Columbus wasn’t the first to discover America

There are plenty of reasons to consider wandering Vikings to have gotten here before the “Italian Navigator”… but they didn’t make any maps, at least good ones that we know of.  Chinese ships lost some stone anchors off the Pacific coast of what is now California, but they went back home and never bothered colonizing anything.

Columbus was so good at crossing the Atlantic that he did it three more times.  Just between you and me, they already knew the earth was round and not flat… so it wasn’t all that scary.  How so?  Back then it was commonplace to see a ship vanish beyond the horizon and still return.

Long before Columbus, aboriginal natives of Siberia crossed the Bering Strait in really primitive craft.  They came in three waves, representing three linguistic groups (sort of)Mohican, Algonquian, and Athabascan.  There may have been folks here before them, such as the Red Ocre People and the makers of Clovis points.  The data is a bit sketchy, and it’s been a long time since I took that class.

In Mormon theology, the American natives were one of the lost tribes of Israel.  And, it so happens that a fair amount of Jews sailed with Columbus including the captain of one of the three ships on his first voyage, Luis de Torres.  Any ticket out of the Inquisition was worth the ride.  DNA analysis of descendants of the old Spanish families in New Mexico shows that about one in five has some Jewish ancestry.

As it so happened, what used to be known as New Spain, which included California, was colonized by the Spanish moving up from Mexico.  What we still call New England and Canada was colonized by the British and French coming directly from Europe.  The Spanish introduced horses to the American natives, and the British and French introduced guns and gunpowder.  The two technologies met in the middle, and the Sioux were the first to have both.  Also, the names we assign to the various “tribes” of American natives often translate to “enemy.”  “Who are those people encamped across the river?” asked many an early explorer.  “Enemies” would be the answer.

Meanwhile, Russians were moving down the Pacific coast from Alaska.  An enterprising Spanish general named Galvez (for whom Galveston, Texas is named) realized the threat to Spanish interests.  He recruited an ambitious Franciscan friar named Junipero Serra – to establish a string of Spanish outposts up the California coast as a barrier to Russian intrusion.  The Russkies got as far south as Fort Ross (no relation) and the Spanish missions got as far north as Sonoma.

Underlying this tale of discovery and acquisition is the innovation of two worlds on the same planet:  the Old World and the New World.  Previously there was the Mediterranean, the center of the world, with either Athens or Rome as the exact center.  Then Europa was colonized.  Previously a vast wilderness, as America was later to be considered -- what we now call Europe was mostly inhabited by Druids, Goths, Vikings and other savages, or, as Winston Churchill called them “… naked heathen.”  It was monastic Christianity that civilized the European wilderness.  Organized bachelors, living in dormitories, cleared forests to plant vineyards and other crops.  Villages and towns grew up around the monasteries.  

Yeah, history repeats itself… but not exactly.  The planet earth is pretty much settled now.  Well, there’s always Antarctica… but why bother?  Hence the underlying problem with the U.S. southern border:  We used to be less concerned about immigration.  There used to be a lot more room for folks to settle.  That’s not true anymore.  And history continues.

Image: Pixabay

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