Monday, November 15, 2021

10 Native American Inventions Commonly Used Today


NOV 18, 2019   
NOV 14, 2019

10 Native American Inventions Commonly Used Today

From kayaks to contraceptives to pain relievers, Native Americans developed key innovations long before Columbus reached the Americas.

From the tip of South America to the Arctic, Native Americans developed scores of innovations—from kayaks, protective goggles and baby bottles to birth control, genetically modified food crops and analgesic medications—that enabled them to survive and flourish wherever they lived.

In fact, early European explorers who reached the Western Hemisphere were apparently so impressed by the achievements of the people they encountered that they felt compelled to dream up stories about Native Americans being descendants of ancient Phoenician traders or a lost tribe of Israel, in an effort to explain the source of their technological prowess.

“People don’t realize the ingenuity or the knowledge that native people had, and continue to have about the world around them,” explains Gaetana De Gennaro, a supervisory specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, who manages a permanent interactive exhibit on Native American inventions.

Because various Native American groups were connected through trade routes, new inventions created by one group could quickly spread from North to South and East to West, according to De Gennaro, a member of the Tohono O'odham tribe in southern Arizona.


It may be a crop, but corn was carefully cultivated by ancient farmers as long as 10,000 years ago. Native Americans then taught European colonists how to grow the crop.

“Everybody knows about corn, but they don’t know that it’s a food that wouldn’t exist without human intervention,” says De Gennaro.

Farmers in northern Guatemala and southern Mexico selectively bred teosinthe, a wild grass, for many generations to enlarge the ear and develop kernels that were soft enough for humans to eat. Once they’d created the corn plant, their invention spread throughout the Western Hemisphere. 


Some Native American inventions were appropriated by the Europeans, who had the trading networks and manufacturing infrastructure to commercialize them, and who sometimes added improvements. For example, rubber was a material developed by Native Americans, and then Columbus took a rubber ball back to Europe, De Gennaro says.

After Charles Goodyear developed the vulcanization process in the 1830s to allow rubber to withstand heat and cold, colonizers developed vast rubber tree plantations in Asia to produce the raw material for factories. “Now, rubber is used all over the world,” De Gennaro says.


Native American Inventions: Kayaks

Inuits in kayaks in Noatak, Alaska, 1929.

The Inuit in the Arctic developed the concept of a small, narrow boat, with a sealed cockpit to protect the paddler from sinking in the event that the craft capsized, according to Canadian technology historians David Johnston and Tom Jenkins. The classic vessels were fashioned entirely from natural materials, with wood or whalebone frames covered by stitched sealskin or other animal hides. Today, the kayaks in use across the world are sometimes built from modern materials such as plastic and carbon fiber, but as De Gennaro notes, “the design is still essentially the same.”

Snow Goggles

Native American Inventions: Snow Goggles

A wooden case and pairs of snow goggles made by the Inuit people.

The Inuit also invented goggles fashioned from wood, bone, antler or leather to protect their eyes from over-exposure to sunlight reflected from expanses of snow. “They’d put a slit in there, to simulate the way that you can squint,” De Gennaro says. “It cut down on the ultraviolet rays that got into the eyes.” The snow goggles were the predecessors to today’s sunglasses.

Cable Suspension Bridges

Native American Inventions: Cable Suspension Bridge

The Inca bridge at Q'eswachaka, Peru.

The Inca of South America figured out how to weave mountain grasses and other vegetation into cables, sometimes as thick as a person’s body, and then used them to build super-strong suspension bridges that spanned across gorges. Some of the structures spanned longer distances than anything European engineers of the time could construct with stone, though modern steel suspension bridges eventually achieved far greater scale. The last of the ancient Inca-style grass cable suspension bridges still spans a gorge in Peru’s Canas Province.

Raised-Bed Agriculture

Native American Inventions: Chinampas

Aztecs strengthening the land of the city of Tenochtitlan using chinampas method. 

Natives in South and Central America invented the technique of enriching soil and piling it to build raised garden plots called chinampas on swampy land and in lakes, according to Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield in their Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World. The technique was a forerunner of raised-bed farming used for modern vegetable production.

Baby Bottles

The Iroquois took dried and greased bear gut and added a nipple fashioned from a bird’s quill to create bottles that could be used to feed infants, according to Iroquois historian Arthur C. Parker.

Anesthetics and Topical Pain Relievers

Native American Inventions: Anesthetics and Topical Pain Relievers

Jimson weed.

Native American healers pioneered pain relief. In what is now Virginia, natives used jimson weed (scientific name Datura stramonium) as a topical analgesic, grinding the root to make a plaster that they applied to external injuries such as cuts and bruises, according to Keoke and Porterfield’s book.

Healers also had patients ingest the plant as an anesthetic as they set broken bones. Another native remedy for pain and inflammation was tea brewed from the bark of the American black willow (Salix nigra), which contains the chemical salicin. Once it gets into the body, salicin produces salicylic acid, the active ingredient in modern aspirin tablets. Native Americans also used capsaicin, a chemical found in hot peppers, for topical pain relief, according to De Gennaro.


Native Americans fashioned syringes made of animal bladders and hollow bird bones to inject medications, according to Technology in America: A Brief History. The technology didn’t show up in European medicine until the 1850s, when Scottish physician Alexander Wood began using needles to inject morphine to relieve pain.


Native American Inventions: Hammocks

Caribbean Indians invented the hammock as a lightweight bed for hot climate.

When Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean, he found natives resting in hammocks, a bed made from cotton netting and suspended between two trees or poles, according to his letters. Hammocks were so comfortable and convenient that European sailors began sleeping in them on merchant and naval ships, according to Indians of North America.

Oral Contraceptives

The Shoshone and Navajo tribes used stoneseed, also known as Columbia Puccoon (Lithospermum ruderale) as an oral contraceptive, long before the pharmaceutical industry developed birth control pills.


Various tribes in Northeastern North America used the wildflower goldthread (Coptis trifolia) as a mouthwash and a treatment for oral pain.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Native Americans & the Magic of the Deer Hunt

 Florida Native Americans Hunt 159 Native Americans Hunting Deer Having First Disguised Themselves With The Heads And Skins Of Deer 

Colored Engraving 1591 By Theodor De Bry After A Now Lost Drawing By Jacques Le Moyne De Morgues

"Most people today don't consider deer hunting a mysterious endeavor, but Native Americans, in times past particularly, infused the hunt with magic. many Native Americans believe in the unity of life and in the interconnectedness of all that exists in the physical and spiritual worlds; this lay at the root of hunting magic in general and of deer magic in particular. Deer were a major source of food for many Native American peoples, yet those who hunted and killed deer felt a deep spiritual bond with the animals. This bond, they believed, enabled them to marginally control the animals and to communicate with them...Hunting magic was of primary importance to ancient hunting peoples. It permeated their cultures and defined the people's relationship to the natural world. The Celts considered the stag a symbol of abundance and prosperity and a guardian of nature. They revered the stag and they made their powerful stag god Cernunnos Lord of the Animals. Respect for the animals was essential to making the magic work."---Nectar & Ambrosia: The Encyclopedia of Food in World Mythology, Tamra Andrews [ABC-CLIO:Santa Barbara CA] 2000 (p. 80-81)

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

1711 Plant Collector John Lawson (1674-1711) Killed by the Tuscarosa

John Lawson (1674-1711) sailed from London to the Carolinas in 1700, when he was 26 years old, after a friend told him that the Carolinas were the best part of America to visit. He set sail almost immediately arriving 1st in New York, then traveling on to the port of Charles Town, modern Charleston, in the summer of 1700. From there he began a 57 day trek that covered nearly 600 miles. 

They journeyed up the Santee River in a canoe large enough to hold 6 Englishmen, 4 Indians, & their equipment. They traveled up the Yadkin River valley to present-day North Carolina. All along the way, John Lawson recorded his observations in what became his 1709 book, A New Voyage to Carolina.

When he returned to London to publish his book, Lawson met James Petiver—an apothecary known for his vast collection of natural history specimens. Petiver asked Lawson to send him specimens of dried plants, after he returned to the New World. Petiver also supplied Lawson with apothecary & botanical materials. Lawson asked Petiver for varieties of grape vines & stone fruits to take back to North Carolina, as well as information on making wine & distilling spirits. 

Lawson sailed back to North Carolina in the spring of 1710, & began fulfilling his promise to Petiver. He sent packets of dried plants to him in 1710 & 1711. The plants usually reached London some 3 months after being shipped out of Norfolk, Virginia. These dried plants eventually found their way to the Natural History Museum (British Museum), where they can be viewed today. Lawson began collecting plants even as he led colonists south toward New Bern. On May 10, 1710, he collected a huckleberry & wrote this note: “The largest huckleberry... green berries on the stem... we’ve gotten in Norfolk County in Virginia.” 

The winter of 1711, Lawson left New Bern during the last week of January. On January 29 he recorded collecting a “spontaneous of Carolina growing on a Fork of Neus River & in other places... had from flowers, like drops of blood a few... sweet herb.” Two days later, he stopped at William Hancock’s “on the south side on Neus Rv.” There, he collected specimens of American olive, which he described as “a pritty tree growing on a sandy point by the water side.” He founded 2 settlements in North Carolina: Bath & New Bern, both at the coast. 

In September 1711, Lawson & his associate Christopher von Graffenried were captured by Tuscarora Indians while ascending the Neuse River. The Tuscarora released von Graffenried, but they subjected Lawson to ritual torture, typical of warriors, & killed him. Shortly thereafter, tensions between the Tuscarora & their allies & settlers erupted into a bloody conflict known as the Tuscarora War, lasting until the defeat of the Tuscarora in 1715. The colonists gathered their own American Indian allies, especially from among the Yamasee & Cherokee, traditional enemies & competitors of the Tuscarora.

The plants Lawson gathered during this trip were sent to England from Virginia in July. Lawson’s last letter to Petiver was written in July 1711 from Virginia. Petiver got the letter in London on October 20, 1711, almost exactly a month after Lawson’s death.

A New Voyage to Carolina; Containing the Exact Description and Natural History of That Country: Together with the Present State Thereof. And A Journal of a Thousand Miles, Travel'd Thro' Several Nations of Indians. Giving a Particular Account of Their Customs, Manners, &c. by John Lawson 1709

Monday, January 25, 2021

What the Colonists Found in the Native American Lands - "New World" Foods


The Foodtimeline tells us that identifying "Old" from "New" world foods is complicated. Some foods (grapes, beans) are indigenous to both worlds. The difference is botanical variety. Some foods were mislabeled by European colonists (blueberries looked alot like bilberries). Origins of others were confused when they were introduced to European tables.Today's yams and Sweet potatoes are marketed as the same vegetable but their origins are worlds apart. These foods offer unique perspectives of the journey of food. 

vanilla (Mexico)
maize (corn)
wild rice
sweet potatoes
winter squash
black walnuts
sweet potatoes
haricot beans (lima, kidney, navy &c.)
cassava (tapioca)
groundnut (aka peanut)
cassava, manioc & cassareep
papayas (paw-paws)
capsicium (chili peppers)
American bison
Jerusalem artichokes
pine nuts
hickory nuts
maple sugar
SOURCES: Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004, Volume 2 (p. 146-7)& The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, 2nd edition edited by Tom Jaine [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2006 (map page 1)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Food - Ojibwe/Chippewa

"The people living along the north shore of Lake Huron were migratory except for certain seasons of the year when they remained in those locations most productive of fish or when they planted and harvested their crops. The Saulteaux, Mississauga, and Amikwa undertook some gardening, but because of adverse climatic conditions their corn did not always ripen...In any event, none was dependent their crops...During the summer, Indians, on a regular basis...traveled to Sault Sainte Marie. The rapids there supported an extensive fishery during September and October...Dexterity and strength were needed to be successful. An individual had to stand upright in a bark canoe among the rapids and thrust a dip net deep into the water to se cure the fish. The operation was repeated over and over again, six to seven large fish being taken each time, until a load was obtained...The Saulteaux, Mississauga, and Nikikouek left their gathering centers in June and dispersed along the shores of lake Huron. The Missisauga before doing so gathered at the mouth of the Mississagi River where they took sturgeon and other fish...The Amikwa secured trout, sturgeon, and whitefish. The Saulteaux and Amikwa during the fall gathered blueberries, which they preserved for the winter; the Saulteaux speared sturgeon. When the crops were nearly ripe, the people returned home. At the approach of winter, they again moved to the shores of Lake Huron where they killed beaver and moose.They did not return to their gathering centers until spring when they again planted their gardens."---Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant general editor, Volume 15: Northeast, Bruce G. Trigger volume editor [Smithsonian Institution:Washington DC] 1978 (p. 762)

"Little information exists about the way of life of the Southeastern Ojibwa during this period [1760-1830]. On many of the islands on the north shore of Lake Huron from the French River to the Missisagi River, they continued to raise limited quantities of corn. Some who resided during the summer at Sault Sainte Marie went to the west during the winter to hunt. The main animals taken were deer, raccoon, beaver, and marten. Each family had its own lands with the exclusive rights to hunt upon them...Apparently at this time 'family trapping territories' emerged in southern Ontario as a mechanism of resource allocation. A major subsistence activity of the Southeastern Ojibwa was fishing. On the borders of Lake Ontario, the Ojibwa speared salmon and other large fish by torchlight from a canoe. Along the north shore of Lake Huron, sturgeon fisheries were exploited during the summer...The Ojibwa who resided at Sault Sainte Marie and other from surrounding areas depended as formerly upon the productive whitefish fishery occurring in the Saint Mary's River. These fish, weighing between 6 and 15 pounds each, formed a large portion of the native people's winter provisions. Once caught, they were dried over a smoky fire...Where possible the Southeastern Ojibwa gathered wild rice, maple sap, and other vegetal products. The Ojibwa of Sault Sainte Marie often relied upon maple syrup for food, and its preparation was an important activity. In the spring, after the winter search for furs and during the final muskrat hunt the women left for the maple groves to make sugar, some of which they bartered to the traders. While the women collected the sap, boiled it, and completed the sugar, the men were busy cutting wood, making fires, and hunting and fishing, in part to supply food for the camps. Occasionally, Indians lived solely for a time upon maple sugar."---ibid (p. 763-764)

"Farming, 1830-1930. As the occupation of southern Ontario and Michigan by Europe-Americans continued, the Ojibwa had to restrict their movements and utilization of the land more and more...The Ojibwa rapidly adopted farming in the extreme southern part of Ontario and Michigan between 1820 and 1840 and somewhat later to the north. For a time, farming appears to have been on a rather extensive scale. The people raised hay, wheat, oats, peas, Indian corn, potatoes, and other vegetables, and kept livestock; some families had small orchards...the Ojibwa also collected wild rice and maple sap, hunted and fished...wild rice was an important food, although maple sugar was probably more so...Hunting and fishing supplied the Southeastern Ojibwa with food...Undoubtedly, considerable variation existed from group to group depending upon the availability of game resources...To the north...the Indians wen fishing in the fall, during the winter took rabbits and partridge, and then in the spring planted their cops...The Indians hunted primarily deer, occasionally bear and duck, and most other forms of wildlife...Fishing may have been more important to the Indians of southern Ontario and Michigan than hunting or trapping during the nineteenth century. The Ojibwa around Sault Sainte Marie, as in the past, lived on whitefish summer and winter...Another form of economic activity engaged in by the Ojibwa was the sale or barter of food to non-Indians..."---ibid (p. 764-765)

"The vast and eclogicaly varied region covered by the Plains Ojibwa created a cult rural canvas on which diverse connections were drawn to the plains as well as Eastern Woodlands...In the earliest mentions of their life on the plains, the Ojibwa were reported to hunt buffalo largely during the fall and winter in small groups under the direction of a buffalo dreamer or pound-maker, using surround and impounding techniques...In later years, buffalo were procured more often in two large annual hunts, one in the summer for meat and another in the fall for meat and robes...Since Plains Ojibwa lived much of the year either in the parklands proper or at parkland oases in the midst of the prairies, they also hunted and trapped a variety of other game, including moose, elk, white-tailed and black-tailed deer, rabbit, muskrat, and quail. Indeed, for those living closest to the parklands, some of these species probably remained important in local food supplies...The Plains Ojibwa also fished...those closest to the parklands continued their reliance on wild rice, maple sugar, and other woodlands plant resources, while the ones living on the plains became more dependent on vegetable foods such as wild turnips...In both prairie and parkland environments, Plains Ojibwa were reported to grow native and imported crops, from corn to potatoes."---Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant general editor, Volume 13: Plains, Raymond J. DeMallie volume editor [Smithsonian Institution:Washington DC] 2001 (p. 654-655)

"Prior to European contact, the Ojibwa demonstrated a great deal of respect for the cycle of nature and did not exploit its resources....According to the Ojibwa spirituality, the Sun is father to the people and the Earth is aki, 'that which is sacred,' and mother of the people and other living things. The interaction between the Sun and the Earth is what provides all that is necessary to sustain life...For this reason, food gathering activities were taken very seriously, and the products of the Creation were viewed as gifts rather than as commodities...Ojibwa bands gathered in summer villages to fish and plant gardens of corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins. Bands divided in winter and moved to their hunting grounds. Hunting, trapping, and fishing were means of subsistence in the winter. Spring villages were located near rivers where large numbers of fish were spawning. Women gathered berries and nuts and maple sap to make maple syrup and sugar in the spring. Fall encampments were designed to prepare food stores of rice, which was harvested from nearby rivers and lakes; agriculture which was harvested from nearby rivers and lakes,; agriculture harvested in August; and meat, which was often smoked or dried into jerky. Nets, bone and wood hooks, and spears were used for fishing...Ojibwa used the bow and arrow, snares, and deadfalls for hunting deer, moose, bear, beaver, lynx, mink, marten, otter, rabbit, and caribou in the North...The Ojibwa were resourceful in finding items in nature for cleaning and careful in exposing of refuse. Stiff brushes were used for washing cooking utensils and the hands. Dishes were washed on a nearby beach or bank of a river with lye and sand. Refuse not eaten by dogs was burned. In Chippewa Customs Densmore [the author] described in great detail the food that was consumed by the Ojibwa. Vegetarian foodstuff included wild rice, corn, maple sugar and syrup, pumpkins and squash (fresh or dried for winter), corn silk, dried pumpkin blossoms (used to thicken and give a special flavor to broth), wild potatoes, acorns, milkweed flowers, bulrush root, basswood and aspen sap, sweet substance found under the outer bark of woodpine, and moss from white pine. The Ojibwa did not drink water until it was boiled, usually with wintergreen, raspberry, spruce, or snowberry leaves or wild cherry twigs. Dried berries, wild ginger, bearberry, and mountain mint were used as seasoning. Bread was made from flour, salt, and water; it was kneaded into round, flat loaves and cooked on a frying pan placed on the fire or fastened on sticks stuck into the ground before the fire. Fish eggs were eaten, boiled or fried. Fish were eaten fresh or stored for later consumption by being dried or frozen. Ducks and pigeons and other wild birds were boiled with rice or potatoes. Moose and deer meat was boiled, roasted, or dried. Bear meat was cut into strips and hung by a flame to dry or put on high racks to freeze. Especially delicious due to its high fat content, it was prepared boiled. The bear head and paws were boiled and eaten as a delicacy. Very fatty, the liver and intestines were fried until crispy. Bear tallow was used for seasoning, as a remedy for rheumatism, or as a hair and skin moisturizer. Rabbit meat was boiled or dried. The bones were cooked and pounded into a powder that was mixed with grease exhumed from the boiled meat and eaten. All trapped animals except the marten were eaten. Beaver tails were a delicacy due to their fatty content."---"Ojibwa," Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Volume I, edited by Sharon Maliowski and Anna Sheets [Gale:Detroit] 1998 (p. 194)

"Native cuisine was closely influenced by the seasons, as the Ojibwa changed camps in seminomadic pattern to locate themselves closer to food sources. For example, because the Ojibwa used maple sugar or maple syrup as a seasoning, during the late spring they lived near maple sugar trees. each family or group of families returned to a traditional location where they had stored utensils and had marked with an ax cut the trees they would tap. A typical sugar camp or sugar bush encompassed an area of some 900 taps or cuttings, with up to three taps make per tree. The Ojibwa collected maple sap in birch bark containers and poured it into vats make of moose hide, wood, or bark, and later into brass kettles, where it was boiled until it became syrup. The syrup was strained, reheated, thickened, and stirred in shallow troughs until it formed granulated sugar. Birch bark cones were packed with sugar, tied together, and hung from the ceiling of the wigwam or storage building. The Ojibwa also poured the sap into wooden molds or directly into snow to form maple sugar candy. Camps were moved in the summer to be close to gardens and wild berry patches. The Ojibwa cultivated gardens of corn, pumpkins, and squash. Dried berries, vegetables, and seeds were stored in underground pits. They drank teas boiled from plants and herbs and sweetened with maple sugar. The Ojibwa fished throughout the year, using hooks, nets, spears, and traps. Fish and meat were dried and smoked so they could be stored. In late summer the Ojibwa moved again to be near wild rice fields. Wild rice (in Ojibwa, mahnomin, manomin, or manoomin) is a grain that grows on long grasses in shallow lakes or along streams. As the edible rice seeds began to mature, families marked the area they would harvest by tying the rice stalks together, using knots or dyed rope that would distinguish their claim. The rice harvest was a time of community celebration, starting with the announcement by an annually appointed rice chief or elder that the fields were ready. One team member stood in the canoe pushing a long forked pole to guide the canoe through the grasses. The other team member sat in the canoe, reaching to bend the grass over the canoe and hitting the grass with wooden stocks called beaters in order to shake the wild rice seeds from the grass without permanently injuring the plant. On sure, the rice was dried in the sun, and then parched in a kettle to open the hull. A person in clean moccasins then 'danced the rice' treading on it to remove the hull and then tossing it into the air to winnow the chaff. A medicine man blessed the first rice harvested, and each ricing pair donated rice to a communal fund to feed the poor. Rice was often boiled and sweetened with maple sugar or flavored with venison or duck broth. Up to one-third of the annual harvest was stored, usually in birch bark baskets. The rice season lasted from ten days to three weeks. Ricers often poled through their sections every few days as the rice seeds matured at differing rates. They were also deliberately inefficient, leaving plenty of rice to seed the beds for the following year."---"Ojibwa," Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, Robert Von Dassanowsky contributing editor, Jeffrey Lehman volume editor, Volume 2, end edition [Gale Group:Detroit] 2000 (p. 1342-1343)

See: Frances Densmore's Chippewa Customs [1929]  Food section is on p. 39-44.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

1492 Christopher Columbus, Journal - Early Contacts between Indigenous & Invading Cultures.

A look at the American Atlantic World before colonization, a bit of social, cultural, & political European observations from the first contact 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).