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 Columbus’s cruelty.


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 Sons.


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 Press.


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: Enslow.


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 credible text.


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: Lerner.


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 Columbus.


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 land.


Sis, P. (1991). Follow the dream: The story of Christopher Columbus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


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.


Curriculum Guide


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 students.



Teacher Resources: Journal Articles, Books, Book Chapters, and Lesson Plans


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. 66-77.


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 the Americas.


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 Americas.


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 literature circle

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 the Taino.


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 constructed.


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 Columbus Day.


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.



Special Publications


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


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