This Date in Native History: On August 3, 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… at least that’s what most schoolchildren are taught. But what does that actually mean?
Today was the day in 1492 that Italian explorer Christopher Columbus set sail from the Spanish Port of Palos. And yes, he was in command of three ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina. He was looking for a route to China and gold. He was mostly looking for gold.
When he got to the “New World,” he was desperate to turn a profit, so he turned to slavery. He began envisioning how he could enslave the Natives he encountered as early as his first voyage. “They should be good servants… I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses,” he wrote in his journal on October 11, 1492, which appears in To America and Around the World: The Logs of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan by Adolph Caso.
His arrival didn’t just mean the beginning of slavery for the indigenous population either, he also brought with him European diseases like the flu, measles and smallpox, killing some 90 percent of the Native American population between the time of his arrival and the time the Mayflower landed in 1620.