Teacher notes:
Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills: Grade 6- 8
History/ Social Science Standards: Grade 7

Language Arts Content Standards: Grade 7


Research and group activities may take about 300-400 minutes depending on the number of computers connected to the internet.  One computer classrooms make take longer unless you have WebWhacker or WebBuddy, or the teacher downloads and copies the web pages in advance of the lesson.

Testimony/presentations should take one class period and be limited to 5 or 10 minutes for each representative or group.


Resources for Teacher: 
See resources and bibliography above and quotes below.

1.  What Columbus Did:

Paraphrased from Rubin, Nancy   Isabella of Castile, The First Renaissance Queen.  New York:  St. Martin s Press, 1991

"When Columbus returned from his first trip, he brought with him Indians who were paraded around Barcelona and subsequently converted to Christianity. Several of them were sent to missionary school to learn how to convert their brethren on Columbus' next trip.  Columbus was made Admiral of the Ocean Sea and was to be known as Don Cristobal Colon with a coat of arms. Eight days later he was made Capitan General de la Armada or Capitan General of the Fleet and given the right to start a second expedition whose primary goal was to convert the Indians.  To carry out that task, twelve priests were named to the expedition, among them young Bartolome de Las Casas".   p. 332

"The conversions, Isabella and Ferdinand warned Columbus, had to be accomplished with gentleness and not by force.  Columbus was to treat the said Indians very well and lovingly and to abstain from doing them any injury, arranging that both peoples hold  much conversation... each serving the others to the best of their ability....and if any person ... should maltreat the said Indians in any manner whatsoever, the said  Admiral, as Viceroy and Governor of Their Highnesses, is to punish them severely.,..." p. 332  quoted from Parry, John H. and Keith, Robert G. eds., New Iberian World:  A Documentary History of the Discovery and Settlement of Latin America to the Early Seventeenth Century, vol. 2, The Caribbean  New York:  Times Books, 1984) p. 72 

2.  What the Church Did after 1527:- Quotes from Edwards, David L.  Christianity, The First Two Thousand Years.  Maryknoll, New York:  Orbis Books, 1997

The farmers in this region had cultivated maize, the potato, cocoa, tobacco and rubber, wealth unknown in other continents.

"They said that they were looking for souls to save from hell, ... sheer bewilderment seems to have been caused by these men with strange skins, arriving in strange ships, riding on strange horses and firing from strange guns.  Even the aristocrats who had governed the Aztec and Inca civilizations were at a loss.  They were told that the strangers wanted large quantities of gold,...they could not understand why gold coins were so urgently needed in Europe.  They saw that the invaders carried the apparatus of their religion with them, but they could not understand what the religion was; said to be about God's love, it was communicated by atrocities..."  p. 512

"The native population, which may have been as large as seventy million, perished to about 3.5 million.  They were massacred.  They died after exposure to European diseases such as smallpox.  They died from overwork as conscripts in unfamiliar tasks such as mining.  They died in despair after the ruin of their ancient culture, imperial or tribal; their traditional places of worship were destroyed and the townships into which many of them were herded were called doctrinas, for there Catholic doctrine could be taught and it included the teaching of submission.  This was under the system of the encomienda which in theory insisted that the white settlers should take good care of the Indians allocated to them, including their Christian instruction....The system worked out so differently from the ideal of trusteeship that the authorities tried to end it, but in practice the harsh relationship of master with semi-slave remained....The captives were usually baptized before being sent on their terrible voyage, but slaveholders were nervous about the consequences should they become Christian in any real sense". p. 513

Within a hundred years of the start of the invasion...baroque churches were often prominent in their central sites and lavish in their visual aids to devotion.  There were many houses of religious orders and institutions of education and charity.  The Indians were subject to discipline:  priests could summon them to confess their sins and pay tithes by using the government's roll of taxpayers; and the penalty for disobedience could be a flogging and then excommunication....p. 513

The militant culture of Spain and Portugal had been shaped by three long wars against the Moors, so that the most admired virtue was courage; and now courage had conquered a whole continent rapidly.  The religion which supported the society was Catholicism, the higher clergy being well endowed...kept quiet by being placed completely under the Crown's control.  In the new world this control was even stricter than in Europe, so that the Pope had virtually no jurisdiction....and in the colonies in Spain or Portugal the ruling class consisted of government officials or landlords who were always ready to suppress a revolt but otherwise lived with such flamboyance as was possible....A masculine authoritarianism in which ranking was achieved by numbering servants and clients, spending was far more important than investment and life was good for the strong man. p. 514

3.  About Cortés:

From Lloyd, Alan.  The Spanish Centuries.  Garden City, New York:  Doubleday & Company, 1968

Hernando Cortes...was mortal and scarcely the personification of scholarship.  The son of a former infantry captain and a mother of noble connections, Cortes had spent his childhood at Medellîn... He was rowdy and troublesome, determined on a career of action and adventure.  He went to the Indies in 1504 and served Velasquez. He had troubles with the ladies and angered Velasquez, but in 1519 Velasquez named Cortes to raise an expedition to the Yucatan.  p. 128

Cortes... believed devoutly...in his evangelical mission.  A law unto himself once free of Cuba and Velasquez, recognizing no earthly master save Charles the emperor, he saw God...as his ally....He made it clear that in destroying idolatry and bringing Christianity to the Indians, we shall not only be winning eternal glory for our souls but also ensuring the assistance of God in our worldly endeavors.    p. 129

A vital difference between Cortes and Moctezuma, as it turned out, was that while the Aztec declined to presume the favor of his Gods, the Spaniard had no doubt that his own was fundamentally on the right side.

Cortes landed on the island of Cozumel, then proceeded to the Yucatan, then to Tabasco in the Gulf of Campeche and the first skirmish with the Indians.  The Tabascans armed with bows, spears and lances, wore feathered headdresses and quilted jackets thick enough to turn an arrow, but they were no match for Spanish guns and cannons, which like the horses, amazed them.  It was here he heard of Quetzalcoatl.  p. 132

4.  About Mexico

From Johnson, William Weber  Cortés.  Boston:  Little, Brown and Company, 1975

Teotihuacan, with its gigantic pyramids had flourished between the second century and AD 750.  It had lapsed into desolation and solitude.  The Toltec civilization of Tula or Tollan, had risen as that of Teotihuacan had collapsed.  By AD 1200 it had also begun to decline.

One of the reasons for its decline was the number of comparatively uncivilized people who drifted in from the north and west, much as the Germanic hordes had descended on Rome.  There were at least seven and as much as eleven tribes of these migrant peoples who were to assume power in central Mexico.  One of the latest to come was the Aztecs, the people of Aztlan, or the Place of the Herons. p. 46

The principal reason for the Aztecs astonishing growth from marginal nomadism to imperial might was their military skill and their insatiable appetite for conquest.   (They first had been forced into other people's wars, and as hired soldiers demonstrated courage and ruthlessness.) They began conquests of their own or made alliances with those they could not conquer.  They chose their king from a neighboring and longer-established city Culhuacan who created the royal family.  sharp distinctions were made between royalty, the nobility, ordinary folk and the slaves.  One of the results was an elevation in the importance of Huitzilopochtli, who came to be recognized as the god of war, the god of the sun and almost everything else. p. 48

Moctezuma II was a brooding and meditating man, swayed by what he interpreted as omens.  He felt Quetzalcoatl and his followers abhorred human sacrifice.  Quail  yes.  Snakes, yes.  Small animals, yes -- but humans, no.  This attitude put him in conflict with the principle deity of the Toltecs. p. 53 

Extract from Columbus Journal 1492

Medieval Sourcebook -Christopher Columbus: He wrote about native people of the Carribean islands.

"As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse's tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the cause of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots."

Saturday, 13 October. "At daybreak great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes, very handsome; their hair not curled but straight and coarse like horse-hair, and all with foreheads and heads much broader than any people I had hitherto seen; their eyes were large and very beautiful; they were not black, but the color of the inhabitants of the Canaries, which is a very natural circumstance, they being in the same latitude with the island of Ferro in the Canaries. They were straight-limbed without exception, and not with prominent bellies but handsomely shaped. They came to the ship in canoes, made of a single trunk of a tree, wrought in a wonderful manner considering the country; some of them large enough to contain forty or forty-five men, others of different sizes down to those fitted to hold but a single person. They rowed with an oar like a baker's peel, and wonderfully swift. If they happen to upset, they all jump into the sea, and swim till they have righted their canoe and emptied it with the calabashes they carry with them. They came loaded with balls of cotton, parrots, javelins, and other things too numerous to mention; these they exchanged for whatever we chose to give them. I was very attentive to them, and strove to learn if they had any gold. Seeing some of them with little bits of this metal hanging at their noses, I gathered from them by signs that by going southward or steering round the island in that direction,  there would be found a king who possessed large vessels of gold, and in great quantities. I endeavored to procure them to lead the way thither, but found they were unacquainted with the route. The natives are an inoffensive people, and so desirous to possess any thing they saw with us, that they kept swimming off to the ships with whatever they could find, and readily bartered for any article we saw fit to give them in return, even such as broken platters and fragments of glass. I saw in this manner sixteen balls of cotton thread which weighed above twenty-five pounds, given for three Portuguese ceutis. This traffic I forbade, and suffered no one to take their cotton from them, unless I should order it to be procured for your Highnesses, if proper quantities could be met with. It grows in this island, but from my short stay here I could not satisfy myself fully concerning it; the gold, also, which they wear in their noses, is found here, but not to lose time, I am determined to proceed onward and ascertain whether I can reach Cipango. At night they all went on shore with their canoes."

Sunday, 14 October. " In the morning, I ordered the boats to be got ready, and coasted along the island toward the north- northeast to examine that part of it, we having landed first at the eastern part. Presently we discovered two or three villages, and the people all came down to the shore, calling out to us, and giving thanks to God. Some brought us water, and others victuals: others seeing that I was not disposed to land, plunged into the sea and swam out to us, and we perceived that they interrogated us if we had come from heaven. An old man came on board my boat; the others, both men and women cried with loud voices--"Come and see the men who have come from heavens. Bring them victuals and drink." There came many of both sexes, every one bringing something, giving thanks to God, prostrating themselves on the earth, and lifting up their hands to heaven. They called out to us loudly to come to land, but I was apprehensive on account of a reef of rocks, which surrounds the whole island, although within there is depth of water and room sufficient for all the ships of Christendom, with a very narrow entrance. There are some shoals inside, but the water is as smooth as a pond. It was to view these parts that I set out in the morning, for I wished to give a complete relation to your Highnesses, as also to find where a fort might be built. I discovered a tongue of land which appeared like an island though it was not, but might be cut through and made so in two days; it contained six houses. I do not, however, see the necessity of fortifying the place, as the people here are simple in war-like matters, as your Highnesses will see by those seven which I have ordered to be taken and carried to Spain in order to learn our language and return, unless your Highnesses should choose to have them all transported to Castile, or held captive in the island. I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased. After having taken a survey of these parts, I returned to the ship, and setting sail, discovered such a number of islands that I knew not which first to visit; the natives whom I had taken on board informed me by signs that there were so many of them that they could not be numbered; they are all very level, without mountains, exceedingly fertile and populous, the inhabitants living at war with one another, although a simple race, and with delicate bodies.