Saturday, October 01, 2005
Homeland Security - 1539 Style
Indian chieftain of Acuera
defies offer of submission
to de Soto, the pope and the king of spain
After raiding and pillaging many of the Caribbean islands, the Spanish began to invade the continental mainland of what is now called North America. They called it 'land of flowers' or Florida. While there were many who recorded the events of the day, some of the most precious records were made by an Indian--'El Inca', a/k/a Garcilaso de la Vega [offspring of a woman of Inca royalty and a spaniard]. He was the first American Indian author to be published and gives us insights and details not to be found elsewhere, a near-contemporary history about Indians, by an Indian.
From 'Florida of the Inca' by Garcilaso de la Vega:
"*** This very Fertile province where the Governor [Hernando de Soto] was found encamped was called Acuera. It lies some twenty leagues from the province of Urribarracuxi on a line running more or less north and south. The lord of the place, who also was called Acuera, on learning of the arrival of the Spaniards in his land, fled with all of his people to the forest." [Seems the spaniards' reputation preceded them.]
The insolent reply of the lord of the province of Acuera.
The whole army had now reassembled in the province of Acuera, and eventually both men and horses were able to assuage the great hunger they had suffered during the past days. Then with his customary clemency, the Governor sent messages to the Cacique Acuera by some of his own vassals whom the Spaniards had captured. In these communications, he begged that chieftain to come out peacefully and accept the Castilians as his friends and brothers, since they too were warriors and people of valor. Then he warned: "Should you fail to do so, my men can cause much damage to your vassals and your lands. But I would have you know and rest assured that we come with no intention of harming anyone and have not harmed anyone in the provinces we have left behind. Instead we have extended cordial friendship to those desiring to receive it. Our principal purpose is to reduce by peaceful and friendly means all the provinces and nations of this great kingdom to the obedience and service of our lord, the mighty Emperor and King of Castile, whose servants all Spaniards are. It is for the purpose of discussing such things more at length and of informing you of the command that my sovereign and master has asked me to communicate to the rulers of this land that I now desire to see and talk with you."
The Cacique Acuera's reply to the Governor's message was insolent. "I have long since learned who you Castilians are," he said, "through others of you who came years ago to my land; and I already know very well what your customs and behavior are like. To me you are professional vagabonds who wander from place to place, gaining your livelihood by robbing, sacking and murdering people who have given you no offense. I want no manner of friendship or peace with people such as you, but instead prefer mortal and perpetual enmity. Granted that you are as valiant as you boast of being. I have no fear of you, since neither I nor my vassals consider ourselves inferior to you in valor; and to prove our gallantry, I promise to maintain war upon you so long as you wish to remain in my province, not by fighting in the open, although I could do so, but by ambushing and waylaying you whenever you are off guard. I therefore notify and advise you to protect yourselves and act cautiously with me and my people, for I have commanded my vassals to bring me two Christian heads weekly, this number and no more. I shall be content to behead only two of you each week since I thus can slay all of you within a few years; for even though you may colonize and settle, you cannot perpetuate yourselves because you have not brought women to produce children and pass your generation forward."
In reply to what was said about his rendering obedience to the King of Spain, the Cacique continued: "I am king in my land, and it is unnecessary for me to become the subject of a person who has no more vassals than I. I regard those men as vile and contemptible who subject themselves to the yoke of someone else when they can live as free men. Accordingly, I and all of my people have vowed to die a hundred deaths to maintain the freedom of our land. This is our answer, both for the present and forevermore."
Then apropos of the subject of vassalage and the Governor's statement that the Spaniards were servants of the Emperor and King of Castile, for whose empire they now were conquering new lands, the Cacique retorted: "I should congratulate you warmly, but I hold you in even less esteem now that you have confessed that you are servants and that you are working and gaining kingdoms so that another may rule them and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Since in such an undertaking you are suffering hunger, fatigue and other hardships as well as risking your own lives, it would be more to your honor and advantage to acquire things for yourselves and your descendants rather than for someone else. But being so contemptible and as yet unable to rid yourselves of the stigma of servitude, you should never at any time expect friendship from me, for I could not use my friendship so basely. Furthermore, I do not wish to know what your sovereign demands, for I am well aware of what has to be done in this land, and of what manner I am to use in dealing with you. Therefore, all of you should go away as quickly as you can if you do not want to perish at my hands."
On hearing the Indian's reply, the Governor [de Soto] was astonished that a barbarian should manage to say such things with so much arrogance and loftiness in spirit. In consequence he persisted even more in his efforts to win the friendship of this man, sending him from then on many affectionately and courteously worded communications. But the Curaca told all subsequent messengers who came to him he had given his answer and never intended to give any others. And he never did.
The Army remained twenty days in this province while recovering from the hunger and fatigue of the previous journey and making necessary preparations for advancing. Meanwhile, the Governor tried to obtain information concerning the province, and for the purpose sent out runners to all parts of it, instructing them to observe and record carefully and diligently whatever good qualities it might possess.
During these twenty days, the Indians never slept and were always on the alert. In order to fulfill the fierce threats of the Curaca and to prove that his promises to the Castilians had not been made vainly, they ambushed their enemies so cautiously and skillfully that not a single Spaniard who strayed so much as a hundred yards from the camp escaped being shot and beheaded at once. And in spite of the great haste our men made to assist their companions at such times, they always found them decapitated, for the Indians had carried the heads to their Cacique in obedience to his command. The Christians buried their dead where they found them, but during the night the Indians returned and after digging them up, cut them into pieces, which they hung on the trees where the Spaniards could see them. Thus they fulfilled well the Cacique's command that he be brought two Christian heads each week. Indeed they fulfilled it so well that in two days they carried him four heads (two each day); and during the time that the Spaniards were in their land, they took him in all fourteen heads. Moreover, they wounded many of our men.
When the Indians came out of the forest to attack, they were very cautious about their own security, staying so near their lurking place that they could do all harm possible without letting a single opportunity slip and then return unhampered to safety. Thus our Spaniards began to realize that there was some truth in the threats made by the natives all along the road through this great marshy area when they shouted at them: "Advance, thieves and traitors, for here in Acuera and further on in Apalache you will be treated as you deserve, since all of you, after being quartered and cut into pieces, will be hung on the largest trees along the road."
Because of the vigilance and caution of the Indians in their ambushes, the Spaniards, regardless of how persistently they tried, were unable to slay more than fifty of them during the whole time they were in the province of Acuera."
At the end of twenty days, the Governor departed with his men from the province of Acuera, having avoided doing any damage to either towns or fields lest the Spaniards be looked upon as cruel and inhuman..."
Excerpted from "The Florida of the Inca", written in 1591 by El Inca [Garcilaso de la Vega], as translated by Varner