Some paint their faces, others the whole body, some only round the eyes, others only on the nose. They neither carry nor know anything of arms, for I showed them swords, and they took them by the blade and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their darts being wands without iron, some of them having a fish’s tooth at the end, and others being pointed in various ways. They are all of fair stature and size, with good faces, and well made. I saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and I made signs to ask what it was, and they gave me to understand that people from other adjacent islands came with the intention of seizing them and that they defended themselves. I believed, and still believe, that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners. They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion….


1) Identify three significant details that Columbus communicates about his first encounter with Native Americans.


2) From the three details identified above, what can we infer about Columbus’s interests in this venture?


3) Based on your inference of Columbus’s interests in this venture, how might later Spanish settlements affect native populations?

Pope Paul III, Papal Bull: Sublimis Deus (1537)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (12)

A papal bull is a statement or decree by the Roman Catholic Pope and is meant to represent the Catholic Church’s position on a particular issue. Pope Paul III (1468-1549) issued the following papal bull in 1537 to forbid the enslavement of native peoples. Under the encomienda system, the Spanish crown granted conquistadors and colonists a right to control a number of natives, ostensibly to protect, educate, and convert them to Christianity but in effect to use them as forced labor for mining and agriculture.
The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith who He chose for that office “Go ye and teach all nations.” He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith….

We, who, thought unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside, into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the catholic faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, we define and declare by these our letters…the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and of no effect.


1) On what grounds did Pope Paul III forbid the enslavement of native peoples?


2) Does the Pope make his arguments in terms of native equality with Europeans or in terms of European superiority?


3) What interest might the Pope have had in protecting Native Americans from European subjugation?

Jacques Cartier, Voyage to the St. Lawrence (1534)

Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (18-19)

French explorer Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) was the first European to traverse the region of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which he named the “Land of the Canadas.” In his memoir, he described the following interaction with native peoples in modern Quebec.
…And we navigated with weather at will until the second day of October,…during which time and on the way we found many folks of the country,…[who] brought us fish and other victuals, dancing and showing great joy at our coming. And to attract and hold them in amity [friendship] with us, the said captain gave them for recompense some knives, paternosters [rosaries], and other trivial goods, with which they were much content. And we having arrived at the said Hochelaga [an Iroquois village], more than a thousand persons presented themselves before us, men, women, and children alike,…[who] gave us as good reception as ever father did to child, showing marvelous joy; for the men in one band danced, the women on their side and the children on the other,…[who] brought us store of fish and of their bread made of coarse millet, which they cast into our said boats in a way that it seemed as if it tumbled from the air. Seeing this, our said captain landed with a number of his men, and as soon as he was landed they gathered all about him, and about all the others, giving them an unrestrained welcome.

And the women brought their children in their arms to make them touch the said captain and others, making a rejoicing which lasted more than half an hour. And our captain, witnessing their liberality and good will, caused all the women to be seated and ranged in order, and gave them certain paternosters of tin and other trifling things, and to a part of the men knives. Then he retired on board the said boats to sup and pass the night, while these people remained on the shore of the said river nearest the said boats all night, making fires and dancing, crying all the time ”Aguyaze!” which is their expression of mirth and joy…

…[W]e marched farther on, and about a half-league from there we began to find the land cultivated, and fair, large fields, large fields full of grain of their country, which is like Brazil millet, as big or bigger than peas, on which they live just as we do on wheat; and in the midst of these fields is located and seated the town of Hochelaga, near to and adjoining a mountain, which is cultivated round about it and highly fertile, from the summit of which one sees a very great distance. We named the said mountain Mont Royal….

1) Identify the details of this encounter that were significant to Cartier.


2) Cartier’s memoir was published soon after his exploration of the St. Lawrence River. What impressions did Cartier hope to make on his audience regarding natives and resources in the Western Hemisphere?


3) To what extent does this example compare with others you have read regarding the relationship between natives and Europeans?

John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia (1624)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (19-20)

Captain John Smith (1580-1631) was commissioned by the British Crown to oversee “all things abroad.” Here he reflects on an encounter with native peoples in the Virginia Colony, Great Britain’s earliest successful settlement in North America. This excerpt is from Smith’s book The Generall Historie of Virginia.
The new president and Martin, being little beloved, of weak judgment in dangers, and less industry in peace, committed the managing of all things abroad to Captain Smith: who by his own example, good words, and fair promises, set some to mow, others to bind thatch, some to build houses, others to thatch them, himself always bearing the greatest task for his own share, so that in short time, he provided most of them lodgings, neglecting any for himself….[Smith] shipped himself in the shallop to search the country for trade. The want [lack] of the language, knowledge to manage his boat without sails, the want [lack] of a sufficient power (knowing the multitude of savages), apparel for his men, and other necessaries, were infinite impediments, yet no discouragement. being but six or seven in company he went down the river to Kecoughtan, where at first they [the natives] scorned him, as a famished man, and would in derision offer him a handful of corn, a piece of bread, for their swords and muskets, and such like proportions also for their apparel. But seeing by trade and courtesy there was nothing to be had, he…[l]et fly his muskets, ran his boat on shore, whereat they all fled into the woods. So marching toward their houses, they might see great heaps of corn: much ado he had to restrain his hungry soldiers from present taking of it, expecting as it happened that the savages would assault them, as not long after they did with a most hideous noise. Sixty or seventy of them, some black, some red, some white, some party-colored, came in a square order, singing and dancing out of the woods, with their okee (which was an idol made of skins, stuffed with moss, all painted and hung with chains and copper) borne before them: and in this manner being well armed, with clubs, targets, bows and arrows, they charged the English, that so kindly received them with their muskets loaded with pistol shot, that down fell their God, and divers lay sprawling on the ground; the rest fled again to the woods, and ere long sent one of their…[own] to offer peace, and redeem their okee. Smith told them, if only six of them would come unarmed and load his boat, he would not only be their friend, but restore them their okee, and give them beads, copper, and hatchets besides: which on both sides was to their contents performed: and they brought him venison, turkeys, wild fowl, bread, and what they had, singing and dancing in sign of friendship till they departed…


1) What economic activities does Smith describe? What impedimentd did Smith list that interfered with his attempts to trade?


2) Is Smith’s account more favorable or unfavorable to the native peoples that others you have read? Explain. In what ways are Smith’s descriptions of native peoples similar to others you have read?


3) In what ways might this document be a useful primary source for historians? In what ways might this document pose challenges for historians?

Samuel De Champlain, “Description of the French Fur Trade” (1608)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (30)

Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635) founded the French colony of Quebec in 1608. In this document, he describes the beginnings of the fur trade between the French and the native peoples of modern Canada. Although Champlain refers to himself in the third person in this document, he is its author.
Near the spot which ahd thus been selected for a future settlement, Champlain discovered a deposit of excellent clay, and, by way of experiment, had a quantity of it manufactured into bricks, of which he made a wall on the brink of the river….In the mean time, Champlain had been followed to his rendezvous by a herd of adventurers from the maritime towns of France, who, stimulated by the freedom of the trade, had flocked after him in numbers all out of proportion to the amount of furs which they could hope to obtain from the wandering bands of savages that might chance to visit the St. Lawrence [River]. The river was lined with…[Frenchmen] anxiously watching the coming of the savages, all impatient and eager to secure as large a share as possible of the uncertain and meager booty for which they had crossed the Atlantic. Fifteen or twenty barques [sailing vessels with three masts] were moored along the shore, all seeking the best opportunity for the display of the worthless trinkets for which they had avariciously [greedily] hoped to obtain a valuable cargo of furs.

1) How does Champlain portray the Frenchmen who join him on his journey?


2) In what ways were the interests of Champlain and his fellow Frenchmen the same? In what ways were they different?


3) Compare Champlain’s perceptions of natives with those of the Spanish.

Philip IV, Letter to Don Luis de Valdes (1647)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (36-37)

Philip IV (1605-1665) ruled the Spanish empire at a time when Spain claimed much of modern North, Central, and South America. However, Spanish magistrates faced conflicts with the tribes of northern Mexico. In this letter to Governor Luis Valdes, Philip sought to stabilize the region.
To my governor and captain-general of the province of Nueva Vizcaya: It has been learned in my royal Council of the Indies that that province adjoins the barbarous nations…who are now at war, though they are usually at peace; that while they were so at peace, there went among them to trade certain alcaldes mayors [magistrates] and religious instructors who carried off and sold their children to serve in the mines and elsewhere, disposing of them as slaves or giving them as presents, which amounts to the same thing. As a result they became disquieted, and the governor, Don Luis de Valdes, began to punish them immoderately and without regard for the public faith, for, after calling them to attend religious instruction, he seized and shot some of them. Thereupon they revolted, took up their arms and arrows, and made some raids; they broke into my treasury, and it has cost me over 50,000 pesos to pacify them, although they are not entirely quieted yet. It is very fitting to my service and to their peace to command strictly that the barbarous Indians shall not be made slaves nor sent as presents to anyone, nor made to serve anywhere against their will when they are at peace and are not taken in open war.

1) What is the cause of the king’s dissatisfaction with Governor Don Luis de Valdes? What is the king’s proposed solution?


2) What does Philip hope will result from this letter?


3) How would Spanish settlers react to the king’s demand?

John Martin, “Proposal for Subjugating Native Americans” (1622)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (35-36)
John Martin (1560-1632), a Jamestown councilman, suggested the strategy below for subjugating the Pamunkey after the attacks on Jamestown by Opechankanough, Chief Powhatan’s brother.
The manner how to bring in the Indians into subjugation [under control of the English] without making an utter extirpation of them together with the reasons.

First, by disabling the main body of the enemy from having…[all necessities]. As namely corn and all manner of victuals of any worth.

This is to be acted two manner of ways. – First by keeping them from setting corn at home and fishing. Secondly by keeping them from their accustomed trading for corn.

For the first it is performed by having some 200 soldiers on foot, continually harrowing and burning all their Towns in winter, and spoiling their wares. . . .

For the second there must [be] provided some 10 ships, that in May, June, July and August may scour the bay and keep the rivers yet are belonging to Opichankanoe [Opechancanough].

By this arises two happy ends. – First the assured taking of great purchases in skins and prisoners. Secondly in keeping them from trading for corn on the Eastern shore and from southward from whence they have five times more than they set themselves.

This course being taken they have no means, but must yield to obedience, or fly to bordering neighbors who neither will receive them nor indeed are able, for they have but ground cleared for their own use.

1) What is Martin’s plan for subjugating the natives around Jamestown?


2) In what ways does this plan play to the colonists’ strengths?


3) Martin’s plan took place before the advent of widespread slavery in Jamestown. To what extent does this plan reflect certain British attitudes toward non-Europeans?

John Easton, A Relation of the Indian War (1675)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (37)

John Easton (1624-1705) was governor of Rhode Island during King Philip’s War (1675-1678), a series of attacks on New England settlements by the leader of the Wampanoag Confederacy, Metacomet (who was called King Philip by the English). Below, Easton describes how the Narragansett and Rhode Islanders were pulled into the war after forces from the Puritan colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut attacked the Narragansett people in Rhode Island on suspicion of harboring Wampanoag warriors.
…I having often informed the Indians that English men would not begin a war, otherwise it was brutish so to do. I am sorry so the Indians have case to think me deceitful for the English thus began the war with the Narogansets [Narragansetts], we having sent off our island [Rhode Island] many Indians and informed them if they kept by the water side and did not meddle that…the English would do them no harm….The war [began] without proclamation, and some of our people did not know the English had begun mischief to [conflict with the] Indians….They [the forces from New England] sold the Indians that they had taken…for slaves,…and now the English army is out to seek after the Indians, but it is most likely that such most able to do mischief will escape, and women and children and impotent may be destroyed….

1) According to Easton, what were the origins of this conflict? How far has it progressed?


2) What was Easton’s attitude toward the Narragansetts of Rhode Island?


3) What conflicting relations between natives and New Englanders does this document portray?

Edward Randolph, Assessment of the Causes of King Philip’s War (1675)

Source: Documenting United States History. J.Stacy & S. Heller. Bedford: 2016 (38-39)

Edward Randolph (1632-1703), a prominent British colonial administrator, assessed the causes of King Philip’s War for the British government. His critical report led Charles II to revoke the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and place it under a governor who was appointed by the king.
Various are the reports and conjectures of the causes of the present Indian war. Some impute it to an imprudent zeal in the magistrates of Boston…for that while the magistrates, for their profit, put the laws severely in execution against the Indians, the people, on the other side, for lucre [profit] and gain, entice and provoke the Indians to the breach thereof, especially to drunkenness, to which those people are so generally addicted that they will strip themselves to their skin to have their fill of rum and brandy….

Some believe there have been vagrant and Jesuitical priests [missionaries of the Society of Jesus, who were converting natives to Catholicism], who have made it their business, for some years past, to go from Sachem to Sachem [sachems were native leaders], to exasperate the Indians against the English and to bring them into a confederacy, and that they were promised supplies from France and other parts to extirpate the English nation out of the continent of America. Others impute the cause to some injuries offered to the Sachem Philip; for he being possessed of a tract of land called Mount Hope,…some English had a mind to dispossess him thereof, who never wanting one pretense or other to attain their end, complained of injuries done by Philip and his Indians to their stock and cattle, whereupon Philip was often summoned before the magistrate, sometimes imprisoned, and never released but upon parting with a considerable part of his land.

But the government of the Massachusetts (to give it in their own words) do declare these are the great eveils for which God hath given the heathen commission to rise against them: The woeful breach of the 5th commandment, in contempt of their authority, which is a sin highly provoking to the Lord: For men wearing long hair and periwigs made of women’s hair; for women wearing borders of hair and for cutting, curling and laying out the hair, and disguising themselves by following strange fashions in their apparel: For profaneness in the people not frequenting their meetings, and others going away before the blessing be pronounced….

With many such reasons, but whatever be the cause, the English have contributed much to their misfortunes, for they first taught the Indians the use of arms, and admitted them to be present at all their musters and trainings, and showed them how to handle, mend and fix their muskets, and have been furnished with all sorts of arms by permission of the government, so that the Indians are become excellent firemen….


1) Randolph offers a number of causes of the conflict. List those that stem from factors in North America. List those that stem from factors tied to European conflicts. Who did Randolph accuse of stirring up the Indians against the English?


2) What do the causes of the war according to “the government of…Massachusetts” tell you about the values of the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony? How do they differ from those of Randolph and the British government?


3) In what ways was King Philip’s War a product of both local and global forces?

Applying AP Historical Thinking Skill
Sometimes we compare two things to understand each one better. For example, if you want to understand the weather today, it often helps to compare it to yesterday’s weather: “Today is warmer than yesterday.” If your listener knows what the weather was yesterday, she will understand what the weather is today. Historians use comparison to illuminate the similarities and differences between two or more historical events, individuals, or concepts.

The historical thinking skill called comparison can be used to answer the following prompt:

Compare the Spanish, English, and French policies toward Native Americans. To what extent were these policies shaped by economic considerations?

STEP 1: Use the documents to characterize Spanish, English, and French policies toward Native Americans. Consider the ways in which these policies were shaped by economic considerations. One is already done for you.



Policies toward natives

Ways in which these policies were shaped by economic considerations


Philip IV tried to prevent further uprisings by ordering Governor Don Luis de Valdes to treat natives less cruelly.

The Spanish depended on native laborers, especially through the encomienda system.



STEP 2: Now that you have characterized each nation’s policies and economic relations with Native Americans, you’re ready to compare them. Compile the similarities and the differences between the Spanish, the English, and the French using the chart below. (Note: Your similarities will be generalizations, or common statements, about all three nations. Your differences will be generalizations but about each nation in particular.) Try to come up with three for each. One similarity and one difference are already completed for you.

Similarities: Policies and economics

Differences: Policies and economics

1) All three European nations needed some form of cooperation from natives to fulfill their economic goals in North America.

Spanish: The Spanish used natives as labor and needed to maintain their subservient social and economic status to fulfill this goal.





STEP 3: You’re now ready to create a thesis statement that compares these three nations and the ways that their policies affected economic relations with Native Americans. Your thesis statement should include both your similarities and differences. For example, it could begin with a similarity:

Although Spain, England, and France all instituted policies that sought to exploit native peoples,. . .

and could end with a statement of differences:

…Spain overwhelmingly sought to convert natives to Catholicism and treat them as economic dependents, England traded with native peoples but primarily pursued cultivation of Native American land, and France sought to trade raw materials with Native Americans.

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