Thank you for your insightful comments to last week’s readings and documentaries. Mohammed, Karina, and others commented on the extraordinary amount of bloodshed and destruction following the “discovery” of America by Cristopher Columbus while appreciating that there were Spaniards such as De Las Casas who were disgusted by these atrocities and spoke out (the beginning of “reformist” writing in American Literature). At the same time, Sumaya pointed out the gorgeous imagery of Columbus’s letter in his description of Cuba. She quotes the line: ”There are wonderful pine woods and very extensive ranges of meadowland. There is honey, and there are many kinds of birds and a great variety of fruits. Inland there are numerous mines of metals and innumerable people.” It’s important to keep in mind that Columbus—despite his now largely negative reputation—was a highly educated, “Renaissance Man” as his highly skilled writing shows (a point reiterated by Harood). Let’s also keep in mind, as Mehreen, Ulises, and other students discuss, that there were indeed “innumerable” people that Columbus encountered (estimates go as high as 150 million Native Americans from thousands of different tribes). Each tribe possessed rich cultures, highly evolved political systems, and – despite what the Spaniards thought—remarkable, intriguing religious beliefs of their own. Enson makes the cool observation (from Columbus) that “some of their canoes had seventy and eighty men in them, and each had an oar.” Quite a canoe!!! Let’s also not forget about the Dutch origins of Mannahatta (NYC) where the great tribe of Lenape peoples lived and flourished. Our first poet is in fact the Dutch Jacob Steendam, author of “In Praise of New Netherland.” As Terri-Ann astutely writes of this celebratory piece, “You instantly hear his bemoaning and sadness for anyone who has not had the grand opportunity to experience or live in NY: “you poor, who know not how your living to obtain.” NYC from the start has been an island of great dreams and ambitions.
This week, we will continue to investigate the fate of Indigenous peoples subsequent to European “contact.” Some 150 years after Columbus “discovered” the Caribbean Basin (in 1492), the Pilgrims from England landed on Plymouth Rock (in Massachusetts) in November of 1620, looking to practice their own “purified” version of Christianity. They did not encounter “innumerable” Native Americans (many of whom had already died from European illnesses) but did discover an English-speaking Wampanoag native named Squanto, who helped them survive that first brutal winter.
In your readings and viewings, I ask you to delve into our New England history and think about who the Pilgrims were, what they sought in coming to America, as well as their views and understandings of the Native Americans they encountered. The date 1620 (like 1492) is important as a founding moment in American History (and why we celebrate Thanksgiving!). Next week, we will see how this date is now importantly connected to the year 1619 – the year African slaves were first brought to the colony of Virginia.
Here is your assignment for this week:
- Read about how Mexico is dealing with the history and legacy of Christopher Columbus in the recent article Mexico City to Replace Columbus Statue
- View: The Pilgrims (chapter 1) and The First Thanksgiving
- Read excerpts from the History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford Of Plymouth Plantation (1650)
- Review the Website Our Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History and watch the opening video (“1614: Captured” which tells the story of how Squanto was Kidnapped and brought to England)
- Post a response to one of the following questions (with support from your readings/viewings): 1. How does the Pilgrim story connect to more recent immigrant stories? 2. How did the Pilgrims see their settlement of America in relation to God? 2. Based on your readings, do you feel we should celebrate Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s day? 3. Will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year? Why or why not? OR 4. Respond to a key theme, passage, or scene from one of the readings (or videos) that spoke to you. TO POST BE SURE TO CLICK ON THE “COMMENTS” ICON ABOVE (THEN POST COMMENT UNDER “LEAVE A REPLY”)