An Ongoing

July - August 2007

Second Floor Gallery
Hamersly Library
Western Oregon University

Encounters That Changed the World
Until October 1492, the people living on earth's two great landmasses, Afro-Eurasia and the Americas, had been separated for over five hundred years. A diversity of societies coexisted in the Americas before Europeans arrived. Teh Mediterranean world was home to people of differing languages, religions and customs. An Ongoing Voyage surveys these worlds in the years preceding 1492 and considers the first sustained contacts between them from 1492 to 1600. These encounters chanded the lives of the peoples in the Americas, and set the stage for cultural interactions which are still in progress.

What Came to be
Called America

At the time of European exploration, millions of people were living in the Western Hemisphere, with no recorded contact with other parts of the world.

People of North and South America

We now call the peoples who first inhabited the Americas "Indians," but no such term was used before contact with Europeans. The many Indian cultures were distinct from one another.
North America Before Europe

Present-day United States and Canada were home to hundreds of nations speaking many languages and dialects.
The Mediterranean

Those who inhabited the shores of the MEDITERRANEAN believed they were living in the center (medi) of the world (terra).

The Iberian Penninsula, now Spain and Portugal, was a fifteenth-century crossroads, joining the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds.
Expanding Horizons

Change enveloped fifteenth-century Europeans.
Columbus and Those
Who Followed

In what may have been the first use of the printing press for public relations, Columbus wrote and published a report of his 1492 voyage. It made him famous throughout Europe, inspired others to explore the lands he reported and guaranteed him further patronage.

Naming America

Columbus died believing he had reached Asia.
Others weren't so sure. Italian merchant Amerigo
Vespucci was among the skeptical. He explored
the northern coast of South America and became a
Royal Geographer for the King of Portugal. In 1507,
German Martin Waldseemuller named the "new"
continent America, in honor of Vespucci.
Europe Claims

Encounters with Europeans varied. In most cases,
Indian peoples did not fare well at the hands of the Europeans.
Conquest in America

After an initial focus on the Caribbean, Spaniards
began the conquest of Mexico and Peru. They
moved with swiftness despite resistance and
superior numbers, overwhelming the regions'
inhabitants with modern weapons.
Adaptation to Change

By 1531, Cortes had acquired dominion over a
great deal o fland in today's Mexico. He left the
region for a period of time, after appointing
Spanish interim administrators. When he returned,
he was asked by the people of Huejotzingo to
initiate a lawsuit against the Spanish
administrators for theri abuses and their unjust
use of the incomes secured from the town during
his absense, one example of the many responses
to the Spanish rule.
Africa and Europe in Brazil

Following the discovery of the vast amounts of
brazilwood along the South American coastline,
and the outbreaks of diseases that devastated
the indigenous population, Africans were brought
to Brazil as slaves to augment the workforce.
Incursions in North America

Inevitably, Europeans began to settle in North
America, weakening the once-strong Indian
nations with warfare and claiming more and
more land for their use.
New American Nations

Indian peoples and European and African
immigrants continued to shape American
societies. By the end of the eighteenth-century,
they began to rebel against European masters. Independence movements spread, and separate
nations were created.

An Ongoing Voyage
In religion, festivity, ceremony and daily life, the assimilation that began with the first American encounters remains continuous. Yet many Americans hold on to, or eventually reclaim, their unique personal heritages as well. The tensions between tradition and change, prosperity and poverty, tolerance and intolerance in the hemisphere continue to create turbulence as Americans proceed on their "ongoing voyage."




Library of Congress


This page was modified October 21, 2008 , B.D.B.