Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Voyagers to the East, Part IX

For the previous entry in this series, click here.

As educated Europeans' interest in the New World and its inhabitants continued to grow, mariners continued to bring captive Native Americans to Europe, either to help promote colonial ventures or as money-making exhibits in their own right. During the second half of the 1500s, several navigators succeeded in accomplishing what Thomas Hore and his colleagues had failed to do in the 1530s: capturing Inuit (Eskimo) men and women and returning with them to Europe. In 1567 French or Flemish sailors brought several Eskimo captives back to the Continent, and in 1576-77 the English explorer Martin Frobisher captured four Inuit -- two men, a woman and a baby -- during two separate voyages along the coast of Baffin Island. Frobisher was initially searching for a Northwest Passage to China, but during his reconnaissance he discovered what he believed to be rich gold deposits, and he brought his Eskimo hostages back to England to build support for a mining colony in far northern North America. Frobisher's colony in "Meta Incognita" (as Queen Elizabeth I called it) died quickly, once the "gold" deposits turned out to be iron pyrite, and his Inuit captives almost certainly died within a few months of reaching England -- though they apparently lived long enough to allow John White to paint their portraits in watercolors. (Goertzman and Williams, The Atlas of North American Exploration, 28-29.)

For the next entry in this series, click here.

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