Tag Archives: Christopher Columbus

Not Cowboys & Indians: Part 1

A fellow blogger asked me recently about “Indian wars” in Canada. And so the next few posts are my replies.  Not a complete listing of wars and skirmishes, and definitely over simplified, but enough to get a decent picture, I hope.

L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Norse long house recreation, L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson.

   Before the 17th century,  there were two main conflicts.  The first was around the year 1006, between the Norsemen and the Skraeling, at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. We know this because Helge Marcus Ingstad and his wife, Anne Stine, uncovered the remnants of a Viking settlement in 1960; and from the sagas of Erik the Red; and from  indigenous accounts from the Inuit Peoples which tell of the Norse interactions and travels to their land. It proves that the Norsemen were here roughly 500 years before Christopher Columbus and John Cabot.

Sir Martin Frobisher

Portrait of Sir Martin Frobisher by Cornelis Ketel, dated 1577. Oil on canvas, 211 cm x 98 cm. Courtesy of the collections of the University of Oxford.

The second was in the late 1570s,  There were skirmishes between English sailors under Martin Frobisher and the Inuit on Baffin Island. Frobisher arranged to have one the Inuit as a guide. Then he sent five men in a boat, telling them to stay a distance away from the Inuit. The crew disobeyed, and were taken captive. Frobisher searched for them, but failed to find them. So he took the guide as a hostage, hoping to make a trade. The men were never seen again, so Frobisher returned home. Inuit legend tells that the men lived among them for a few years until they died attempting to leave Baffin Island in a self-made boat.

My next post will cover skirmishes in the 17th century.


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Verrazano Sets Sail

Verrazano Bridge at night

Verrazano Bridge at night (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

The first human beings to come to North America were probably Mongols from northern Asia.  They crossed the Bering Strait and gradually  made their way south to a warmer climate.  The North American Indians descended from them.

There are conflicting stories about the first humans to land on the east coast.  One version is that they were monks from the west coast of Ireland who went first to Iceland, and then landed in Nova Scotia about 875 A.D.  Other evidence gradually being collected is expected to prove that Norsemen landed on the coasts of Labrador and Nova Scotia about 1000 A.D.

Strangely enough, the next great explorers were the Italians.  Christopher Columbus, employed by Spain, John Cabot, working for England, and Giovanni da Verrazano, sent by France, were all Italians.

Verrazano’s exploits are not as well known as those of Columbus and Cabot, but he sailed from the Azores on January 17, 1524.  He was engaged by King Francis I of France who had finally decided to join the contest between Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and King Henry VIII of England, to find the inter-oceanic passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Verrazano actually sailed from Dieppe with four ships, but had to leave three of them at Madeira because they were not seaworthy.  He then sailed for North America in the Dauphine, arriving at the coast which is now North and South Carolina.

From there he sailed north and entered the Hudson River which he noted would make a good harbor.  It is now the port of New York, and the new Verrazano bridge has been erected there in his honor.  It has the longest centre span in the world. Gradually Verrazano worked his way north and is believed to have circled Newfoundland.

His great feat had an unhappy ending.  When Verrazano returned home, Francis I was engaged in war with Charles V and was defeated.  Then Verrazano himself, who had a pirate and looted ships on the Spanish Main, is believed to have been captured by the Spanish and hanged in chains.  Another version is that he was killed and eaten  by cannibals in one of the lesser Antilles during his second voyage to America in 1528.

I’m not making this stuff up, I swear!


Posted by on January 17, 2013 in January, King & Queens, Longer Entries, On This Day


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