Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity

By David Hurst Thomas | Go to book overview

1.
COLUMBUS, ARAWAKS, AND CARIBS: THE POWER TO NAME

[The natives] have often asked me, why we call them Indians. -- Roger Williams ( Plimouth Colony, 1643)

ON THE MORNING OF October 12, 1492, Cristóbal Colón ( Christopher Columbus) guided his small landing party onto dry land. Unfurling the banner of the Spanish monarchy--a green crowned cross emblazoned on a field of white--the Admiral of the Ocean Sea led his little group in a prayerful thanksgiving. He set up a wooden cross and christened the island San Salvador--after the Holy Savior who had protected them during their perilous voyage.

Columbus commanded those present--the brothers Pinzón (Martín Alonso and Vincente Yáñez), fleet secretary Rodrigo de Escobedo, and comptroller Rodrigo Sánchez--"to bear witness that I was taking possession of this island for the King and Queen." This new land and its riches now belonged to Spain. Its inhabitants were henceforth Spanish subjects.

The same scene was repeated five years later when John Cabot stepped onto the northern peninsula of Newfoundland in 1497 and made a short speech claiming possession for Mother England. Two Frenchmen, Cartier

-3-

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