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Christopher Columbus – Comprehension

Christopher Columbus

Revealing the Existence of the Americas to Europe

Vocabulary Development:

As you read the text, record five words you do not understand.  Below, write the word, the definition that goes along with it, and the sentence it was used with in the text.

Word Definition Sentence from the Text
Kerchiefs “A square scarf” “Also I have noticed woven cotton cloths here like kerchiefs,”
Fathoms “Measure the depth of water” “There is 7 or 8 fathoms”
League “Measure of distance” Sixty two and a half leagues in the twenty four hours;”
Petrels “Seabird” “We saw petrels and a green reed close to the ship and then a big green fish of a kind which does not stray far from the shoals.”
Coercion “Forcing somebody to do something” I could see that they were people who could be converted to our Holy Faith by love than coercion, and wishing them to look on us with friendship I gave them some red bonnets and glass beads which they hung round their necks, and many other things, exchanging them for such objects as glass beads and hawk bells.


Comprehension Questions

Answer the following questions below.  You do not have to answer these in complete sentences; bullet format is fine.

Question Answer
1 Where was Columbus heading? Columbus was heading for India, Asia. “Having set out for the Indies I shall continue this voyage until, with gods grace I reach them.”
2 What signs did they have on October 11 that they were nearing land? On October 11th the signs that they received that they were nearing land were “We saw petrels, and a green weed close to the ship and then a big green fish that do not stray far from the shoals” these were the signs that they were nearing land on October 11th.” 
3 What did Columbus promise the first man to see land? Columbus promised the first man to see land a silk doublet and 10,000 maravedis. “I warned them to keep a good look out in the bows’ and told them that I would give a silk doublet to the man who first sighted land, as well as the land, as well as the prize of 10,000 maravedis.”
4 Which of Columbus’ ships spotted land first?  The Pinta first sighted land.  “Then the Pinta being faster and in the lead sighted land and made the signal as I had ordered.”
5 What flags or banners did the crew carry onto the island first? The crew carried the “I took the royal standard, and the captains each took a banner with the green cross which each of my ships carries as a device, with the letters F and Y, surmounted by a crown.”
6 What did the Europeans give the islanders? The Europeans gave the islanders “ I gave some of them red bonnets and glass beads which they hung round their necks, and many other things of small value.”
7 Describe the physical appearance of the men and women on the island. The men and woman were naked and on the island. They were kind and well built though there were not many women (only one of a young age). The men had coarse hair and like the mane of a horse. The men were all well built and had very straight leg and were handsome in the face.
8 Why did Columbus think the islanders were intelligent? Columbus thought that the islanders were intelligent because whenever he said something to them they repeated it and seemed to learn it. “They must be good servants, and intelligent, for I can see that they quickly repeat everything said to them.”
9 How many islanders did he want to take with him?  Why? Columbus wanted to take 6 islanders with him back to Spain for them to learn Spanish and for them to be servants to the king and queen of the country. “With God’s will I will take six of them with me for You Majesty’s when I leave this place so they may learn Spanish.”
10 How did the islanders travel out to the ship? The islanders came out to the ship in a boat called an almadías, which was a boat carved out from a tree trunk. “They came out to the ship in almadías made from a tree-trunk, like a long boat, all of a piece, wonderfully shaped in the way of this land, some big enough to carry forty or fifty men, others smaller with only one man.”
11 What did the island look like geographically? The island was quite flat and hot and there is a beach on it. It also was quite green and large. “This island is large and very flat, with green trees and plenty of water; there is a large lake in the middle, no mountains, and everything is green and a delight to the eye.”
12 What kind of animals did Columbus’ men see on the island? The animals that Columbus’ men saw on the island were mostly parrots and lizards
13 What was the weather like on the island? On this island the weather was hot because of the few hills.
14 On November 6th, what kind of place did the Europeans find? On November 6th two men were sent inland t explore the surrounding areas and found a “Village of about fifty houses. With around 1000 inhabitants” the men were welcomed with a ceremony that everyone who went there got they were told. They sat on funny animal shaped chairs and the women kept on kissing their hands and feet.”
15 What did the islander women do to the Europeans?  Why? The islander women kept “kissing their hands and feet and touching them to see if the men were flesh and blood like themselves.” Then they gave them dry roots to eat and invited them to stay.


Analysis Questions

Answer the following questions using complete sentences.  Use specific examples from the text.  This is practice for your coming summative task.

Question Your Analysis
1 What evidence is there that Columbus was very religious? The evidence that Columbus is very religious is that he keeps mention how it is that he is going to change the Islanders religion to the Holy Faith through love not force because they were, loving gentle people and didn’t seem to have a religion. “ I believe they would readily become Christians: it appeared to me that they have no religion”“ I could see that they were people who would be more easily converted to our Holy Faith by love then by coercion and wishing them to look on u s with friendship.”
2 What kind of leader does Columbus seem to be? Columbus seems to be a good leader because he was always actively encouraging his sailors and was determined that he was correct about the world being round (which it is). He had good authority because he was setting goals for his sailors such as when he said “I warned them to keep a good lookout on the bows’ and told them that I would give a silk doublet to the man who first sighted land, as well as  the prize of 10,000 maravedis promised by Your Majesty’s.” here he showed to be actively encouraging and trying to get the sailors involved and wanting to spot land. He also kept thinking because as soon as he landed on the island he sent two men ahead to check out the rest of the island, which showed good leadership skills. “The two men I sent inland to explore came back last night…”
3 How did they ‘take possession’ of the land they first found? Columbus took position of the land at first by bringing a banner representing the Spanish and leaving it there and they then started making an agreement on paper. “I took the royal standard, and the captains each took a banner with the green banner with and F and a Y, surmounted by a crown, at each end of the cross.” “I called the two captains to jump ashore with the rest, who included Rodrigo de Escobedo, secretary of the fleet. And Rodrigo Sànchez de Segovia, asking them to bear solemn witness that in the presence of them all I was taking possession of this island for their lord and lady the King and Queen, and I made the necessary declarations which are set down at a greater length in the written testimonies.”
4 What was Columbus’ main intention with the islanders who he (they) met? Columbus’ main intentions with the islanders whom he met were to convert them to the Christian Faith. “ I could see that they were people who would be more easily converted to out Holy Faith by love than by coercion,”
5 What were Columbus’ first impressions of the character of the islanders? (See the October 11 entry) Columbus’ found the people poor because they wandered around “as naked as the day they were born” as he put it.
6 In the journal entry for October 14th, what do you think Columbus is most interested in? In the journal entry for October 14th I think Columbus is most interested in the gold that he thinks he will find as he goes further inland because he had heard stories of a king who had jars of gold stacked away. “I kept my eyes open and tried to find out if there was any gold…around the south of the island there is a king with great jars full of it, enormous amounts.”
7 What particularly impresses Columbus about the islands? What particularly impresses Columbus about the islands, are the sheer beauty of the place because he keeps mentioning the landscape and the fish and plants.
8 How are the Europeans treated by the islanders? (November 6) The Europeans are treated well by the islanders because they have never seen such people as the Europeans and think that they are like God’s sent from the heavens to help them. “Everyone, men and women came to see them and they were lodged in the best houses. The people kept touching and kissing their hands and feet in amazement, thinking they had come from the Heaven,”



Answer the following questions in one paragraph by using at least three quotations from the text.  Highlight each quotation in your answer so I can easily identify it.

What was Columbus’ attitude toward the islanders?  In other word: How exactly did Columbus view the islanders?  Did they impress him?  Does he respect them?  Is the critical of them?  What are his motives for being there?
 Columbus perceived the Native Americans by…  

Columbus’ attitude toward the islanders is that he thinks that they are poor people because they  “wander round as naked as the day they were born” and just because the islanders went around naked does not mean that they are poor it is their way of life. This was quite common amongst tribes. The islanders did not particularly impress him and I do not think that he respects them because he continually seems to think that he is better than them because he is a Christian and they are not and he thinks that because the Islanders are not Christians this is wrong and he needs to convert them into Christians. “ I could see that they were people who would be more easily converted into the Holy Faith by love that coercion, and wishing them to look upon us in friendship.” In this quote he is saying that he would do whatever it took to turn the islanders into Christians even if that meant taking them over and killing off some of them to make them all follow his ways which is not respectful to their way and religion.


Columbus’ motive for being there is to discover India (which he does not succeed in he actually finds America). “The water in the rivers here is brackish near the mouth I do not know where the Indians get their water;” This quote here tells us that he actually does think that he has found India. Columbus also wants to prove that the world is round and that you could go the other way to get to India (which he did not reach). He thought he had succeeded in finding India and was out looking for the big cities and trading that he had been told about.


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