Thursday, August 24, 2006

Voyagers to the East: A Preliminary Head Count

For the previous entry in this series, click here.

How many Native Americans visited Europe, willingly or unwillingly, during the first few centuries of European contact? My essay series on these early voyagers is far from complete, but the first nine entries provide enough information to support a preliminary headcount and some early observations.

1493: 17 Tainos brought to Spain by Columbus
1494: (See below)
1495: 350 Tainos and Caribs brought to Spain as slaves
1496: 30 more Tainos brought by Columbus
1501: 50 Micmacs, brought to Portugal as slaves by the Corte-Real expedition
1502: 3 Micmacs (or Inuit) brought to England by Fernandes and Gonsalves
1508: 7 Micmacs brought to France by Aubert
1523: 1 Florida Indian (Francisco de Chicora) brought to Spain
1524: 1 southern Algonquian boy brought to France by Verrazano
1525: 58 Penobscots taken to Spain as slaves by Gomez
1531: 1 Brazilian chief taken to England by Hawkins
1535-36: 3 Hurons (Donnaconna et al.) brought to France by Cartier
1550: 50 Tupi-Guarani brought to France
1567-77: 5-8 Inuit brought to France and England

In my earlier posts on Columbus I failed to note that the explorer sent over two dozen Carib and Taino captives back to Spain in 1494. Giovanni de'Bardi wrote that several Spanish caravels had returned from the West Indies carrying spices, gold, sandalwood, and "twenty-six Indians of diverse islands and languages." ("Letter from Seville," 19 April 1494, in Geoffrey Symcox and Blair Sullivan, Christopher Columbus and the Enterprise of the Indies [Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005], p. 100.) Adding these 26 men and women to those listed above makes a total of 603-605 Native Americans brought to western Europe between 1493 and 1577.

Of these about 420, or 70%, were Tainos and Caribs brought to Spain by Columbus and his associates between 1493 and 1496. Another 130 were Inuit or Indians from the northeastern edge of North America (Micmacs, Penobscots, and Hurons). Nearly all of the rest were Tupi-Guarani villagers from Brazil. Apart from the aforementioned Hurons, none were from the North American interior.

At least 460 (75%) of these travelers were brought to Spain and Portugal and sold as slaves. The rest accompanied European explorers as trophies, translators, or living advertisements for colonization (as with the 50 Tupi-Guaranis displayed at Rouen in 1550). We may speculate that as Europeans stopped bringing Indians to Europe as slaves -- due to legal prohibitions and the greater demand for slave labor in the Caribbean -- the total number of Indians brought to Europe in the late 16th and 17th centuries also fell. Forthcoming entries in this series will determine whether or not this is an accurate guess.

For the next entry in this series, click here.

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