Resources for Teaching about Columbus’s “Discovery” of
the Americas and Interactions with Taino People
Dr. Ava L. McCall
● Children’s and Early Adolescents’ Books
● Curriculum Guide
● Teacher Resources
● Special Publications
Children’s and Early Adolescents’ Books
Columbus, C. (Author) & Las Casas, B.(Translator). (2007). The log of Christopher Columbus’
first voyage to America in the year 1492 as copied out in brief by Bartholomew Las Casas, one
of his companions. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing.
Upper elementary. Provides a simplified version of Columbus’ journal which briefly
describes the first voyage to the “Indies,” although they landed on Guanahani. The log
shows that Columbus told his men they sailed a shorter distance than what they actually
traveled so as not to frighten them and that Columbus claims to have seen land first and
eligible for the monetary reward for doing so. The most interesting aspects of the log are
Columbus’s descriptions of claiming Guanahani for the King and Queen of Spain, the
physical characteristics and behaviors of the “Indians,” and Columbus’s assumptions
about them. He believes they can easily be converted to Christianity, made to be good
servants, and are eager to become friends with Columbus and his men and possess what
Columbus offers them. Columbus also documents his intention to seize seven Native
people and take them to Spain so they can learn the Spanish language. He declares he
could conquer all the Native people with 50 men and govern them as he pleased.
Conrad, P. (1991). Pedro’s journal. New York: Scholastic.
Upper elementary. This historical fiction text provides a description of Columbus’s
voyage and initial encounters with Native people from the perspective of Pedro, a ship’s
boy. The author bases her description on Columbus’s log and Samuel Morison’s
biography of Columbus. Although Pedro is a fictional character, he includes descriptions
of the initial encounters between Columbus and his men and the Native people. He
describes the Native people’s appearance, how they welcome Columbus, and their
lifestyle. Pedro portrays Columbus’s actions in taking Native people as slaves, searching
for gold, naming places, and claiming land for Spain. Pedro seems to become more
sympathetic to Native people’s suffering as time goes on and describes Columbus as a
“gold greedy sailor.” Pedro also claims responsibility for sinking the Santa Maria by
steering the ship into a barrier reef.
Dorris, Michael. (1992). Morning girl. New York: Hyperion.
Upper elementary. The author, a Native person, offers a fictional account of a Taino
brother and sister and their parents on the island of Guanahani immediately prior to
Columbus' arrival. The author describes some of the values and beliefs of the Taino as
well as how they meet their basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. The end of the
book provides the Taino girl’s description of Columbus and his men’s initial appearance
and behavior and her expectations for their first meeting with her people. The epilogue of
the book hints the impending hardships and destruction of the Taino people after
Columbus's arrival. The text has been criticized for its speculation on the Taino people’s
lifestyles since they left no written records and the emphasis on the nuclear family rather
than the communal nature of the Taino people. It also omits any Taino resistance to
Freedman, R. (2007). Who was first? Discovering the Americas. New York: Clarion.
Upper elementary/middle school level. Provides a factual account of Columbus’s four
voyages to the Americas. It includes Columbus’s descriptions of the Taino and their
living conditions and the Taino descriptions of themselves as “good” as compared to the
“bad” Caribs who raided the Taino villages. Freedman admits that Columbus kidnapped
ten Taino to take back to Spain on the first return trip to train as interpreters and “exhibit
them at the Royal Court.” Columbus’s second voyage focuses on finding gold, although
he is unable to control the greed of his followers who steal Taino possessions, abduct
wives, and seize captives to ship back to Spain as slaves. The author clarifies that in
between Columbus’s trips, Spanish colonists settle on Hispaniola, Cuba, Puerto Rico,
Jamaica, and other islands in the West Indies. They force Native people to work in the
goldfields or Spanish ranches and kill or enslave those who resist. The Spanish colonists
also bring disease to the Americas, which leads to a severe decline in the Taino
population. The author also presents evidence that China and Leif Eriksson might have
discovered America and speculates about how the first Native people arrived in the
Americas. He concludes they arrived at different times, from different places (Asia and
possibly Europe, Africa, and Australia), and traveled by land and sea. This theory is in
contrast to many Native people’s beliefs that they originated in the Americas.
Hart, Avery. (2001). Who really discovered America? Unraveling the mystery & solving the
puzzle. Charlotte, VT: Williamson.
Upper elementary. Describes many different theories about the discovery of America and
encourages young readers to question and arrive at their own conclusions. Provides
evidence for and against the land bridge theory allowing Native Americans from Asia to
come to America first; evidence for and against the Woden-lithi theory leading to a
Scandinavian king discovering America in 1750 B.C.; evidence for and against Native
American (especially Lakota) theories for Native people’s origins in the Americas;
evidence for and against the alien theory involving aliens arriving on earth to marry
apelike prehumans; evidence for and against Van Sertima’s African theory that Africans
arrived in America almost 2,000 years before Columbus; evidence for and against
Professor Xu’s Asian theory that the Chinese Shang dynasty influenced the development
of the Olmec civilization in Mexico; evidence for and against the “other way-around
theory” that ancient people from the Americas sailed to Africa, Asia or Europe; and
evidence for and against the Vikings being the first to “discover” America. Introduces
both the traditional story of Columbus’ journey to America and a more realistic version,
including Columbus’ cruelty toward the Taino.
Jacobs, F. (1992). The Tainos: The people who welcomed Columbus. New York: G.P. Putnam's
Upper elementary through adult. The information book furnishes a nonfiction account of
the Taino culture prior to contact with Columbus and other Spanish. Her sources are the
archaeological evidence left by the Taino and the writings of Columbus and others who
accompanied and followed him. The author is criticized for accepting uncritically
European written accounts of Columbus and the Spanish interactions with the Taino. The
Taino left no written records of their encounter with Columbus. Traditionally, the Taino
grew crops and fished for food, had caciques or leaders who ruled the provinces,
organized themselves into villages of several hundred families, many families lived
together in huts, men made canoes for ceremonies, trading, and fishing, women made
pots for preparing food and gathered cotton to make hammocks for sleeping or prepare
skirts for married women to wear, people created earrings and nose ornaments from small
gold nuggets, and engaged in communal leisure activities in the village plaza. When
Columbus and his men first landed in Guanahani, the Taino welcomed them; however,
Columbus claimed the land for Spain and renamed it San Salvador. Columbus’s major
goal was to find a shorter route to the Indies where he could find gold, spices, gems, and
fabrics to increase Spain’s wealth. A second goal was to convert the people he met to
Christianity. Columbus and the Taino exchanged gifts during initial meetings, but when
Columbus saw the people’s small gold ornaments, he forced some Taino to accompany
him to other islands to find gold. However, the search for gold was unproductive, and
Columbus returned to Spain to get additional ships and supplies to return to where he
landed to build a settlement and continue their search for gold. At the same time
Columbus searched for gold, some of his men were abusing and terrorizing the Taino,
ransacking their villages, and taking their food. Taino were also dying from diseases.
Since Columbus couldn’t find gold, he rounded up 1600 Taino to send to Spain to sell as
slaves as a way to pay for his enterprise; however, only 500 could fit on the ships, and
almost half died enroute. When caciques defended their people and land, they were
defeated or captured. The Taino in one location were required by Columbus to provide a
quantity of gold dust or be put to death. They had to work so hard to find gold, they could
no longer grow food. Some fled to the mountains, but were hunted down by the
Spaniards. Some committed suicide. Anyone who resisted was tortured and killed. At one
point, the Spaniards agreed to allow the Taino to submit cotton and cassava in place of
gold. Next, the Spaniards tried to force the Taino to work for them, mining gold and
farming, which led to further suffering and deaths for the Taino. When Columbus first
arrived in 1492, over one million Taino lived on Hispaniola, by 1496, a third had died.
Columbus was removed from his role of governor in 1500, but the harsh conditions of
forced labor continued under a new governor and by 1548, only about 500 full-blooded
Taino were left.
Koning, H. (1991). Columbus: His enterprise, exploding the myth. New York: Monthly Review
Middle school, good background reading for teachers. The author is critical of Columbus
and his treatment of the Taino and his greediness to gain personally from his voyages. He
claims that Columbus was a typical White, western man who ravaged the world for 500
years and quotes Columbus's log, his son Hernando's history of the voyages, and
Bartolome de las Casas's History of the Indies to illustrate Columbus's greed and cruelty.
The text clarifies the events which led to the age of exploration, including th closure of
the old trading and caravan routes to India and China by the Turkish Moslem Empire;
improvements in European shipbuilding, sailing techniques, and compasses; closing of
the Middle Ages and a desire for change; and the goal of royalty and merchants to find a
way east by sea to trade with India and China. The text explains the Spanish royalty’s
desire for gold, Columbus’s goal to convert the Asians to Catholicism or to use the gold
for regaining the Holy Land from the Muslims, and his conditions for exploring for the
Spanish monarchy (10% of all the wealth that came from the new route, titles of Viceroy
and Admiral of the Ocean Sea, jurisdiction of the western Atlantic, and a share in all
proceeds from naval booty). Each voyage is succinctly summarized, but clear descriptions
of the cruelty directed against the Native people were provided following the second
voyage. During this period, Columbus and the Spaniards round up Native people to take
to Spain to sell as slaves to compensate for the gold they haven’t sent, force Native
people to collect gold for them or be punished by having their hands cut off, and hunt
down with dogs and kill any Native people who try to flee into the mountains. When the
Spaniards determine that whatever small amounts of gold have been found, they divide
the land into estates for themselves and force Native people to work on them. By 1540,
the entire nation of Native people perishes. Columbus is eventually removed from his
position as administrator of the new lands due to the chaos, but he continues to insist he
found Asia by sailing west over the Atlantic. Columbus dies wealthy and transfers the
title of Viceroy and Admiral to his son Diego
Krensky, S. (1991). Step into reading: Christopher Columbus. New York: Random House.
Lower elementary. The information text seems to portray the perspective of Columbus
and his men with Columbus knowing they will reach the Far East and his men having
doubts. When they reach land, Columbus and his men still believe they reached their
original destination, so Columbus names the people Indians, the island San Salvador, and
claims the land for Spain. The author clarifies, “But the island really belongs to the
people who live there.” The Taino are portrayed as curious, friendly, and helpful, and do
not understand Columbus’s questions about gold. The author also acknowledges that
Columbus “forced six Indians to come with him” on his return to Spain, but still declares
he made a great discovery in the new world. The text does not contain any background
information on the author or the research he completed to substantiate his credibility in
writing an accurate account of Columbus and the Taino. For the most part, the text omits
conflicts between the Taino and Columbus and his men.
Landau, E. (2001). Columbus Day: Celebrating a famous explorer. Berkeley Heights, NJ:
Lower elementary. The information book provides background on Columbus leading to
his journey to the Americas, although acknowledges that Columbus did not “discover”
America. The author concedes that despite the many kindnesses shown by the “Indians”
of the West Indies toward Columbus, he and his men treated the “Indians” cruelly and
caused many of their deaths. The history of Columbus Day is briefly sketched, including
protests by American Indians for a holiday honoring someone who was so cruel to Native
people. The author lists additional books for reading about Columbus and websites that
children can use to complete activities to learn more about Columbus, but it is not clear if
those sources are used in the preparation of the text.
Levy, E. (2001). Are we there yet? Europeans meet the Americans. New York: Scholastic.
Upper elementary. The author claims all the information in the text is real, but doesn’t
cite sources. She lists Richard W. Hill, Sr., a Tuscarora, as an expert reader and provides
a brief description of native North Americans before Europeans. The text offers a
humorous interpretation of different theories as to who were the first “outsiders” to visit
North America, including the Vikings, Chinese, St. Brendan and the Irish, or West
Africans. The author’s interpretation of Columbus’ trips to America reveals a stronger
focus on the Arawaks than many texts and acknowledges Columbus and his men’s
numerous weaknesses and acts of cruelty toward Native people. The author describes
Columbus and his men’s disdain for growing food, their enslavement of Native people,
and their quest for gold and cruel punishments for Native people who did not meet their
gold quota. Even though the Arawaks rebelled against this treatment, the majority died
from overwork, starvation, European diseases, or suicide.
Liestman, V. (1991). Columbus Day. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
Lower elementary. The author provides a balanced, sensitively and carefully written
account of Columbus's voyages and the cruelty directed against the Native Americans.
She uses appropriate language for younger students while questioning Columbus’s right
to name the people he encountered and the lands he explored. She clarifies Columbus’s
goal was to find gold, and when he could not find much, sent 500 Taino to Spain to sell
as slaves. She briefly describes the Spanish enslavement and killings of the Taino and
encourages readers to question how Columbus and his men treated the Taino. No
background information is provided on the author and her research to allow her to write a
Macdonald, F. (2004). You wouldn’t want to sail with Christopher Columbus! Unchartered
waters you’d rather not cross. Danbury CT: Franklin Watts.
Elementary. The text contains questions and answers regarding several aspects of
exploration and specifically, Columbus’s voyages during 1492-1504. The author studied
history and has written several children’s books on historical topics, but does not give
sources. The text explains why people wanted to explore, how voyages were funded, the
food and crew needed for a voyage, descriptions of Columbus’s three ships, tools used in
navigation, the crew’s duties on the ship, signs of land, what Columbus and his men
discovered about the Taino people’s housing and food, a summary of Columbus’s four
voyages, and Columbus’s final years. The author acknowledges that Columbus was not
kind to the Taino people, which led to his downfall.
Maestro, B., & Maestro, G. (1991). The discovery of the Americas: From prehistory through the
age of Columbus. New York: Mulberry Books.
Elementary. The authors claim the first people in the Americas originated in Asia and
migrated to the Americas, which is contradicted by many Native people’s beliefs that they
originated in the Americas. The authors review different people who came to the
Americas, but only the Vikings created a settlement in Newfoundland and Greenland
before Columbus, although these settlements eventually died out. They note that
Columbus “rediscovered” America, identified the best sea routes between Europe and the
Americas, proved that a long sea voyage was possible, and opened up a new world to
Europe. Columbus’s “rediscoveries” became known because of Amerigo Vespucci, who
followed Columbus’s routes and wrote about them, which led to the continent becoming
named America. The authors clarify that European explorers came to the New World to
find riches for their countries and did not care that the land and gold belonged to people
already living there.
Mann, C. C. (2009). Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491. New York: Atheneum.
Middle school, background reading for teachers. The author offers the most recent
evidence that indigenous people in the Americas existed earlier and created larger, more
complex cultures than previously thought. He explains that indigenous people lived
together in cities in Peru around 3500 BC while Sumer (part of present-day Iraq),
considered the beginning of civilization in the Middle East, built cities by 4000 BC. The
early Native people in Peru, called Paleoindians, sustained their lives through fishing
rather than agriculture. Native people in Mexico also invented maize by manipulating
wild ancestor plants and grew it by planting it with other crops, such as beans and squash,
which benefits the plants, the soil, and the people who ate those foods together. This
system of farming allows farmers to grow the same crops together (beans, squash, and
corn) over many years without depleting the soil. A group of sister cultures (Olmec,
Zapotec, Mixtec, Toltec, and Maya) lived in Mexico, influenced one another, and used
their mathematical knowledge to create calendars. The Mayans built large cities by
channeling rain water to serve as their water supply and avoiding the salty groundwater.
An important idea set forth by the author is that it was not the European weapons or
horses that led to their defeat of different Native people, but the European diseases which
weakened Native cultural groups. He explains the reasons for this, which include Native
people’s lack of contact with domesticated animals which carried diseases and
opportunities for them to develop immunities to such diseases; Native people’s genetic
heritage, which was less mixed than other groups; and their exposure to diseases carried
by pigs brought to the Americas by Europeans. These factors allowed Cortes to conquer
the Mexica at Tenochtitlan, Pizarro to conquer the Inca in Peru, and the Pilgrims to take
the Wampanoag land in New England. Smallpox killed Native people from New England
to Mexico to the Pacific coast to northern Canada. Another important idea set forth by the
author is that Native people managed the land more than previously thought by burning
undergrowth each year, clearing and replanting forests, building terraces, canals, and
irrigation ditches, and planting milpa (mixed crops together) and fields. However, when
diseases weakened them, they could not continue their land management systems.
Meltzer, M. (1990). Columbus and the world around him. New York: Franklin Watts.
Middle school, good background reading for teachers. Meltzer’s biography of Columbus
acknowledges Columbus’s persistence, willingness to take risks, desire for wealth,
devotion to his Christian faith, and great navigator skills. He sketches in the historical
context of the time which enabled Columbus to receive financial support to sail west to
find a new sea route to the Indies for trading purposes. The primary goals for sea ventures
in the 15th century were to find wealth and convert “pagans” to Christianity. The
transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, which meant a time for changes and
rethinking old ideas, including exploration of the earth’s surface by sailors, was helped by
the magnetic compass, improved ship design, and refined navigational instruments and
astronomical tables. Columbus learned the art of dead reckoning for navigation by
observing other helmsmen, which includes keeping careful account of direction by
compass, speed through the water, and direction and strength of winds and then checking
it by observations of latitude. While living in Portugal, Columbus read geography,
history, and travel books and gained experience in sea travel, which helped him learn
supplies needed for long voyages, how to store them on ships, and the types of goods
Native people wanted to receive in trade. Most people at the time of Columbus believed
the world was round, but contrary to prevalent knowledge, Columbus believed the
circumference of the earth was smaller, Asia was wider, the Atlantic Ocean was narrower,
and he could sail a relatively short distance to land in the Indies by sailing west. Meltzer
portrays Columbus as arrogant in his interactions with royalty as he sought economic
backing for his enterprise, although he had never commanded a ship or fleet before. The
King and Queen of Spain gave Columbus all he asked for: ten percent of all wealth that
came from his new route to Asia for himself and his heirs for all time; title of viceroy and
Admiral of the Ocean Sea; and share in any profits from the western Atlantic. The
primary source of information for Columbus’s first voyage is his log, and he looked at the
Native people through a European’s eyes as savages and inferior to Europeans. Meltzer
provides an overview of the Native people living in the Americas, including their
diversity in language, culture, and physical appearance, as well as some similarities in
how they viewed property and war. He also described how Columbus treated the Taino in
claiming their land for Spain and taking them captive to serve as interpreters and to show
his benefactors. Columbus reported on his first voyage as having successfully reached the
Indies, but promised gold, spices, and slaves if a second, larger voyage was funded. The
second voyage was much larger, with 17 ships and 1200 people to get gold, farm, and
colonize Hispaniola. However, conflicts arose with the Taino and other Native people
because the Spaniards wanted gold and women and robbed Native people of their gold
ornaments, raped women, kidnapped children to serve as slaves, and took scarce food
supplies. They used horses, dogs, and weapons to overpower the Native people and
capture them to send to Spain to sell as slaves to replace the gold they could not find.
Meltzer describes the Spanish treatment of the Taino as the beginning of genocide for the
Native population. Columbus made a total of four trips to what he still believed was the
Indies, but the situation became increasingly worse with dying Taino due to slave raids,
forced labor, hunger, and diseases; revolts against Columbus and his brothers; and very
little gold or other valued trade goods. Columbus was removed as governor, although he
was wealthy from the revenue he received from Spanish royalty. Meltzer also explains the
sources which he used to prepare the book.
Pelta, K. (1991). Discovering Christopher Columbus: How history is invented. Minneapolis:
Upper elementary, middle school, good background information for teachers. The author
encourages readers to question what we know about Columbus as historians continue to
discover new information about him. She traces how views of Columbus changed from
the American Revolution to 1992. During the American Revolution period, the emerging
nation wanted a non-English hero, so chose Columbus who “discovered” America.
People in the U.S. began naming things after Columbus, including the land on which the
capital was built. On October 12, 1792 was the first time for Columbus Day to be
celebrated in New York city. People continued naming towns, songs, cities, rivers, lakes,
islands, mountains, and schools after Columbus. His voyage became linked to European
American westward movement in the19th century until President Benjamin Harrison
declared Columbus Day a general holiday on October 12, 1892. In 1992, the Columbus
story began changing to include Native American perspectives.
Reis, R. A. (2013). Christopher Columbus and the age of exploration for kids with 21 activities.
Chicago: Chicago Review Press.
Upper elementary, middle school, good background information for teachers. The author
strives to provide a balanced view on Columbus and his four voyages from Europe to the
New World. The author acknowledges Columbus’s skills as a sailor traveling around
unknown islands in the Caribbean and his poor leadership skills in governing lands he
claimed for Spain. The text describes the cruelty Columbus and his men directed toward
the Taino people in requiring them to bring a thimbleful of gold every three months or
face having their hands cut off. The author summarizes the exchange of plants, animals,
and diseases between the New and Old Worlds which changed people’s lives for people
in both continents. The Native people were especially decimated by the diseases from
Europe. The author refutes several myths surrounding Columbus’s exploration of the
New World. One was that Columbus sailed west to prove the Earth was round when in
reality he assumed the Earth’s circumference was much smaller than it was. Another
myth was that Columbus was the first explorer to land in the Americas, when the
Norsemen landed on the eastern coast of North America 500 years before Columbus.
However, Columbus and the people he brought stayed to live in the Americas. Finally,
the myth that Columbus died a pauper was refuted by evidence of his wealth and financial
security for himself and his heirs, although he did not die a famous man. The author cites
sources for each chapter and describes websites students can use to learn more about
Sanchez, J. P. (1995). The Aztec chronicles: The true history of Christopher Columbus as
narrated by Quilaztli of Texcoco. Berkeley, CA: TQS.
Mature middle school and background reading for teachers. The text is an historical
novella based on the author’s extensive research of the original contract between
Columbus and the King and Queen of Spain, court cases against Columbus, and
Bartolome de Las Casas’ and other colonial historians’ original works. The text
encourages readers to question many ideas regarding traditional views of Columbus,
including what Columbus and the King and Queen of Spain were to gain from Columbus’
voyages, how Columbus knew the route from the Canary Islands to the new world, who
guided the ships and provided leadership during the initial voyage, and who initially saw
Sis, P. (1991). Follow the dream: The story of Christopher Columbus. New York: Alfred A.
Elementary. The text tells the story of Columbus' determination to make the journey, his
efforts to get funding, the perils of the voyage, and arrival in the Americas. It also
perpetuates romantic myths about Columbus and ignores Native American perspectives.
Yolen, Jane. (1992). Encounter. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Elementary. The text is historical fiction and presents through large pictures as well as
text Columbus's arrival in the Americas from the imagined perspective of a Taino boy.
Even though the young boy warns his people not to welcome Columbus, they follow their
custom and give a feast and trade gifts with Columbus while Columbus treats the Taino
in a patronizing manner. When Columbus notices the Taino’s golden nose rings and
armbands, he shows a “serpent’s smile.” The book closes with a description of how the
Taino people lost their lands and speech to the “strangers.” The author elaborates on
additional information on the Taino culture, Columbus’s enslavement of the Taino, and
the devastating effects of Columbus and his men on the Taino population. She
acknowledges the use of historical records in preparing the book, although she does not
cite sources. The text is criticized for omitting Taino resistance to colonization and
essentially blaming the Taino people for their own destruction.
Sunshine, C. A., & Menkart, D. (Eds.). (1991). Caribbean connections: Classroom resources for
secondary schools, overview of regional history. Available from The Network of Educators on
the Americas, 1118 22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.
Unit 1: The Arawaks and the Caribs provides instructional activities and background
information on the first peoples to settle in the Caribbean. The curriculum unit includes
readings for students on the “Arawaks of Jamaica,” “Areytos and Ball Games” and a
poem “Fishing for Haimara” to introduce students to Taino culture, including cultural
values, foods cultivated and caught, tools, division of labor, and fiestas. Instructional
activities help students learn where the Arawaks lived in the Caribbean, the
archaeological evidence and European accounts that provided a record of their lives, and
how the Arawaks grew and prepared their food. Unit 2: The Conquest provides
instructional activities and background information to help students question if Columbus
discovered America, learn more about how Columbus treated the Arawaks (Taino), write
from the Arawak point of view, and analyze existing textbooks and children’s books for
how Columbus and the Arawaks are portrayed. The unit also contains readings for
students on Columbus and his interactions with the Arawaks, their resistance to Spanish
oppression, the final conquest of the Arawaks by Ponce de Leon, and the Arawaks’
eventual extinction. The activities could be modified for elementary and middle level
Teacher Resources: Journal Articles, Books, Book Chapters, and Lesson
Barreiro, J. (1990, Fall). View from the shore: Toward an Indian voice in 1992. Northeast
Indian Quarterly, 7. 4-20.
Many Native people’s views about their views of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’
arrival in the Americas are included in the article, but all agree that the European invasion
led to the denigration of Native people and their cultures in the Americas. However,
Native Americans continue to embrace extended family values and care for the earth
while still struggling to survive.
Barreiro, J. (1990, Fall). A note on Tainos: Whither progress? Northeast Indian Quarterly, 7.
The article is one of the best readings describing Taino culture prior to the arrival of
Columbus and his men. The author depicts important values, language, appearance,
health, and a lifestyle based on wise use of the physical environment among the Taino.
The emphasis on feeding all Taino people is contrasted with Europeans’ emphasis on
individual land ownership for wealth. All members of Taino society were involved in
producing food in contrast to Europeans’ disdain for work with the land, which
contributed to European people’s starvation at this time. Although the initial interaction
among the Taino and Columbus and his men was cordial, when the Europeans demanded
women and gold, took captives, and analyzed the land and the people in terms of their
value to them, conflicts began. The article describes the disastrous consequences of
Columbus’ second trip and the many cruelties directed toward the Taino people. The
author closes with the question of what the West might have learned from indigenous
people especially in terms of sustainable agriculture and ecosystems management.
Barreiro, J. (2012). Taino: A novel. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.
The author is a senior scholar at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American
Indian and a member of the Taino Nation of the Antilles. His goal in writing the novel
seems to be providing readers with an indepth Taino perspective on Columbus and his
men’s “discovery” and exploitation of the lands and people in the new world. Barreiro
uses the character of Guaikán, a Taíno youth taken by Columbus from his homeland, the
Bahamian island of Guanahani, during the first voyage in 1492 to tell the story of what
happened to him and his people. The novel also tells the story of Columbus, who adopts
the boy after they arrive in Spain and names him Diego, and Father Bartolomé de Las
Casas, a Spanish friar who takes Guaikán under his wing. All three stories are told from
the perspective of Guaikan and his people. The book describes the conquest and
colonization of the islands, including Columbus’s arrival and the 1493 attack on the
Spaniards occupying Fort Navidad on Hispaniola, the first colony; the long, drawn-out
rebellion of Enriquillo, a Taíno cacique (chief), which ended with the first treaty between
Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Europeans, in 1533. Guaikan was adopted by
Columbus and serves as his interpreter when dealing with the Taino, but after observing
all the atrocities directed against his people, Guaikan becomes more and more
disenchanted with Columbus. The author also provides an indepth portrayal of the Taino
people, their religious beliefs, culture, food, and close connection to the natural world.
The novel includes frequent use of the Taino language, which is explained by a glossary.
Overall, the novel provides an interesting portrayal of the Taino people and how their
lives changed due to Columbus and the Spaniards invasion of their lands.
Brady, P. (1992, September). Columbus and the quincentennial myths: Another side of the story.
Young Children, 47, 4-14.
The author recommends early childhood educators clarify different myths regarding
Columbus and recognize dominant perspectives. Then she suggests developing activities
related to defining heroines/heroes, making mistakes, making peace, sharing and
cooperation, and distinguishing between discovery and finding and myths and truths.
Bruchac, J. (1991, October). Otstungo: A Mohawk village in 1491. 1491: America before
Columbus, National Geographic, 180, 68-82.
The article concentrates on the daily life among the Mohawk in 1491. The author
emphasizes many ways in which Mohawk life was superior to European life at that time,
including women’s power among the people, the system of government, how warfare was
conducted, and people’s overall health. The article is part of the National Geographic
series of articles describing Native American life in 1491 prior to Columbus’ arrival in
Columbus, C. (1492-1493). The journal of Christopher Columbus (during his first voyage, 1492-1493) and documents relating to the voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real (C. R.
Markham, Trans.). London: Adamant Media.
Although Columbus’s journal is translated, the translated journal provides a primary
source for Columbus’s perspective of his first voyage to the Americas from the time he
departed on August 3, 1492 until he returned to Spain on March 15, 1493. The audience
for the journal seems to be the King and Queen of Spain which must be taken into
account. The journal documents that Columbus believed the King and Queen of Spain
named him “Admiral of the Ocean Sea, perpetual Viceroy and Governor of all the islands
and continents that I should discover and gain in the Ocean Sea, and that my eldest son
should succeed, and so on from generation to generation for ever” (p. 17). The journal
shows that Columbus recorded the distance he traveled each day, but counted less than
that “because if the voyage was of long duration, the people [sailors] would not be so
terrified and disheartened” (p. 22). Columbus took possession of the lands he encountered
on behalf of the King and Queen of Spain and renamed the lands, ignoring the names
already given them. For example, he first stepped foot on a small island Native people
called Guanahani, but Columbus renamed the island San Salvador. This practice
continued as Columbus encountered additional islands. The journal documents
Columbus’ view of Native people he encountered. He often described their appearance
and his assumptions regarding their knowledge and behavior: “they go as naked as when
their mothers bore them” (p. 38), “they do not know any religion, and I believe they could
easily be converted to Christianity, for they are very intelligent” (p. 47), and “the people
are very docile, and for the longing to possess our things, and . . . give away all they have
got” (p. 40). According to Columbus, Native people were often friendly and generous and
sometimes asked Columbus if he and his men were gods because they came from heaven.
However, sometimes they seemed fearful and ran away when he and his men came to
their island or village. When Columbus asked Native people about the small amounts of
gold they wore in their noses or ears, Native people often said Columbus could find more
gold somewhere else. Ultimately, Columbus hoped Native people could be conquered,
made to work for Columbus and his men, and become more like the Europeans.
For I, with the force I have under me, which is not large, could march over all
these islands without opposition. . . . They have no arms, and are without warlike
instincts; they all go naked, and are so timid that a thousand would not stand
before three of our men. So that they are good to be ordered about, to work and
sow, and do all that may be necessary, and to build towns, and they should be
taught to go about clothed and to adopt our customs (p. 114).
Creamer, W. & Haas, J. (1991, October). Origins: Through Tewa eyes. 1491: America before
Columbus, National Geographic, 180, 84-99.
The article focuses on illustrations of life among the ancestors of the Pueblo in
southwestern United States before 1500 as part of the National Geographic series of
articles describing Native American life in 1491 prior to Columbus’ arrival in the
Deagan, K. A. (1992, January). La Isabela: Europe’s first foothold in the New World. National
Geographic, 181, 41-52.
Through archaeological evidence, the author provides some insight into La Isabella, the
first European town in America, developed by Columbus and his men. However, the
town was short-lived due to diseases, revolts against Columbus’ demands for building the
town and planting crops, the destruction of fire and a hurricane.
Elleman, B. (1991, September). The Columbus encounter. Book Links, 1, 6-13.
The author suggests trade books suitable for grades 1-9 for introducing students to the
period before Columbus arrived in the Americas; different views on Columbus, his
voyages, and the world in which he lived; the beginning of the age of exploration
following Columbus’ voyages; and the 500-year legacy left by Columbus including the
devastation on Native people.
Frazier, W. (2014, February). Columbus, the original American hero. Available from
The author thoroughly reviews primary and secondary sources documenting Columbus’s
voyages to the new world and asserts that the first voyage was one of discovery, although
Columbus’s purpose was to gain gold. The second voyage, with 17 ships and over 1,000
men, including soldiers, was an invasion. When the Taino first met Columbus and his
men, they either fled or welcomed them, but once they became aware of Columbus’s
focus on gold, they regularly fled. Columbus and his men brought disease which killed
the Taino, raped women, searched for gold, and took Taino as slaves to send back to
Spain. At one point Columbus and his men forced the Taino to bring a specific amount of
gold every three months and chopped off the hands of those who failed to comply. About
10,000 Taino died from bleeding to death. In addition to this form of destruction, later
governors of Espanola massacred leaders and people, worked the Taino to death in the
gold mines, and killed people with large, trained dogs. The author calls the Spanish
destruction of the Taino as genocide and believes that the approximately one million
Taino who lived on Espanola before 1492 were extinct before 1600. The author
emphasizes that no Spaniard questioned the right to “conquer” the Western Hemisphere,
but asserts that if Columbus was not the person bringing destruction to the Taino, it
would have been another European. Generally the Spaniards viewed Native people as
human beings, although they were of an inferior race and culture. The author closes the
essay with questioning why we celebrate Columbus Day because it shows we as a country
are willing to celebrate or overlook the murderous acts of our ancestors.
Goldberg, M. (1992). Searching for Columbus. Multicultural Review, 1, 10-17.
The author reviews a number of texts about Columbus, including some very dated trade
books. He recommends several titles published in 1989 and 1990.
Henning, M. B., Snow-Gerono, J. L., Reed, D. & Warner, A. (2006). Listening to children think
critically about Christopher Columbus. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 19, 19-22.
The authors describe a classroom activity in which fourth-grade students explore three
different texts from various perspectives and author biases dealing with Columbus. The
texts are Christopher Columbus: A Great Explorer by Carol Greene, Columbus Day by
Vicki Liestman, and Encounter by Jane Yolen. The authors offer a list of questions to
guide students in investigating the texts and a graphic organizer for recording responses.
The authors also provide some evidence about what students learned from the activity by
quoting classroom discussions.
Horse Capture, G. P. (1991). An American Indian perspective. In H. J. Viola and C. Margolis
(Eds.). Seeds of change: A quincentennial commemoration (pp. 186-207). Washington
DC: Smithsonian Institution.
The author reviews what has happened to Native people since Columbus arrived in the
Americas and concludes that “no sensible Indian person can celebrate the arrival of
Columbus” because he treated the indigenous people as less than human. He attributes
conflicts between Europeans and native people to different beliefs and values, although
there was potential for harmony between the two groups. However, Columbus viewed
Native Americans with arrogance and disdain, which legitimized his capture of Native
people as slaves.
Johnson, T. & Knapp, M. (1991, Fall Winter). Fireside: On Columbus and conquest. Turtle
Quarterly, 4, 36-45.
The article portrays a discussion among John Mohawk, Lawrence Chisholm, Elizabeth
Kennedy, and Jose Barreiro about Columbus “discovering the new world.” It emphasizes
that most historians agree that Columbus did not discover America. One speaker posits it
was more of an invasion of the world by Europeans in order to extract resources.
Columbus’ focus was wealth, but he also violated human rights and renamed places.
Columbus was part of western thinking which believed in its universal, correct nature,
especially in regard to the universal aspect of Christianity and scientific thought and every
other culture’s beliefs as incorrect. He wanted to create an ideal Catholic Spain in other
lands. Mohawk concludes that Native American perspectives on Columbus finds nothing
to celebrate because his invasion led to the deaths of over 10 million Native people, one
of the most dramatic population decreases in world history.
Juhnke, J. C. & Yolen, J. (1993). An exchange on Encounter. The New Advocate, 6, 93-96.
The article contains James C. Juhnke’s numerous criticisms of Jane Yolen’s picture book
Encounter, including its focus on individualism rather than the communal nature of Taino
culture and the implication that the Taino should have abandoned their traditions of
hospitality in order to avoid the harmful effects of Columbus’ arrival. Yolen also
responds to these criticisms.
Knight, G. (2006). Christopher Columbus: Hero or villain: A critical inquiry into fallacies and
facts. Retrieved from
The unit plan includes the author’s philosophy behind the unit, essential questions, and
eight lessons suitable for upper elementary students. The lessons involve students
learning about Columbus’s voyages through learning centers, comparing and contrasting
how Columbus and his voyages are presented in children’s literature, analyzing a primary
document written by Columbus to determine his primary reason for sailing to the Indies,
analyzing different artistic portrayals of Columbus’s arrival in the Caribbean for different
perspectives, analyzing several myths about Columbus which Loewen refutes in Lies My
Teacher Told Me, engaging in a Socratic seminar and a debate in which they discuss if
Columbus Day should be celebrated, and writing an essay explaining their views about
Columbus as a hero or villain with supporting reasons. The author includes a rubric for
assessing students’ work in the unit.
Loewen, J. W. (1992). Columbus in history and high school. Akwe:kon Journal, 9, 28-36.
The author reviews how Columbus was portrayed in 12 American history textbooks. He
discovered texts ignored African and Asian explorations of the Americas and the roles of
people of color in exploration. The author clarified such misconceptions in texts as
Columbus’ goal in reaching the new continent, what the voyage was like, and the length
of the voyage. Most notably, Loewen describes the uniqueness of Columbus’ exploration
such as exploitation and slavery which led to economic and agricultural changes in
Europe and the Americas.
Lyon, E. (1992, January). Search for Columbus. National Geographic, 181, 4-39.
The author and photographer include photographs of places Columbus and his family
might have lived and worked in Italy and a reproduction of the ship, the Santa Maria.
The author used primary documents to document aspects of Columbus’ life.
Llosa, M. V. (1990, December). Questions of conquest: What Columbus wrought, and what he
did not. Harper’s, 45-53.
The author makes an interesting argument that the destruction of people in Central and
South America was not just to the cruelty of the Spanish conquistadores, but to the
cultural beliefs of the people. She blames the people’s religious devotion to one leader,
who, when destroyed, left the people in confusion. The author now blames the
Westernized Latin Americans for causing the destruction of indigenous people who face
either assimilation into Spanish cultures or struggle to survive.
McCall, A. L. (2010). Teaching powerful social studies ideas through literature circles. The
Social Studies, 101, 152-159.
The author describes her use of literature circles in a social studies methods course as an
example of how to integrate literacy with social studies and introduce different
perspectives on historical or current topics. She uses four texts to introduce different
perspectives on Columbus and the Taino encounter: Christopher Columbus by Stephen
Krensky, Columbus Day by Vicki Liestman, Columbus Day: Celebrating a Famous
Explorer by Elaine Landau and Encounter by Jane Yolen. Texts praise Columbus and
explain why Columbus is celebrated as a national holiday, but they also question
Columbus’s right to claim land that belongs to people living there, his goal of finding
gold, and his enslavement of the Taino. Encounter provides a very different perspective
on Columbus, describing his “serpent smile,” colorful dress, and white skin. The
groups discuss each text’s perspective, the author’s background for writing an accurate
book on Columbus and the Taino, any biases they notice in the texts, and if the texts are
mostly positive or negative regarding Columbus and the Taino. The author concludes that
literature circles are effective for integrating literacy with social studies while keeping the
focus on teaching important social studies content. They keep students actively involved
comparing different perspectives.
McNulty, C. P., Davies, M. & Maddoux, M. (2010). Living in the global village: Strategies for
teaching mental flexibility. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 23, 21-24.
The authors encourage teachers to prepare their students for globally competent
citizenship by helping them develop mental flexibility or learn from and about different
perspectives. When students develop mental flexibility, they become problem solvers and
hold less prejudice. The authors suggest a strategy to teach mental flexibility is asking
students to read children’s literature with different perspectives, such as Jane Yolen’s text
Encounter and then complete additional strategies to help them consider different points
of view. For example, they should consider Columbus’s landing in San Salvador from the
perspective of Taino children, adults, Columbus’s crew, Columbus, and his financial
backers. They may also role play the first encounter between the Taino and Columbus’s
crew and remain in their role as “talking statues” to be interviewed by visiting students
about their view of the encounter. Another strategy is asking students to take a stand
(strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) in response to a statement, such as
“Spanish colonization was justified” and justify their position. Finally, teachers may ask
students to examine Encounter by changing the narrator to an adult Taino or one of
Columbus’s crew or change the time period in which Columbus arrived in the New
World to arriving today in our hometown or by changing the culture of the Taino and
Columbus, which would affect their actions toward each other.
Meltzer, M. (1992). Selective forgetfulness: Christopher Columbus reconsidered. The New
Advocate, 5, 1-9.
The author provides some background on his purposes in writing the trade book
Columbus and the World Around Him. He tries to explain the historical context which
contributed to Columbus’ views that Native people were inferior to Europeans and
therefore were suitable as slaves. Meltzer quotes Columbus’ journal and the Spanish
priest Bartolome de Las Casas’ books to illustrate Columbus’ views and cruelty toward
Mohawk, J. (1990). Discovering Columbus: The way here. Northeast Indian Quarterly, 7, 37-46.
The author provides some context of events in Europe at the time of Columbus and how
Christianity, militarism, and the Doctrine of Discovery (which European country first
encountered a place had the right to explore and colonize it) supported Columbus’
explorations and exploitation of the Americas. Mohawk acknowledges Columbus
discovered important truths about the seas and winds to enable him to make repeated
voyages to and from the Americas. However, he also used European sailing and military
technology available at the time.
Mohawk, J. (1992). Looking for Columbus: Thoughts on the past, present and future of
humanity. In M. Annette James (Ed). The state of Native America: Genocide, colonization, and
resistance (pp. 439-444). Boston, MA: South End Press.
The author claims that several factors led to the exploitation of Native people following
Columbus’ journey to the Americas. The belief that Christianity was superior to other
religions, the view that some societies were “primitive” while others were “civilized,”
and the interest in profits over the environment all contributed to a Eurocentric view of
the world. Mohawk asks readers to think differently about how societies should be
Montana Department of Public Instruction (n.d.). Columbus Day: Model social studies
curriculum. Retrieved from
The lesson plan is developed for K-3. The first day of the lesson includes a story of the
first encounter between the Taino people and Columbus as told from the perspective of a
Taino child (adapted from Oyate’s Thanksgiving publication). The objective is to help
students understand Native people’s feelings and responses when Columbus landed. The
second day of the lesson is “The Untold Story” from the Rethinking Columbus
publication, which the author recommends is told as a flannel board story. Again, the
story is told from the perspective of a Taino describing what happened when Columbus
landed, asks for gold, then demands gold or threatens to kill the Taino. The Taino resist,
but are no match for Columbus’s weapons. Some flee into the mountains or kill
themselves; some die from diseases. However, the author claims the Taino survived and
have stories as proof of what happened. The author suggests students illustrate the story
or complete journal writing to explain how they felt about meeting new people from
either Columbus’s perspective or a Taino child’s perspective. The lesson plan also
suggests follow-up activities for K-1: read two different books on Columbus and the
Taino (Liestman’s Columbus Day and Yolen’s Encounter) or create an alphabetical book
for K-1 students. For grade 2-3 students, the author suggests writing journals from two
different points of view (Columbus and Taino child) and critiquing many books about
Montana Department of Public Instruction (n.d.) Critical thinking about the arrival of Columbus:
Model social studies curriculum. Retrieved from
The four-part lesson plan is designed for grades 4-8. The first lesson draws out students’
prior knowledge of Columbus, asks students to listen to the first four chapters of Morning
Girl by Dorris, create a timeline of Spain, Columbus, and the Taino (timeline is provided
in the plan), then write a journal entry describing their thoughts about Columbus’s men or
the Tainos. The second lesson involves a class doing some additional research on
Columbus, his men, the king and queen of Spain, the Spanish justice system in the 1500s,
and the Tainos, then role play bringing Columbus to trial for what happened between him
and the Taino people. The third lesson asks students to read two different views on
Columbus and the Taino (both are provided) and identify statements which show
different thoughts about Columbus, discuss as a class why the speakers/writers may hold
those views, and then write their own editorial about the arrival of Columbus. The final
lesson asks students to read several books often found in libraries (suggested titles are
given) and identify examples of stereotypes and racism, then share their critiques with
other classrooms or the local newspaper. The lesson plan also suggests additional
resources for thinking critically about Columbus and the Taino.
National Council for the Social Studies. (1991, October). The Columbian Quincentenary.
Social Education, 55, 346-348.
The article contains the National Council for the Social Studies’ position statement for
teaching about Columbus. The main ideas include: Columbus did not discover a new
world; the real America Columbus encountered in 1492 was different from the place
often portrayed in folklore, textbooks, and the mass media; the encounters of Native
Americans, Africans, and Europeans following 1492 included the active involvement of
all three groups; Native Americans experienced catastrophic mortality rates after 1492;
Columbus’s voyages were part of Europe’s long history of interaction with Asia and
Africa; and Spain, Portugal, and northwestern Europe all influenced the Americas.
National Endowment for the Humanities. (2010). What was Columbus thinking? Lesson plans:
grades 3-5. EDSITEment! The best of the humanities on the web. Retrieved from
The lesson plan contains six different activities to help students understand Columbus’s
goals for his voyages and the effects on Native people. The unknown author for the lesson
plan suggests teachers provide the historical context for Columbus’s voyages in a
document available online, describes six different activities to do with students, and
includes several extension activities. The main instructional activities involves students
reading primary documents describing Columbus’s first voyage and his recommendations
for what Spain should do with the place he landed. One of the most pivotal activities
requires that students analyze the primary documents (Columbus’s log and two different
letters Columbus wrote) for the intended audience, time written, Columbus’s goal in
writing the document and primary message, how the message changes from one
document to another, and possible reasons for the change in message. The second most
pivotal activity asks groups of students to complete research to determine how
Columbus’s voyage changed: (1) foods and plants for Europeans and Native people; (2)
diseases for Native people; (3) Native people overall; and (4) Native people and
Christianity. Each group prepares a graphic organizer to display their research and
presents their findings to the class. Finally, students complete writing to show the
difference between what Columbus and the Taino expected and what happened because
of their encounter. As extensions, students make recommendations as to what should be
taught about Columbus, how Columbus Day should be observed, and/or analyze primary
source documents to find the frequency of references to gold, spices, and Christianity to
notice how Columbus’s emphasis changed over time.
Ortiz, A. (1991, October). Origins: Through Tewa eyes. 1491: America before Columbus,
National Geographic, 180, 6-12.
The article focuses on Tewa life today and the Tewa creation story as part of the National
Geographic series of articles describing Native American life in 1491 prior to Columbus’
arrival in the Americas.
Pascua, M. P. (1991, October). Ozette: A Makah village in 1491. 1491: America before
Columbus, National Geographic, 180, 38-53.
The article concentrates on life among the Makah in 1491, including significant beliefs
and songs; the importance of whaling, seal hunting, and food gathering; the meaning of
potlatches; and the creation of a hierarchical society. The article is part of the National
Geographic series of articles describing Native American life in 1491 prior to Columbus’
arrival in the Americas.
Puk, T. (1994). Epistemological implications of training social studies teachers: Just who was
Christopher Columbus? The Social Studies, 85, 228-233.
The author investigated preservice teacher’s beliefs about what students learned about
Columbus and discovered they held mostly myths about Columbus’s discovery of the
Americas. He encourages teachers to research different perspectives on content, question
“facts” they are teaching, focus on history as a number of stories from different
perspectives, include the process of inquiry in which students find and interpret different
“facts,” and recognize that history has often been “sterilized.”
Rouse, I. (1992). The Tainos: Rise and decline of the people who greeted Columbus. New Haven,
CT: Yale University Press.
The author describes the Taino people as well as their ancestors based on archaeological,
linguistic, and ethnohistorical evidence. The greatest source of information on the Taino
lifestyle was from Columbus’s records. The Taino lived on the islands of Cuba,
Hispaniola (composed of Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and
the Virgin Islands. However, the author focuses on the Classic Taino who lived in Puerto
Rico and Hispaniola because these are the Taino Columbus encountered. They lived in
large, permanent villages, and their housing ranged from a single building to 20-50
houses. They were governed by a chief, or cacique, who could be either female or male.
The chief had great power and presided over the village in which she/he lived, organized
daily activities and public feasts and dances, stored surplus commodities, acted as hosts,
and developed political relationships with other villages. The Taino traced their ancestry
through their mothers, and chiefs inherited their status from their mothers. Men resided in
the villages of his mother’s lineage. The houses were built from wood and thatch and
were arranged around a central plaza. Single women wore headbands; wives wore short
skirts; and men went naked or wore loincloths. Both women and men painted themselves
before ceremonies, often using red dye. The Taino were farmers and fishers to obtain
needed food. Their main crops were cassava and sweet potatoes, grown in heaped
mounds of earth. They also cultivated maize, squash, beans, peppers, and peanuts from
seeds and grew fruits, calabashes, cotton, and tobacco near their houses. The Taino used
calabashes as water containers and smoked cigars made from tobacco. They caught fish in
nets, through spearing, and through hooks and lines. Because no large mammals lives on
their islands, they supplemented their diets with manatees and dogs. The Taino
worshipped deities or zemis and made idols and fetishes representing them, also called
zemis. They decorated their pottery and other artifacts with zemis and painted or tatooed
them on their bodies. Shamans cured the ill. The central plaza was the location of dances
and ceremonies, including annual homages to the chief’s zemis, rituals before and after
battles, the chief’s marriage or death, and ceremonies celebrating their ancestors’ deeds.
The Taino also played ball on the central plaza with women and men participating
separately. They traveled by sea in hollowed out logs made into canoes with the chief’s
largest canoes holding as many as 150 people. The Taino traveled by sea to trade. Most
people traveled on land by foot, although chiefs traveled in litters (similar to sedan
chairs). Polygyny was prevalent, although chiefs could afford to have many wives. The
Classic Taino fought among themselves to avenge murders, resolve disputes over hunting
and fishing rights, or to force a chief to deliver the woman for whom he had been paid a
bride price. The author also explains Columbus’s and the Spanish conquistadors’ effects
on the Taino. He confirms that Columbus or other Spanish conquistadors took a few
Taino back to Spain to serve as interpreters; sent Taino captives back to Spain to be sold
as slaves as a form of income from the colony; forced the Taino to work in gold mines
leading to their death from overwork and undernourishment; forced the chiefs to make
payments of gold, cotton, or food; brutally destroyed some of the principal chiefs; burned
their cotton zemis because the Spanish were repelled by the Taino religion, and stole
Taino possessions and raped women. The Taino population declined rapidly from the
harsh treatment, forced labor, smallpox, and their own suicides so that by 1524, they
ceased to exist as a separate population. To replace Taino labor, the Spanish began
importing African slaves. There are no full-blooded Taino still living, although residents
of Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba claim partial descent from the Taino
through intermarriage between Spanish men and Taino women. Both Africa and Europe
benefitted from the transfer of crops and methods of growing them, such as cassava in
Africa and corn, rubber, tobacco in Spain.
Sale, K. (1990, October 22). What Columbus discovered. The Nation, 444-446.
The author contrasts Columbus’s European cultural background with Native people’s.
He sees Columbus’s background as disconnected from a place and part of Europe’s
growth of capitalism, emphasis on science, enslavement of people of color, colonization
of the world, and destruction of environments. In contrast, the Tainos adapted to and
lived in harmony with their physical environment in their housing transportation, and
agriculture and the creation of a peaceful, generous culture.
Sardar, Z., Nandy, A., Davies, M. W. & Alvares, C. (1993). The blinded eye: 500 years of
Christopher Columbus. New York: Apex.
The authors critique the European sense of superiority towards “Other” or anyone not
European, which Columbus brought with him to the New World. This superior view was
applied to anyone who embraced a religion outside of Christianity, adapted to the natural
world rather than tried to subdue it, spoke languages different from the European
languages of power, used nonWestern styles of reasoning, maintained nonEuropean
dietary practices and sexual customs, embraced a communal lifestyle, and integrated
body, soul, and mind rather than separated them. Columbus and other Europeans used
these differences as the rationale for conquering and enslaving Native Americans,
asserting the power to name their lands, converting them to Christianity, and civilizing
them into European lifestyles. The authors caution readers against continuing to turn a
blind eye to different cultures around the globe.
Stuart, G. E. (1991, October). Etowah: A Southeast village in 1491. 1491: America before
Columbus, National Geographic, 180, 54-66.
The article concentrates on life among the Etowah in present day Georgia in 1491,
including significant beliefs; the importance of food gathering, growing, fishing, and
hunting; building great mounds; events leading to wars; and means of entertainment. The
article is part of the National Geographic series of articles describing Native American
life in 1491 prior to Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.
Sugnet, C., Yiannoussi, E.& Sommers, M. (1993). Fourteen ninety-two in the textbooks: A
critique. Social Education, 57, 224-227.
The authors examined how seven U.S. History texts treated the events of 1492. They
discovered the texts give little attention to Native people in the Americas before
Columbus; omit Columbus’s cruelty toward Native people and emphasize diseases as the
main reason for the decline in Native people’s population; if slavery is mentioned, it is
not connected to Columbus; and none connected Columbus’s arrival with present-day
conflicts between Native people and national governments.
Tavares, J. A. (1992, July-August). An Indian side of the Christopher Columbus story. 500 years
of survival: Remembering the past looking to the future, special supplement The Eagle, 10, A8-A9.
The author explains reasons for Columbus’s and his men’s oppression of the Arawaks,
including Columbus’s superior ships, weapons, and gunpowder, their beliefs in European
superiority and Native American inferiority; and the motivation to take wealth from
discovered lands. The author also blames the Arawaks for their willingness to welcome
Columbus and his followers as friends and benefactors, which contributed to their demise
at Columbus’s hands.
West, J., Weaver, D. & Rowland, R. (1992). Expectations and evocations: Encountering
Columbus through literature. The New Advocate, 5, 247-263.
The article contains a description of a professor’s reading two different trade books
dealing with Columbus to a fourth-grade class and a seventh-grade class. The traditional
view of Columbus is portrayed in Follow the Dream while an imagined Taino perspective
is included in Encounter. The authors portray many of the younger students’ tendency to
portray Columbus as either very good or very evil and open to believing the Taino boy’s
story. While the older students saw the Columbus story as more complex, they were also
more skeptical of the new information contained in Encounter. The authors encourage
teachers to emphasize critical reading, multiple perspectives, and to seek out the
perspectives of women and people of color who have often been omitted in texts.
Weston, B. (2011, September). Columbus sets sail. Cobblestone, 32, 10-13.
The article summarizes Columbus’s motivation for sailing to lands in the Atlantic Ocean
and how he found an investor to back his journey. The author clarifies that Columbus did
not claim new lands because millions of Native people already lived there, and he was not
the first European to reach these lands because the Vikings landed in the Americas 500
years earlier. However, Columbus was the first European explorer to return to the
Americas, making a total of four voyages. News of Columbus’s explorations led to
Europeans’ acceptance of new lands to the west. The article omits conflicts between the
Taino and Columbus and Taino perspectives on Columbus’s arrival to their lands.
Bigelow, B. & Peterson, B. (Eds.). (1998). Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 years.
Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.
This publication offers teaching strategies, reviews of trade books, and background
information for teaching about Columbus and the Taino. It includes a 1973 article
describing a Chippewa stepping off a plane in Italy and claiming to discover Italy as a
similar action to Columbus’s claim he discovered America. The publication includes
articles by teachers explaining how they teach about Columbus and the Taino and
suggested teaching activities for elementary classrooms. It also offers valuable
background information on current issues for Native people, including treaty rights, and
recommendations for how to disrupt stereotypes of Native people. Available from
Rethinking Schools, 1001 East Keefe Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53212 1-800-669-4192,
Rampion Productions and Tyee Productions (Producers). (1991). The Columbus controversy:
Challenging how history is written [Video]. (Available from American School Publishers,
Macmillan/McGraw-Hill School Publishing)
The video examines different views on Columbus, portrays his encounters with the Taino,
and the development of his hero image in the United States, culminating with a national
holiday to honor him in 1934. Bill Bigelow and his high school class are shown
addressing the view that Columbus “discovered” America and grappling with how to
acknowledge Native people’s experiences and Columbus Day. Two historians are
interviewed with different views on the effects of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on
the Taino and other Native people.
Columbus controversy part one [Video file]. Retrieved from
The Columbus Controversy: Challenging how history is written video is posted on
YouTube in two parts to make it widely available to students and teachers.
Columbus controversy part two [Video file]. Retrieved from
The Columbus Controversy: Challenging how history is written video is posted on
YouTube in two parts to make it widely available to students and teachers.
Horst, N. (2008). Christopher Columbus: Two views. Society for Information Technology and
Teacher Education. Retrieved from http://site.aace.org/sitevideo/story.cfm?storyid=159
The video shows two perspectives on Columbus: hero and monster. Columbus as hero
sailed from Spain in three ships to a new world, met barbaric people, tried to convert
them to the Christian religion, claimed land for Spain, and established a colony. We
celebrate Columbus Day because of his discovery. Columbus as monster met people from
a settled society, captured them to make them work for him, sold them as slaves to earn
money, and spread diseases. He forced Christianity upon the Native people, and those
who did not accept it were burned as heretics. The overall purpose of the video is to
introduce students to perspective-taking and examining historical figures from multiple
points of view.
Annotated bibliography list