Document Based Essay

Primary Document Analysis Essay
Bartolome de Las Casas & Others
Primary Source Document:
Bartolome de Las Casas’s narrative: “A Brief Account of the
Destruction of the Indies”. Seville, Spain, 1552
These People were found by them to be Wise, Grave, and well dispos’d, though
their usual Butcheries and Cruelties in opressing them like Brutes, with heavy
Burthens, did rack their minds with great Terror and Anguish. At their Entry into
a certain Village, they were welcomed with great Joy and Exultation,
replenished them with Victuals, till they were all satisfied, yielding up to them
above Six Hundred Men to carry their Bag and Baggage, and like Grooms to
look after their Horses: The Spaniards departing thence, a Captain related to
the Superiour Tyrant returned thither to rob this (no ways diffident or mistrustful)
People, and pierced their King through with a Lance, of which Wound he dyed
upon the Spot, and committed several other Cruelties into the bargain. In
another Neighboring Town, whose Inhabitants they thought, were more vigilant
and watchful, having had the News of their horrid Acts and Deeds, they
barbarously murdered them all with their Lances and Swords, destroying all,
Young and Old, Great and Small, Lords and Subject without exception.
Part #1
According to sixteenth-century historian
Bartolome de Las Casas, how did the
Spanish treat the indigenous people they
encountered in the New World?
How does the drawing in the Las Casas
book display the Spanish? How does it
display the indigenous people?
The Coureur de Bois
by Alexander Ross (1789-1856)
One day while in a jocular mood the old man began to talk over his past life. It
was full of adventure, and may appear amusing to others as it did to us. I shall
give it as nearly as I can in his own words. "I have now," said he, "been forty-two
years in this country. For twenty-four I was a light canoeman. I required but little
sleep, but sometimes got less than I required. No portage was too long for me; all
portages were alike. My end of the canoe never touched the ground till I saw the
end of it. Fifty songs a day were nothing to me. I could carry, paddle, walk and
sing with any man I ever saw. During that period I saved the lives of ten
bourgeois, and was always the favourite because when others stopped to carry at
a bad step and lost time, I pushed on - over rapids, over cascades, over chutes;
all were the same to me. No water, no weather ever stopped the paddle or the
song. I have had twenty wives in the country; and was once possessed of fifty
horses and six running dogs trimmed in the first style. I was then like a bourgeois,
rich and happy. No bourgeois had better-dressed wives than I; no Indian chief
finer horses; no white man better harnessed or swifter dogs.
I beat all the Indians at the race, and no white man ever passed me in the
chase. I wanted for nothing; and I spent all my earnings in the enjoyment of
pleasure. Five hundred pounds twice told have passed through my hands,
although now I have not a spare shirt to my back nor a penny to buy one.
Yet, were I young I should glory in commencing the same career. I would
spend another half-century in the same fields of enjoyment. There is no life
so happy as a voyageur's life; none so independent; no place where a man
enjoys so much variety and freedom as in the Indian country. Huzza, huzza
pour le pays sauvage!"
After this cri de joie he sat down in the boat and we could not help admiring
the wild enthusiasm of the old Frenchman. He had boasted and excited
himself till he was out of breath and then sighed with regret that he could no
longer enjoy the scenes of his past life.
Source: Alexander Ross, The Fur Hunters of the Far West (1855)
Part #2
How is the level and character of
interaction with Native Americans
different or the same between
Spanish conquistadors and French
Coureur de Bois? How are Native
Americans portrayed differently?
Part #3
Find a primary source from English
or Dutch colonists and compare or
contrast their interaction with and
portrayal of the Native Americans
with the Spanish and French