Friday, August 23, 2019
Christopher Columbus, Journal (1492) - A record of one of the 1st contacts between indigenous & colonizing cultures.
... This present year of 1492, after Your Highnesses had brought to an end the war with the Moors who ruled in Europe and had concluded the war in the very great city of Granada, where this present year on the second day of the month of January I saw the Royal Standards of Your Highnesses placed by force of arms on the towers of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of the said city; and I saw the Moorish King come out to the gates of the city and kiss the Royal Hands of Your Highnesses and of the Prince my Lord; and later in that same month, because of the report that I had given to Your Highnesses about the lands of India and about a prince who is called "Grand Khan," which means in our Spanish language "King of Kings"; how, many times, he and his predecessors had sent to Rome to ask for men learned in our Holy Faith in order that they might instruct him in it and how the Holy Father had never provided them; and thus so many peoples were lost, falling into idolatry and accepting false and harmful religions; and Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and Princes, lovers and promoters of the Holy Christian Faith, and enemies of the false doctrine of Mahomet and of all idolatries and heresies, you thought of sending me, Christobal Colon, to the said regions of India to see the said princes and the peoples and the lands, and the characteristics of the lands and of everything and to see how their conversion to our Holy Faith might be undertaken. And you commanded that I should not go to the East by land, by which way it is customary to go, but by the route to the West, by which route we do not know for certain that anyone previously has passed. So, after having expelled all the Jews from all of your Kingdoms and Dominions, in the same month of January Your Highnesses commanded me to go, with a suitable fleet, to the said regions of India. And for that you granted me great favors and ennobled me so that from then on I might call myself "Don" and would be Grand Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy and perpetual Governor of all the islands and lands that I might discover and gain and [that] from now on might be discovered and gained in the Ocean Sea; and likewise my eldest son would succeed me and his son him, from generation to generation forever. And I left the city of Granada on the twelfth day of May in the same year of 1492 on Saturday, and I came to the town of Palos, which is a seaport, where I fitted out three vessels very well suited for such exploits; and I left the said port, very well provided with supplies and with many seamen, on the third day of August of the said year, on a Friday, half an hour before sunrise; and I took the route to Your Highnesses' Canary Islands, which are in the said Ocean Sea, in order from there to take my course and sail so far that I would reach the Indies and give Your Highnesses' message to those princes and thus carry out that which you had commanded me to do. And for this purpose I thought of writing on this whole voyage, very diligently, all that I would do and see and experience, as will be seen further along....
Thursday I I October
He [sometimes Columbus refers to himself in the third person] steered west-southwest. They took much water aboard, more than they had taken in the whole voyage. They saw petrels and a green bulrush near the ship. The men of the caravel Pinta saw a cane and a stick, and took on board another small stick that appeared to have been worked with iron, and a piece of cane, and other vegetation originating on land, and a small plank. The men of the caravel Nina also saw other signs of land and a small stick loaded with barnacles. With these signs everyone breathed more easily and cheered up. On this day, up to sunset, they made 27 leagues.
After sunset he steered on his former course to the west. They made about 12 miles each hour and, until two hours after midnight, made about 90 miles, which is twenty-two leagues and a half. And because the caravel Pinta was a better sailor and went ahead of the Admiral it found land and made the signals that the Admiral had ordered. A sailor named Rodrigo de Triana saw this land first, although the Admiral, at the tenth hour of the night, while he was on the sterncastle saw a light, although it was something so faint that he did not wish to affirm that it was land. But he called Pero Gutierrez, the steward of the king's dais, and told him that there seemed to be a light, and for him to look: and thus he did and saw it. He also told Rodrigo Sanchez de Segovia, whom the king and queen were sending as veedor of the fleet, who saw nothing because he was not in a place where he could see it. After the Admiral said it, it was seen once or twice; and it was like a small wax candle that rose and lifted up, which to few seemed to be an indication of land. But the Admiral was certain that they were near land, because of which when they recited the salve, which sailors in their own way are accustomed to recite and sing, all being present, the Admiral entreated and admonished them to keep a good lookout on the forecastle and to watch carefully for land; and that to the man who first told him that he saw land he would later give a silk jacket in addition to the other rewards that the sovereigns had promised, which were ten thousand maravedis as an annuity to whoever should see it first. At two hours after midnight the land appeared, from which they were about two leagues distant. They hauled down all the sails and kept only the treo, which is the mainsail without bonnets, and jogged on and off, passing time until daylight Friday, when they reached an islet of the Lucayas, which was called Guanaham in the language of the Indians. Soon they saw naked people; and the Admiral went ashore in the armed launch, and Martin Alonso Pinzon and his brother Vicente Anes, who was captain of the Nina The Admiral brought out the royal banner and the captains two flags with the green cross, which the Admiral carried on all the ships as a standard, with an F and a Y, and over each letter a crown, one on one side and the other on the other. Thus put ashore they saw very green trees and many ponds and fruits of various kinds. The Admiral called to the two captains and to the others who had jumped ashore and to Rodrigo Descobedo, the escrivano of the whole fleet, and to Rodrigo Sanchez de Segovia; and he said that they should be witnesses that, in the presence of all, he would take, as in fact he did take, possession of the said island for the king and for the queen his lords, making the declarations that were required, and which at more length are contained in the testimonials made there in writing. Soon many people of the island gathered there.
What follows are the very words of the Admiral in his book about his first voyage to, and discovery of, these Indies. 1, he says, in order that they would be friendly to us -- because I recognized that they were people who would be better freed and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by force -- to some of them I gave red caps, and glass beads which they put on their chests, and many other things of small value, in which they took so much pleasure and became so much our friends that it was a marvel. Later they came swimming to the ships' launches where we were and brought us parrots and cotton thread in balls and javelins and many other things, and they traded them to us for other things which we gave them, such as small glass beads and bells. In sum, they took everything and gave of what they had very willingly. But it seemed to me that they were a people very poor in everything. All of them go around as naked as their mothers bore them; and the women also, although I did not see more than one quite young girl. And all those that I saw were young people, for none did I see of more than 30 years of age. They are very well formed, with handsome bodies and good faces. Their hair coarse -- almost like the tail of a horse-and short. They wear their hair down over their eyebrows except for a little in the back which they wear long and never cut. Some of them paint themselves with black, and they are of the color of the Canarians, neither black nor white; and some of them paint themselves with white, and some of them with red, and some of them with whatever they find. And some of them paint their faces, and some of them the whole body, and some of them only the eyes, and some of them only the nose. They do not carry arms nor are they acquainted with them, because I showed them swords and they took them by the edge and through ignorance cut themselves. They have no iron.
Their javelins are shafts without iron and some of them have at the end a fish tooth.... All of them alike are of good-sized stature and carry themselves well. I saw some who had marks of wounds on their bodies and I made signs to them asking what they were; and they showed me how people from other islands nearby came there and tried to take them, and how they defended themselves; and I believed and believe that -- they come here from tierrafirme to take them captive. They should be good and intelligent servants, for I see that they say very quickly everything that is said to them; and I believe that they would become Christians very easily, for it seemed to me that they had no religion. Our Lord pleasing, at the time of my departure I will take six of them from here to Your Highnesses in order that they may learn to speak...
. . . They came to the ship with dugouts that are made from the trunk of one tree, like a long boat, and all of one piece, and worked marvelously in the fashion of the land, and so big that in some of them 40 and 45 men came. And others smaller, down to some in which came one man alone. They row with a paddle like that of a baker and go marvelously. And if it capsizes on them they then throw themselves in the water, and they right and empty it with calabashes that they carry. They brought balls of spun cotton and parrots and javelins and other little things that it would be tiresome to write down, and they gave everything for anything that was given to them. I was attentive and labored to find out if there was any gold; and I saw that some of them wore a little piece hung in a hole that they have in their noses. And by signs I was able to understand that, going to the south or rounding the island to the south, there was there a king who had large vessels of it and had very much gold.... This island is quite big and very flat and with very green trees a I and much water and a very large lake in the middle and without any mountains; and all of it so green that it is a pleasure to look at it. And these people are very gentle, and because of their desire to have some of our things and believing that nothing will be given to them without their giving something, and not having anything, they take what they can and then throw themselves into the water to swim....
Sunday 14 October
As soon as it dawned I ordered the ship's boat and the launches of the caravels made ready and went north-northeast along the island in order to see what there was in the other part, which was the eastern part. And also to see the villages, and I soon saw two or three, as well as people, who all came to the beach calling to us and giving thanks to God. Some of them brought us water; others, other things to eat; others, when they saw that I did not care to go ashore, threw themselves into the sea swimming and came to us, and we understood that they were asking us if we had come from the heavens. And one old man got into the ship's boat, and others in loud voices called to all the men and women: Come see the men who came from the heavens. Bring them something to eat and drink. Many men came, and many women, each one with something, giving thanks to God, throwing themselves on the ground; and they raised their hands to heaven, and afterward they called to us in loud voices to come ashore. ... And I saw a piece of land formed like an island, although it was not one, on which there were six houses. This piece of land might in two days be cut off to make an island, although I do not see this to be necessary since these people are very naive about weapons, as Your Highnesses will see from seven that I caused to be taken in order to carry them away to you and to learn our language and to return them. Except that, whenever Your Highnesses may command, all of them can be taken to Castile or held captive in this same island; because with 50 men all of them could be held in subjection and can be made to do whatever one might wish. And later [I noticed], near the said islet, groves of trees, the most beautiful that I saw and with their leaves as green as those of Castile in the months of April and May, and lots of water. I looked over the whole of that harbor and afterward returned to the ship and set sail, and I saw so many islands that I did not know how to decide which one I would go to first. And those men whom I had taken told me by signs that they were so very many that they were numberless. And they named by their names more than a hundred. Finally I looked for the largest and to that one I decided to go and so I am doing. It is about five leagues distant from this island of San Salvador, and tile others of them some more, some less. All are very flat without mountains and very fertile and all populated and they make war on one another, even though these men are very simple and very handsome in body...
Sunday 4 November
... The Admiral showed cinnamon and pepper to a few of the Indians of that place (it seems from the samples that he was bringing from Castile) and he says that they recognized it; and they said by signs that nearby to the southeast there was a lot of it. He showed them gold and pearls, and certain old men answered that in a place that they called Bohio there was a vast amount and that they wore it on neck and in ears and on arms and legs; and also pearls. Moreover, he understood that they said that there were big ships and much trade and that all of this was to the southeast. He understood also that, far from there, there were one-eyed men, and others, with snouts of dogs, who ate men, and that as soon as one was taken they cut his throat and drank his blood and cut off his genitals. The Admiral decided to return to the ship to wait for the two men whom he had sent and to decide whether to leave and seek those lands, unless the two men brought good news of that which they desired....
Tuesday 6 November
... They saw many kinds of trees and plants and fragrant flowers; they saw birds of many kinds, different from those of Spain, except partridges and nightingales, which sang, and geese, for of these there are a great many there. Four-footed beasts they did not see, except dogs that did not bark. The earth was very fertile and planted with those manes and bean varieties very different from ours, and with that same millet. And they saw a large quantity of cotton collected and spun and worked; and in a single house they had seen more than five hundred arrobas; and that one might get there each year four thousand quintales . The Admiral says that it seemed to him that they did not sow it and that it produces fruit [i.e., cotton] all year. It is very fine and has a large boll. Everything that those people have, he says, they would give for a very paltry price, and that they would give a large basket of cotton for the tip of a lacing or anything else given to them. They are people, says the Admiral, quite lacking in evil and not warlike; all of them, men and women naked as their mothers bore them. It is true that the women wear a thing of cotton only so big as to cover their genitals and no more. And they are very respectful and not very black, less so than Canarians. I truly believe, most Serene Princes (the Admiral says here), that, given devout religious persons knowing thoroughly the language that they use, soon all of them would become Christian. And so I hope in Our Lord that Your Highnesses, with much diligence, will decide to send such persons in order to bring to the Church such great nations and to convert them, just as you have destroyed those that (lid not want to confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that after your days (for all of us are mortal) you will leave your kingdoms in a tranquil state, free of heresy and evil, and will be well received before the Eternal Creator, may it please Whom to give you long life and great increase of your kingdoms and dominions and the will and disposition to increase the Holy Christian Religion, as up to now you have done, amen. Today I pulled the ship off the beach and made ready to leave on Thursday, in the name of God, and to go to the southeast to seek gold and spices and to explore land. All these are the Admiral's words. He intended to leave on Thursday, but because a contrary wind came up he could not leave until the twelfth of November...
Source: E. G. Bourne, ed., The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot (New York, 1906).
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies. (1542) - Spanish Christians Slaughter & Enslave Natives in the West Indies
The Indies were discovered in the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-two. In the following year a great many Spaniards went there with the intention of settling the land. Thus, forty-nine years have passed since the first settlers penetrated the land, the first so claimed being the large and most happy isle called Hispaniola, which is six hundred leagues in circumference. Around it in all directions are many other islands, some very big, others very small, and all of them were, as we saw with our own eyes, densely populated with native peoples called Indians. This large island was perhaps the most densely populated place in the world. There must be close to two hundred leagues of land on this island, and the seacoast has been explored for more than ten thousand leagues, and each day more of it is being explored. And all the land so far discovered is a beehive of people; it is as though God had crowded into these lands the great majority of mankind.
And of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve. They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world. And because they are so weak and complaisant, they are less able to endure heavy labor and soon die of no matter what malady. The sons of nobles among us, brought up in the enjoyments of life's refinements, are no more delicate than are these Indians, even those among them who are of the lowest rank of laborers. They are also poor people, for they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods. For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy. Their repasts are such that the food of the holy fathers in the desert can scarcely be more parsimonious, scanty, and poor. As to their dress, they are generally naked, with only their pudenda covered somewhat. And when they cover their shoulders it is with a square cloth no more than two varas in size. They have no beds, but sleep on a kind of matting or else in a kind of suspended net called bamacas. They are very clean in their persons, with alert, intelligent minds, docile and open to doctrine, very apt to receive our holy Catholic faith, to be endowed with virtuous customs, and to behave in a godly fashion. And once they begin to hear the tidings of the Faith, they are so insistent on knowing more and on taking the sacraments of the Church and on observing the divine cult that, truly, the missionaries who are here need to be endowed by God with great patience in order to cope with such eagerness. Some of the secular Spaniards who have been here for many years say that the goodness of the Indians is undeniable and that if this gifted people could be brought to know the one true God they would be the most fortunate people in the world.
Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days. And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during tla! past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.
The island of Cuba is nearly as long as the distance between Valladolid and Rome; it is now almost completely depopulated. San Juan [Puerto Rico] and Jamaica are two of the largest, most productive and attractive islands; both are now deserted and devastated. On the northern side of Cuba and Hispaniola he the neighboring Lucayos comprising more than sixty islands including those called Gigantes, beside numerous other islands, some small some large. The least felicitous of them were more fertile and beautiful than the gardens of the King of Seville. They have the healthiest lands in the world, where lived more than five hundred thousand souls; they are now deserted, inhabited by not a single living creature. All the people were slain or died after being taken into captivity and brought to the Island of Hispaniola to be sold as slaves. When the Spaniards saw that some of these had escaped, they sent a ship to find them, and it voyaged for three years among the islands searching for those who had escaped being slaughtered , for a good Christian had helped them escape, taking pity on them and had won them over to Christ; of these there were eleven persons and these I saw.
More than thirty other islands in the vicinity of San Juan are for the most part and for the same reason depopulated, and the land laid waste. On these islands I estimate there are 2,100 leagues of land that have been ruined and depopulated, empty of people.
As for the vast mainland, which is ten times larger than all Spain, even including Aragon and Portugal, containing more land than the distance between Seville and Jerusalem, or more than two thousand leagues, we are sure that our Spaniards, with their cruel and abominable acts, have devastated the land and exterminated the rational people who fully inhabited it. We can estimate very surely and truthfully that in the forty years that have passed, with the infernal actions of the Christians, there have been unjustly slain more than twelve million men, women, and children. In truth, I believe without trying to deceive myself that the number of the slain is more like fifteen million.
The common ways mainly employed by the Spaniards who call themselves Christian and who have gone there to extirpate those pitiful nations and wipe them off the earth is by unjustly waging cruel and bloody wars. Then, when they have slain all those who fought for their lives or to escape the tortures they would have to endure, that is to say, when they have slain all the native rulers and young men (since the Spaniards usually spare only the women and children, who are subjected to the hardest and bitterest servitude ever suffered by man or beast), they enslave any survivors. With these infernal methods of tyranny they debase and weaken countless numbers of those pitiful Indian nations.
Their reason for killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold, and to swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate disproportionate to their merits. It should be kept in mind that their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world, is the cause of their villainies. And also, those lands are so rich and felicitous, the native peoples so meek and patient, so easy to subject, that our Spaniards have no more consideration for them than beasts. And I say this from my own knowledge of the acts I witnessed. But I should not say "than beasts" for, thanks be to God, they have treated beasts with some respect; I should say instead like excrement on the public squares. And thus they have deprived the Indians of their lives and souls, for the millions I mentioned have died without the Faith and without the benefit of the sacraments. This is a wellknown and proven fact which even the tyrant Governors, themselves killers, know and admit. And never have the Indians in all the Indies committed any act against the Spanish Christians, until those Christians have first and many times committed countless cruel aggressions against them or against neighboring nations. For in the beginning the Indians regarded the Spaniards as angels from Heaven. Only after the Spaniards had used violence against them, killing, robbing, torturing, did the Indians ever rise up against them....
On the Island Hispaniola was where the Spaniards first landed, as I have said. Here those Christians perpetrated their first ravages and oppressions against the native peoples. This was the first land in the New World to be destroyed and depopulated by the Christians, and here they began their subjection of the women and children, taking them away from the Indians to use them and ill use them, eating the food they provided with their sweat and toil. The Spaniards did not content themselves with what the Indians gave them of their own free will, according to their ability, which was always too little to satisfy enormous appetites, for a Christian eats and consumes in one day an amount of food that would suffice to feed three houses inhabited by ten Indians for one month. And they committed other acts of force and violence and oppression which made the Indians realize that these men had not come from Heaven. And some of the Indians concealed their foods while others concealed their wives and children and still others fled to the mountains to avoid the terrible transactions of the Christians.
And the Christians attacked them with buffets and beatings, until finally they laid hands on the nobles of the villages. Then they behaved with such temerity and shamelessness that the most powerful ruler of the islands had to see his own wife raped by a Christian officer.
From that time onward the Indians began to seek ways to throw the Christians out of their lands. They took up arms, but their weapons were very weak and of little service in offense and still less in defense. (Because of this, the wars of the Indians against each other are little more than games played by children.) And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers' breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, "Boil there, you offspring of the devil!" Other infants they put to the sword along with their mothers and anyone else who happened to be nearby. They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim's feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. To others they attached straw or wrapped their whole bodies in straw and set them afire. With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them round the victim's neck, saying, "Go now, carry the message," meaning, Take the news to the Indians who have fled to the mountains. They usually dealt with the chieftains and nobles in the following way: they made a grid of rods which they placed on forked sticks, then lashed the victims to the grid and lighted a smoldering fire underneath, so that little by little, as those captives screamed in despair and torment, their souls would leave them....
After the wars and the killings had ended, when usually there survived only some boys, some women, and children, these survivors were distributed among the Christians to be slaves. The repartimiento or distribution was made according to the rank and importance of the Christian to whom the Indians were allocated, one of them being given thirty, another forty, still another, one or two hundred, and besides the rank of the Christian there was also to be considered in what favor he stood with the tyrant they called Governor. The pretext was that these allocated Indians were to be instructed in the articles of the Christian Faith. As if those Christians who were as a rule foolish and cruel and greedy and vicious could be caretakers of souls! And the care they took was to send the men to the mines to dig for gold, which is intolerable labor, and to send the women into the fields of the big ranches to hoe and till the land, work suitable for strong men. Nor to either the men or the women did they give any food except herbs and legumes, things of little substance. The milk in the breasts of the women with infants dried up and thus in a short while the infants perished. And since men and women were separated, there could be no marital relations. And the men died in the mines and the women died on the ranches from the same causes, exhaustion and hunger. And thus was depopulated that island which had been densely populated.
Source: Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies. (1542)
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
In 1818, the artist George Catlin (1796–1872) was practicing law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821, to pursue painting Native Americans, a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." Catlin based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s recounting his travels — following the Vanishing (Native) American, "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind...gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination...here, treachery & cruelty, are...restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity, by a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world...From the first (colonial) settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the...frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled." Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating a visual & narrative record of Native American life. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act began a 12-year campaign to remove the remaining Indians from their ancient homelands east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, many Native Americans would be decimated by starvation & disease; within a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad. Catlin produced 2 major collections of paintings of American Indians & published a series of books chronicling his travels among the native peoples of North, Central, & South America.
Monday, August 19, 2019
When 39-year-old John and his family arrived in New Amsterdam (it is now called New York) on this day, August 4, 1642, they saw a primitive settlement--a far cry from today's New York. As thinly settled as New Amsterdam was, the family immediately ventured into the wilds where there were even fewer homes and people. John was to become the 1st pastor of a new town at Fort Orange (near Albany). About a 100 people lived at this new settlement in 25 or 30 houses. Not even all of these families were Dutch: Scandinavians, English and Germans had settled the region, too, not to mention African slaves and local Indians.
John's contract promised him a home, 1,000 guilders a year, and 30 schepels of wheat (about 23 bushels) and 2 firkins of butter (about half a bushel). He was forbidden to engage in farming or in trade, but was required instead to spend his time in "the diligent performance of his duties," which included teaching the Indians about Christ. This was a real hardship, because his salary wasn't always paid. Under his contract, he was obliged to stay 3 years and the landowner had the option to renew that for a further 3 years if he chose. No church had been built before John and his family arrived. For almost 5years, he had to hold most services in his own home. In 1647, his congregation remodeled a storehouse to serve as a church. Since John was a faithful, hardworking pastor, the landowner kept him the full 6 years. By then, John was happily contemplating a return to his homeland in Europe. He sent his wife and children on ahead of him.
When John reached New Amsterdam, the colonial officers, led by Governor Peter Stuyvesant, pleaded with him to stay. All of the work he had done would go to ruin, they said. There was no one else to take it over. Worse yet, Reverend Backerus had just returned to Holland, leaving no Reformed Church Pastor in the whole colony. Who would baptize the children? John wrestled with his conscience. In the end, Stuyvesant was able to gratefully report to Holland that John agreed to stay in New Amsterdam. He had "set the honor of God, the service of the church, and the saving of human souls, above his own very important business..." He had a small library of his own and tutored his own son in Latin. John wrote a study of the Mohawk Indians which was published in Holland. He died in New Amsterdam in 1670.
Of the Native Americans John wrote:
The principal Nation of all the Savages and Indians hereabouts with which we are connected, are the Mahakuaas [Mohawks], who have laid all the other Indians near us under Contribution. This Nation has a very heavy Language, and I find great difficulty in learning it so as to speak and preach to them fluently: there are no Christians who understand the Language thoroughly; those who have lived here long can hold a kind of Conversation, just sufficient to carry on Trade, but they do not understand the Idiom of the Language. I am making a Vocabulary of the Mahakuaa Language, and when I am among them I ask them how Things are called - then, as they are very dumb, I cannot sometimes get an Explanation of what I want. . . .
The Indians in this Country are of much the same Stature with us Dutchmen; some of them have very good Features, and their Bodies and Limbs are well proportioned; they all have black Eyes, but their Skin is tawney: . . . In Winter they hang loosely about them a Deer's, or Bear's, or Panther's Skin, or they take some Beaver and Otter Skins, or Wild-Cat's, Raccoons, Martin's, Otters, Mink's, Squirrel or several Kinds of Skins, which are Plenty in this Country, and sew some of them upon others, until it is a square Piece, and that is then a Garment for them, or they buy of us Dutchmen two and an half Ells of Duffils, and that they hang loosely on them, just as it was torn off, without any sewing, and as they go away they look very much at themselves, and think they are very fine. They make themselves Stockings and Shoes of Deer Skin, or they take the Leaves of their Corn, and plat them together and use them for Shoes. . . . the Wornen let their Hair grow very long, and tie it, and let it hang down their Backs: some of the Men wear their Hair on one Side of the Head, and some on both Sides, and a long Lock of Hair Hanging down: on the top of their Heads they have a Streak of Hair from the Forehead to the Neck, about the Breadth of three Fingers, and this they shorten till it is about two or three Fingers long, and it stands right on End like Hogs Bristles; on both Sides of this Streak they cut the Hair short off, except the aforesaid Locks, and they also leave on the bare Places here and there small Locks, such as are in Sweeping-Brushes, and they are very fine. They likewise paint their Faces, red, blue, &c. and then they look like the Devil himself. . . .
. . . The Women are obliged to prepare the Land, to mow, to plant, and do every Thing; the Men do nothing except hunting, fishing, and going to War against their Enemies: they treat their Enemies with great Cruelty in Time of War, for they first bite off the Nails of the Fingers of their Captives, and cut off some joints, and sometimes the whole of the Fingers; after that the Captives are obliged to sing and dance before them . . ., and finally they roast them before a slow Fire for some Days, and eat them: . . . Though they are very cruel to their Enemies, they are very friendly to us: we are under no Apprehensions from them; we go with them into the Woods; we meet with one another sometimes one or two miles from any Houses, and are no more uneasy about it than if we met with Christians: they sleep by us too in our Chambers; I have had eight at once, who laid and slept upon the Floor near my Bed, for it is their custom to sleep only on the bare Ground, and to have only a Stone or a Bit of Wood under their Heads, they go to Bed very soon after they have supped, but rise early in the Morning; they get up before Day Break. They are very slovenly and dirty; they neither wash their Face nor Hands, but let all the Dirt remain upon their tawney Skin, and look as dirty as Hogs. Their bread is Indian Corn beaten to Pieces between two Stones, of which they make a Cake and bake it in the Ashes; they eat with it Venison, Turkies, Hares, Bears, Wild Cats, their own Dogs, &c. . . . They make their Houses of the Bark of Trees, very close and warm, and place their Fire in the middle of them: they also make of the Peeling and Bark of Trees Canoes, or small Boats, which will carry four, five and six Persons: in like manner they hollow out Trees, and use them for Boats; some of them are very large. I have sometimes sailed with ten, twelve and fourteen Persons in one of these hollowed Trees; . . . The Arms used by the Indians in War were formerly a Bow and Arrow with a Stone Axe and Mallet, but now they get from our People Guns, Swords, Iron Axes and Mallets. Their Money consists of certain little Bones, made of the Shells of Cockles which are found on the Beach; a Hole is made through the middle of the little Bones; and they are strung upon Thread, or they make of them Belts as broad as a Hand or broader, which they hang on their Necks and on their Bodies; they have also several Holes in their Ears. and there they hang some; and they value these little Bones as highly as many Christians do Gold, Silver and Pearls, but they have no Value for our Money, and esteem it no better than Iron. I once shewed one of their Chiefs a Rixdollar, he asked how much it was worth among the Christians, and when I told him he laughed exceedingly at us, saying we were Fools to value a Piece of Iron so highly, and if he had such Money he would throw it into the River. . . .
They are entire Strangers to all Religion, but they have a Tharonhijouaagon, (which others also call Athzoockkuatoriaho) i.e. a Genius which they put in the Place of God, but they do not worship or present Offerings to him: they worship and present Offerings to the Devil whom they call Otskon or Airekuoni. . . . they have otherwise no Religion: when we pray they laugh at us; some of them despise it entirely, and some when we tell them what we do when we pray, stand astonished. When we have a Sermon, sometimes ten or twelve of them, more or less, will attend, each having a long Tobacco Pipe, made by himself, in his Month, and will stand a while and look, and afterwards ask me what I was doing and what I wanted, that I stood there alone and made so many Words, and none of the rest might speak? I tell them I admonished the Christians, that they must not steal, . . . get drunk, or commit Murder, and that they too ought not to do these Things, and that I intend after a while to preach to them, . . . They say I do well in teaching the Christians, but immediately add Diatennon jawij Assyreoni hagiouisk, that is, why do so many Christians do these Things. They call us Assyreoni, that is, Cloth-Makers, or Charistooni, that is, Iron-Workers, because our People first brought Cloth and Iron among them. . . .
The Government among them consists of the oldest, the most sensible, the best-speaking and most warlike Men; these commonly resolve, and the young and war-like Men carry into Execution; but if the common People do not approve of the Resolution, it is left entirely to the judgment of the Mob. The Chiefs are generally the poorest among them, for instead of their receiving from the common People as among Christians, they are obliged to give to them; especially when any one is killed in War, they give great Presents to the next of Kin to the deceased, and if they take any Prisoners they present them to that Family whereof one has been killed, and the Prisoner is adopted by the Family into the Place of the Person who was killed. There is no Punishment here for Murder and other Villainies, but every one is his own Avenger: The Friends of the deceased revenge themselves upon the Murderer until Peace is made by Presents to the next of Kin. But although they are so cruel, and have no Laws or Punishments, yet there are not half so many Villainies or Murders committed amongst them as amongst Christians, so that I sometimes think with astonishment upon the Murders committed in the Netherlands, notwithstanding their severe Laws and heavy Penalties. These Indians, though they live without Laws, or Fear of Punishment, do not kill People, unless they are in a great Passion or fighting wherefore we go along with them, or meet them in the Woods, without Fear.
Source: Ebenezer Hazard, Historical Collections (Philadelphia, 1792), 1, 520-526, reprinted in Albert Bushnell Hart, ed., American History Told by Contemporaries (New York, 1898), volume 1, 525-28.