Charles William Eliot.

American historical documents 1000-1904, with introductions, notes and illustrations online

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their worldly goods, for a woman carries on her back for
thirty or forty leagues a load which no man could bear: as
we have many times seen them do. They are not accus-
tomed to have any Captain, nor do they go in any ordered
array, for every one is lord of himself: and the cause of
their wars is not for lust of dominion, nor of extending
their frontiers, nor for inordinate covetousness, but for some
ancient enmity which in by-gone times arose amongst them :
and when asked why they made war, they knew not any
other reason to give than that they did so to avenge the
death of their ancestors, or of their parents: these people
have neither King, nor Lord, nor do they )rield obedience
to any one, for they live in their own liberty : and how they
be stirred up to go to war is (this) that when the enemies
have slain or captured any of diem, his oldest kinsman rises
up and goes about the highways haranguing them to go
with him and avenge the death of such his kinsman: and
so are they stirred up by fellow-feeling : they have no judicial
system, nor do they punish the ill-doer: nor does the father,
nor the mother chastise the children: and marvellously
(seldom) or never did we see any dispute among them:
in their conversation they appear simple, and they are very
cunning and acute in that which concerns them: they speak
little and in a low tone: they use the same articulations as
we, since they form their utterances cither with the palate,
or with the teeth, or on the lips:' except that they give

* He meatii that they have no founds In their language unknown to Euro-
pean organs of speech, all being ^ther palatals or dentals or lalnals.



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different names to things. -Many are tho varieties of tongues :
for in every loo leagues we found a change of language,
Bo that they are not understandable each to the other.
The manner of their living is very barbarous, for they do
not eat at certain hours, and as oftentimes as they will:
and it is not much of a boon to them* that the will may
come more at midnight than by day, for they eat at all
hours: and they eat upon the ground without a table-cloth
or any other cover, for they have their meats either in
earthen basins which they make themselves, or in the halves
of pumpkins : they sleep in certain very large nettings made
of cotton, suspended in the air: and although this their
(fashion of) sleeping may seem uncomfortable, I say that it
is sweet to sleep in those (nettings) : and we slept better
in them than in ^e counterpanes. They are a people smooth
and clean of body, because of so continually washing them-
selves as they do. . . . Amongst those people we did
not learn that diey had any law, nor can they be called
Moors nor Jews, and (they are) worse than pagans: be-
cause we did not observe that they offered any sacrifice:
nor even had they a house of prayer : their manner of living
I judge to be Epicurean: their dwellings are in common:
and their houses (are) made in the style of huts, but strongly
made, and constructed with very large trees, and covered
over with palm-leaves, secure against storms and winds:
and in some places (they are) of so great breadth and length,
that in one single house we found there were 600 souls: ,
and we saw a village of only thirteen houses where there *
were four thousand souls: every eight or ten years they
change their habitations: and when asked why they did so:
(they said it was) because of the soil which, from its filthi-
ness, was already unhealthy and corrupted, and that it bred
aches in their bodies, which seemed to us a good reason:
their riches consist of birds' plumes of many colours, or of
rosaries which they make from fishbones, or of white or
green stones which they put in their cheeks and in their lips
and ears, and of many other things which we in no wise
value : they use no trade, they neither buy nor sell. In fine,

•I hare translated *'#« non si da toro moUo** as •'It Is not much of a
loon to them," but maj be " it mattera not nrndi to them."



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36 AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

they live and are contented with that which nature gives
them. The wealth that we enjoy in this our Europe and
elsewhere, such as gold, jewels, pearls, and other riches,
they hold as nothing: and although they have them in their
own lands, they do not labour to obtain them, nor do they
value them. They are liberal in giving, for it is rarely
they deny you anything: and on the other hand, liberal in
asking, when they shew themselves your friends. . . .
When they die, they use divers manners of obsequies, and
some they bury with water and victuals at their heads:
thinking that they shall have {whereof) to eat: they have
not nor do they use ceremonies of torches nor of lamenta-
tion. In some other places, they use the most barbarous and
inhuman burial, which is that when a suffering or infirm
{person) is as it were at the last pass of death, his kinsmen
carry him into a large forest, and attach one of those nets,
of theirs, in which they sleep, to two trees, and then put
him in it, and dance around him for a whole day : and when
the night comes on they place at his bolster, water with
other victuals, so that he may be able to subsist for four
or six days: and then they leave him alone and return to
the village: and if the sick man helps himself, and eats, and
drinks, and survives, he returns to the village, and his
{friends) receive him with ceremony : but few are they who
escape: without receiving any further visit they die, and
that is their sepulture: and they have many other customs
which for prolixity are not related. They use in their sick-
nesses various forms of medicines," so different from ours
that we marvelled how any one escaped: for many times I
saw that with a man sick of fever, when it heightened upon
him, they bathed him from head to foot with a large quantity
of cold water : then they lit a great fire around him, making
him turn and turn again every two hours, until they tired
him and left him to sleep, and many were {thus) cured: with
this they make use of dieting, for they remain three days
without eating, and also of blood-letting, but not from the
arm, only from the thighs and the loins and the calf of the
leg: also they provoke vomiting with their herbs which are
put intp the mouth: and they use many other remedies

»That is, "medical treatment"



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AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 57

which it would be long to relate: they are much vitiated
in the phlegm and in the blood because of their food which
consists chiefly of roots of herbs, and fruits and fish: they
have no seed of wheat nor other grain: and for their ordi-
nary use and feeding, they have a root of a tree, from which
they make flour, tolerably good, and they call it luca, and
another which they call Cazabi, and another Ignami: they
eat little flesh except human flesh: for your Magnificence
must know that herein they are so inhuman that they outdo
every custom (even) of beasts; for they eat all their enemies
whom they kill or capture, as well females as males with
so much savagery, that (merely) to relate it appears a hor-
rible thing: how much more so to see it, as, infinite times
and in many places, it was my hap to see it : and they won-
dered to hear us say that we did not eat our enemies: and
this your Magnificence may take for certain, that their other
barbarous customs are such that expression is too weak for
the reality: and as in these four voyages I have seen so
many things diverse from our customs, I prepared to write
a common-place-book which I name Le quattro Giornate:
in which I have set down the greater part of the things
which I saw, suflSciently in detail, so far as my feeble wit
has allowed me: which I have not yet published, because
I have so ill a taste for my own things that I do not relish
those which I have written, notwithstanding that many
encourage me to publish it: therein everything will be seen
in detail : so that I shall not enlarge further in this chapter :
as in the course of the letter we shall come to many other
things which are particular: let this suffice for the general.
At this beginning, we saw nothing in the land of much
profit, except some show of gold: I believe the cause of
it was that we did not know the language : but in so far as
concerns the situation and condition of the land, it could
not be better: we decided to leave that place, and to go
further on, continuously coasting the shore: upon which
we made frequent descents, and held converse with a great
number of people: and at the end of some days we went
into a harbour where we underwent very great danger : and
it pleased the Holy Ghost to save us : and it was in this wise.
We landed in a harbour, where we found a village built like



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Venice upon the water: there were about 44 large dwellings
in the form of huts erected upon very thick piles, and they
had their doors or entrances in the style of drawbridges:
and from each house one could pass through all, by means
of the drawbridges which stretched from house to house:
and when the people thereof had seen us, they appeared to
be afraid of us, and immediately drew up all the bridges:
and while we were looking at this strange action, we saw
coming across the sea about 22 canoes, which are a kind
of boats of theirs, constructed from a single tree: which
came towards our boats, as they had been surprised by our
appearance and clothes, and kept wide of us: and thus re-
maining, we made signals to them that they should approach
us, encouraging them with every token of friendliness: and
seeing that they did not come, we went to them, and they
did not stay for us, but made to the land, and, by signs, told
us to wait, and that they should soon return : and they went
to a hill in the background, and did not delay long: when
they returned, they led with them 16 of their girls, and
entered with tiiese into their canoes, and came to the boats :
and in each boat they put 4 of the girls. That we marvelled
at this behavior your Magnificence can imagine how much,
and they placed themselves with their canoes among our
boatSy coming to speak with us: insomuch that we deemed
it a mark of friendliness: and while thus engaged, we beheld
a great number of people advance swimming towards us
across the sea, who came from the houses : and as they were
« drawing near to us without any apprehension: just then
there appeared at the doors of the houses certain old women,
uttering very loud cries and tearing their hair to exhibit
grief: whereby they made us suspicious, and we each betook
ourselves to arms: and instantly the girls whom we had in
the boats, threw themselves into the sea, and the men of the
canoes drew away from us, and began with their bows to
shoot arrows at us: and those who were swimming each
carried a lance held, as covertly as they could, beneath the
water: so that, recognizing the treachery, we engaged with
them, not merely to defend ourselves, but to attack them
vigorously, and we overturned with our boats many of their
almadie or canoes, for so they call them, we made a slaughter



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{of them), and they all flung themselves Into the water to
swim, leaving their canoes abandoned, with considerable loss
on their side, they went swimming away to the shore : there
died of them about 15 or 20, and many were left wounded:
and of ours 5 were woimded, and all, by the grace of God,
escaped {death) : we captured two of the girls and two men:
and we proceeded to their houses, and entered therein, and
in them all we found nothing else than two old women and
a sick man: we took away from them many things, but of
small value: and we would not bum their houses, because
it seemed to us (as though that would be) a burden upon
our conscience : and we returned to our boats with five pris-
oners: and betook ourselves to the ships, and put a pair of
irons on the feet of each of the captives, except the little
girls : and when the night came on, the two girls and one of
the men fled away in the most subtle manner possible : 'and
next day we decided to quit that harbour and go further
onwards: we proceeded continuously skirting the coasts
(untU) we had sight of another tribe distant perhaps some
80 leagues from the former tribe: and we found them very
different in speech and customs : we resolved to cast anchor,
and went ashore with the boats, and we saw on the beach
a great number of people amounting probably to 4000 souls :
and when we had reached the shore, they did not stay for
us, but betook themselves to flight through the forests, aban-
doning their things : we jumped on land, and took a pathway
that led to the forest : and at the distance of a bow-shot we
found their tents, where they had made very large fires, and
two (of them) were cooking their victuals, and roasting
several animals, and fish of many kinds : where we saw that
they were roasting a certain animal which seemed to be a
serpent, save that it had no wings, and was in its appearance
so loathsome that we marvelled much at its savageness:
Thus went we on through their houses, or rather tents, and
found many of those serpents alive, and they were tied by
the feet and had a cord around their snouts, so that they
could not open their mouths, as is done (in Europe) with
mastiff-dogs so that they may not bite: they were of such
savage aspect that none of us dared to take one away, think-
ing that ^ey were poisonous : they are of the bigness of a



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kid, and in length an ell and a half :" their feet are long and
thick, and armed with big claws : they have a hard skin, and
are of various colours: they have the muzzle and face of a
serpent : and from their snouts there rises a crest like a saw
which extends along the middle of the back as far as the tip
of the tail : in fine we deemed them to be serpents and venom-
ous, and (nevertheless, those people) ate them: we found
that they made bread out of little fishes which they took
from the sea, first boiling them, (then) pounding them, and
making thereof a paste, or bread, and they baked them on
the embers: thus did they eat them: we tried it, and found
that it was good: they had so many other kinds of eatables,
and especially of fruits and roots, that it would be a large
matter to describe them in detail : and seeing that the people
did not return, we decided not to touch nor take away any-
thing of theirs, so as better to reassure them: and we left
in the tents for them many of our things, placed where they
should see them, and returned by night to our ships : and the
next day, when it was light, we saw on the beach an infinite
number of people: and we landed: and although they ap-
peared timorous towards us, they took courage nevertheless
to hold converse with us, giving us whatever we asked of
them : and shewing themselves very friendly towards us, they
told us that those were their dwellings, and that they had
come hither for the purpose of fishing: and they begged that
we would visit their dwellings and villages, because they
desired to receive us as friends: and they engaged in such
friendship because of the two captured men whom we had
with us, as these were their enemies: insomuch that, in
view of such importimity on their part, holding a council, we
determined that 28 of us Christians in good array should go
with them, and in the firm resolve to die if it should be neces-
sary : and after we had been here some three days, we went
with them inland: and at three leagues from the coast we
came to a village of many people and few houses, for there
were no more than nine (of these) : where we were received
with such and so many barbarous ceremonies that the pen
suffices not to write them down : for there were dances, and
songs, and lamentations mingled with rejoicing, and great
^ThU animal was the iguana*



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AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 41

quantities of food: and here we remained the night: . . .
and after having been here that night and half the next day,
so great was the number of people who came wondering
to behold us that they were beyond counting: and the most
aged begged us to go with them to other villages which were
further inland, making display of doing us the greatest
honour : wherefore we decided to go : and it would be impos-
sible to tell you how much honour they did us : and we went
to several villages, so that we were nine days journeying, so
that our Christians who had remained with liie ships were
already apprehensive concerning us : and when we were about
i8 leagues in the interior of the land, we resolved to return
to the ships: and on our way back, such was the number
of people, as well men as women, that came with us as far
as the sea, that it was a wondrous thing: and if any of us
became weary of the march, they carried us in their nets
very refreshingly : and in crossing the rivers, which are many
and very large, they passed us over by skilful means so
securely that we ran no danger whatever, and many of them
came laden with the things which they had given us, which
consisted in their sleeping-nets, and very rich feathers, many
bows and arrows, innumerable popinjays of divers colours:
and others brought with them loads of their household
goods, and of animals : but a greater marvel will I tell you,
that, when we had to cross a river, he deemed himself lucky
who was able to carry us on his back : and when we reached
the sea, our boats having arrived, we entered into them : and
so great was the struggle which they made to get into our
boats, and to come to see our ships, that we marvelled
(thereat) : and in our boats we took as many of them as we
could, and made our way to the ships, and so many (others)
came swimming that we found ourselves embarrassed in
seeing so many people in the ships, for there were over a
thousand persons all naked and unarmed : they were amazed
by our (nautical) gear and contrivances, and the size of the
ships: and with them there occurred to us a very laughable
affair, which was that we decided to fire off some of our
great guns, and when the explosion took place, most of them
through fear cast themselves (into the sea) to swim, not
otherwise than frogs on the margins of a pond, when they



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see something that frightens them, will jump into the water,
just so did those people: and those who remained in the
ships were so terrified that we regretted our action: how-
ever we reassured them by telling them that with those arms
we slew our enemies : and when they had amused themselves
in the ships the whole day, we told them to go away because
we desired to depart that night, and so separating from us
with much friendship and love, they went away to land
Amongst that people and in their land, I knew and beheld
so many of their customs and ways of living, that I do not
care to enlarge upon them: for Your Magnificence must
know that in each of my voyages I have noted the most
wonderful things, and I have indited it all in a volume after
the manner of a geography: and I intitle it Le quattro
Giornate: in which work the things are comprised in detail,
and as yet there is no copy of it given out, as it is necessary
for me to revise it. This land is very populous, and full
of inhabitants, and of numberless rivers, (and) animals : few
(of which) resemble ours, excepting lions, panthers, stags,
pigs, goats, and deer: and even these have some dissimilar-
ities of form: they have no horses nor mules, nor, saving
your reverence, asses nor dogs, nor any kind of sheep or
oxen: but so numerous are the other animals which they
have, and all are savage, and of none do they make use for
their service, that they could not be counted. What shall
we say of others (such as) birds? which are so numerous,
and of so many kinds, and of such various-coloured plumages,
that it is a marvel to behold them. The soil is very pleasant
and fruitful, full of immense woods and forests: and it is
always green, for the foliage never drops off. The fruits
are so many that they are numberless and entirely different
from ours. This land is within the torrid zone, close to or
just under the parallel described by the Tropic of Cancer:
where the pole of the horizon has an elevation of 23 de-
, grees, at the extremity of the second climate." Many tribes
came to see us, and wondered at our faces and our white-
ness : and they asked us whence we came: and we gave them
to understand that we had come from heaven, and that we
were going to see the world, and they believed it In this
^That is, M$ degrees iMrth latitude.



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AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 43

land we placed baptismal fonts, and an infinite (number of)
people were baptised, and they called us in their language
Carabi, which means men of great wisdom. We took our
departure from that port : and the province is called Lariab :
and we navigated along the coast, always in sight of land,
until we had run 870 leagues of it, still going in the direction
of the maestrale (north-west) making in our course many
halts, and holding intercourse with many peoples: and in
several places we obtained gold by barter but not much in
quantity, for we had done enough in discovering the land
and learning that they had gold. We had now been thirteen
months on the voyage : and the vessels and the tackling were
already much damaged, and the men worn out by fatigue:
we decided by general council to haul our ships on land and
examine them for the purpose of stanching leaks, as they
made much water, and of caulking and tarring them afresh,
and (then) returning towards Spain: and when we came
to this determination, we were close to a harbour the best
in the world: into which we entered with our vessels: where
we foimd an immense number of people: who received us
with much friendliness: and on the shore we made a bas-
tion" with our boats and with barrels and casks, and our
artillery, which commanded every point: and our ships hav-
ing been unloaded and lightened, we drew them upon land,
and repaired them in everything that was needful: and the
land's people gave us very great assistance : and continually
furnished us with their victuals: so that in this port we
tasted little of our own, which suited our game well: for
the stock of provisions which we had for our return-passage
was little and of sorry kind: where (i.e,, there) we remained
37 days : and went many times to their villages : where they
paid us the greatest honour: and (now) desiring to depart
upon our voyage, they made complaint to us how at certain
times of the year there came from over the sea to this their
land, a race of people very cruel, and enemies of theirs: and
{who) by means of treachery or of violence slew many of
them, and ate them: and some they made captives, and car-
ried them away to their houses, or country: and how they
could scarcely contrive to defend themselves from them,

^•Fort or barricade.



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making signs to us that (those) were an island-people and
lived out in the sea about a hundred leagues away: and so
piteously did they tell us* this that we believed them: and
we promised to avenge them of so much wrong: and they
remained overjoyed herewith: and many of them offered
to come along with us, but we did not wish to take them
for many reasons, save that we took seven of them, on con-
dition that they should come (t.^., return home) afterwards
in (their own) canoes because we did not desire to be
obliged to take them back to their country: and they were
contented: and so we departed from those people, leaving
them very friendly towards us: and having repaired our
ships, and sailing for seven days out to sea between north-
east and east: and at the end of the seven days we came
upon the islands, which were many, some (of them) inhab-
ited, and others deserted : and we anchored at one of them :
where we saw a numerous people who called it Iti: and
kaving manned our boats with strong crews, and (taken
ammunition for) three cannon-shots in each, we made for
land : where we found (assembled) about 400 men, and many
women, and all naked like the former (peoples). They were
of good bodily presence, and seemed right warlike men : for
they were armed with their weapons, which are bows, ar-



Online LibraryCharles William EliotAmerican historical documents 1000-1904, with introductions, notes and illustrations → online text (page 4 of 48)