Reproduction of 16th century colorized
print by De Bry.
First contact with Native American
swimmers, as described by
Christopher Columbus in his
Thursday, October 11, 1492 At two
o'clock in the morning the land was
discovered, at two leagues' distance;
…Numbers of the people of the island
straightway collected together. Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: "As I saw
that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily
converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some
red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small
value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us.
Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread,
javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as
glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But
they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked,
even the women, though I saw but one girl…” These are the words of the Admiral.
Saturday, 13 October. … “The natives are an inoffensive people, and so desirous to
possess any thing they saw with us, that they kept swimming off to the ships with
whatever they could find, and readily bartered for any article we saw fit to give them in
return, even such as broken platters and fragments of glass.”