When I was a little boy I remember learning the famous rhyme “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Along with this, in elementary school and all the way up through high school, I was told that Christopher Columbus was the first explorer to ever come to North America. Native Americans were not really part of the narrative, and the Vikings were never discussed either. I was made to think that the Spanish opened the door for the British so that Americans could be here. This was just how history was taught to me growing up in Indiana and Florida. Sure, the Italian explorer, navigator, and colonist is noteworthy, but Columbus didn’t lead the very first expedition to North America. That’s really misinformation that’s being used in a classroom setting to indoctrinate children, and it just isn’t right. The truth is that in the year 985, a Viking named Biarni Heriulfson set sail for Norway to Greenland. Along the way, he was blown off course and arrived on the shores of a strange new land. He had found North America, but had no idea where he was. Then, after hearing about the exploits of Biarni for a couple of decades, a man named Lief Erikson bought Biarni’s famous ship. Then, the son of Erik the Red assembled a crew of Vikings and set sail for Vinland, which was really North America. He lived on this continent for a year before returning home to Greenland. The thing is that there were already Native Americans here, long before that. So, the Vikings couldn’t have been the first settlers.
What really happened was that Christopher Columbus was sent out by the Catholic Monarchy in Spain to lead the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. He claimed everything he could in the name of the Crown of Castile. In contrast, the Vikings didn’t settle in North America for all that long. It was really the Spanish that initiated the permanent European colonization of the Americas. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Scandinavians lived all over the place here too. The archaeological evidence does seem to indicate that Vinland was really an area around the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the 10th century. For instance, the L’Anse aux Meadows site was a Viking ship repair station and waypoint for voyages. The Saga of Erik the Red actually mentions many different kinds of settlements in Vinland. There was a place called Straumsfjord, which lay just beyond Kjalarnes promontory and the Wonderstrands. Then, there was another settlement called Hop, which was located even farther south, and so on and so forth. It’s just that the Scandinavians left after a while but the Spaniards stuck around for quite some time. It turned out that the Christians were way more into conquest than the Pagans.
The story of the colonization of the New World just keeps on going further back in time. In the middle of the 6th century, while Saint Brendan was running a monastery in Ireland, a visiting Abbott spoke of a voyage that he had taken across the ocean to the “Promised Land of the Saints”. So, Saint Brendan and seventeen monks set sail in a wooden boat covered in ox hides. They discovered it a few hundred years before the Scandinavians and nearly a millennium before the Spaniards. That means, there were people speaking Gaelic in North America long before they spoke Icelandic or Spanish. Of course, here in North America, Teton Sioux was spoken long before Gaelic. It’s uncertain whether the Irish ever settled here or not, though. Plus, I don’t know if Erikson knew about the voyages of Brendan, or if Columbus was familiar with either of them or what. Either way, the Europeans just kept on coming from the Old World to the New World, but the point is that the Irish Catholics were here several centuries before the Spanish Catholics, plus the Nordic Pagans were here in the time between. Sadly, the Native Americans that the Europeans displaced had been here for thousands of years, and they were just being pushed out of the way.
In the most recent centuries and decades, this has developed into numerous prisoner of war camps, or “reservations”. It’s effectively a slow genocide of the indigenous people. This is absolutely tragic. For one thing, they are human beings. More to the point, they are the descendants of the original settlers. Their ancestors came from Siberia across the Bering Land Bridge, which existed between Alaska and Eurasia from the end of the last Ice Age until about 10,000 years ago. During the beginning of the Holocene, the Chukchi people were indigenous to the Chukchi Peninsula and the shores of the Chukchi Sea along with the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean. However, as the epoch progressed, they eventually spread into what is now Alaska. Then, the pathway between the continents submerged. This isolated the Native Americans, so they evolved differently. Thus, tribes like the Inuit began to emerge. Then, First Nations formed in what is now Canada. This eventually gave rise to tribes like the Navajo, in Southwestern North America, and so on and so forth, down into what is now Mexico and beyond. To make this happen, the Chukchi discovered what is now Alaska in dugout canoe paddle boats. So, it wasn’t the Spanish, the Scandinavians, or the Irish who were the first explorers and settlers to come here and establish communities. Instead, it was the Siberians.
In summation, I would like to give you one last way of thinking about this. Think about this in terms of a different kind of time. Think about how long people have been living in North America, for generation after generation. Think about the amount of time that has elapsed since your grandmother was born. What about your great grandmother? What about her mother? Now consider the fact that Christopher Columbus came to the Americas about 25 generations ago, Lief Erikson came about 50 generations ago, St. Brendan came about 75 generations ago, and the Native Americans came here a whopping 650 generations ago. They have inhabited Turtle Island for more than 13,000 years. The history books need to be rewritten! The story of our origins is part of who we are as human beings. Unfortunately, we will never know the name of the man, or the woman, who actually led the very first expedition to this continent, so many millennia ago. Still, every history textbook in the country and across the globe should mention their ancient maritime journey into uncharted waters and out across unknown territory. After all, without all of the great explorers that I have just mentioned, many of us wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s important to remember the past. That means we have to know what really happened.
The textbooks need to be rewritten!!!