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THE BAHAMAS History

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© Lonely Planet Publications
21

History

THE BAHAMAS
The peaceful Lucayans knew a good spot when they found one. This
tribe of Arawak Indians paddled into the Bahamas’ glistening seas at the
turn of the 9th century. They decided to stay and became the country’s
first inhabitants.
Living primarily off the sea, they evolved skills as potters, carvers and
boat-builders, and they spun and wove cotton into clothing and hammocks, which they traded with neighbors. The Lucayans, however, had
no conception of the wheel and no written language, and they did not
use beasts of burden or metals.
Religion played a central role in Arawak life. They worshiped various
gods who were thought to control the rain, sun, wind, and hurricanes.
The little that remains of their culture is limited to pottery shards, petroglyphs, and English words such as ‘canoe,’ ‘cannibal,’ ‘hammock,’ ‘hurricane,’ and ‘tobacco.’

This website examines
the history, navigation
and landfall in the
Bahamas of Christopher
Columbus; www1.minn
.net/~keithp

COLUMBUS & THE SPANISH

Native Americans had occupied the Bahamas for at least 500 years by
the time Christopher Columbus first sighted the New World on October
12, 1492, during the first of his four voyages to find a westward route to
the East Indies.
The expedition had sailed west and after 33 days and more than
3000 miles, the shout of ‘Tierra!’ went up and an island gleamed in the
moonlight. Columbus planted the Spanish flag on an island he named
San Salvador. From here, the fleet sailed south to Santa María de la
Concepción, then west to a large island he named Fernandina. Turning
southeast, they touched at a fourth island, christened Isabela, then sailed
southwest to today’s Ragged Island Range.
Columbus and his fellow expeditionaries were underwritten by monarchs and merchants whose interest was economic. Gold, or at least the
thought of it, filled the sails. The Spaniards did not linger in these barren
coral islands. The Indians told Columbus that gold might be found in
Cubanacan (middle Cuba), which he translated as ‘Kublai Khan.’
Until his death, Columbus was convinced that these islands were the
easternmost outposts of Asia. Since he had traveled west to reach them,
he named them the West Indies.
There has been much speculation over the decades as to which island
Columbus actually landed on first. One of the explorer’s biographers
believed it to be San Salvador. A National Geographic Society study has
convincingly proposed Samana Cay as the...
21
History
THE BAHAMAS
The peaceful Lucayans knew a good spot when they found one. This
tribe of Arawak Indians paddled into the Bahamas’ glistening seas at the
turn of the 9th century. They decided to stay and became the country’s
first inhabitants.
Living primarily off the sea, they evolved skills as potters, carvers and
boat-builders, and they spun and wove cotton into clothing and ham-
mocks, which they traded with neighbors. The Lucayans, however, had
no conception of the wheel and no written language, and they did not
use beasts of burden or metals.
Religion played a central role in Arawak life. They worshiped various
gods who were thought to control the rain, sun, wind, and hurricanes.
The little that remains of their culture is limited to pottery shards, petro-
glyphs, and English words such as ‘canoe,’ ‘cannibal,’ ‘hammock,’ ‘hur-
ricane,’ and ‘tobacco.’
COLUMBUS & THE SPANISH
Native Americans had occupied the Bahamas for at least 500 years by
the time Christopher Columbus first sighted the New World on October
12, 1492, during the first of his four voyages to find a westward route to
the East Indies.
The expedition had sailed west and after 33 days and more than
3000 miles, the shout of ‘Tierra!’ went up and an island gleamed in the
moonlight. Columbus planted the Spanish flag on an island he named
San Salvador. From here, the fleet sailed south to Santa María de la
Concepción, then west to a large island he named Fernandina. Turning
southeast, they touched at a fourth island, christened Isabela, then sailed
southwest to today’s Ragged Island Range.
Columbus and his fellow expeditionaries were underwritten by mon-
archs and merchants whose interest was economic. Gold, or at least the
thought of it, filled the sails. The Spaniards did not linger in these barren
coral islands. The Indians told Columbus that gold might be found in
Cubanacan (middle Cuba), which he translated as ‘Kublai Khan.’
Until his death, Columbus was convinced that these islands were the
easternmost outposts of Asia. Since he had traveled west to reach them,
he named them the West Indies.
There has been much speculation over the decades as to which island
Columbus actually landed on first. One of the explorer’s biographers
believed it to be San Salvador. A National Geographic Society study has
convincingly proposed Samana Cay as the first landfall.
As the search for gold dominated all adventurers’ priorities it was no
surprise that the Spanish returned in 1495, and started shipping out
enslaved Lucayan Indians from the Bahamas to work their gold seams
in Hispaniola.
This website examines
the history, navigation
and landfall in the
Bahamas of Christopher
Columbus; www1.minn
.net/~keithp
Buccaneers of America
is John Esquemeling’s
eyewitness account of
the extermination of the
Lucayans. It was first
published in 1684.
TIMELINE’’
900s
The Arawaks arrive in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos
from South America
1492
Christopher Columbus sets sight and foot onto the New
World
© Lonely Planet Publications
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