Before the ancient planters, there were the very first people to visit — or almost visit — the New World. When Columbus was attempting to find another route to India by sea, he instead stumbled upon islands in the Caribbean. Later, he ventured to Central and South America. Curiously, we’ve named a holiday after the guy even though he never stepped foot in what would eventually become the United States.
But that’s just getting started, of course.
If you hadn’t already heard, Columbus wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. When he dropped anchor after finding the Caribbean islands, he made first contact with a number of natives who were living there. Naturally, he took some of them captive and made his way back home. But the worst ones always return, and so he did.
But before we get into how terrible he really was, let’s discuss some history. Ever heard of Leif Eriksson Day? Neither had we. But all the same, it is a day of national observance, celebrating a man who had stepped foot in North America some 500 years before Columbus had the pleasure of not stepping foot there. Eriksson was a viking who likely made his way to Newfoundland.
Columbus was a slaver. When he wasn’t taking the natives captive, he was outright killing them. A combination of genocidal intent and European diseases and illnesses led to the almost complete obliteration of the Taino population in the Caribbean islands.
Here’s what he had to say about his newly enslaved subjects:
“They…brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned…They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…They would make fine servants….With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
In other words, they were really, really, really nice people — and as a good Christian man himself, his first thought was how easily they would do his bidding. Of course it’s not all about potential! You have to find out how to turn potential into reality!
He later said, “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, in the first island which I found, I took some of the natives by force, in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts. And so it was that they soon understood us, and we them, either by speech or by signs, and they have been very serviceable.”
Oh but here’s where it gets really dark: “…I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But — to cut a long story short — I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears.
“Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.”
Yeah, he was a rapist. And it didn’t seem to bother him.