Narváez Expedition

indianwithpeacepipeThe Narváez Expedition of 1527 was led by Pánfilo de Narváez. Second in command was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish soldier. The purpose of this voyage was to colonize Florida. The ships set sail from Spain carrying 300 men and 80 horses with a stop in Hispaniola for supplies. While there, 150 men were lost as they decided to stay on the island. The expedition continued to Cuba, where de Vaca decided to take two ships to recruit more men and buy supplies. Their ships were destroyed by a hurricane, resulting in the the loss of most of Cabeza de Vaca’s men. After Narváez arrived to pick up the survivors they continued on, arriving in Florida in April 1528. The governor gave the order that they would march inland against de Vaca’s advice. They headed west not knowing where they were going. The ships were now lost to them so on makeshift barges they left Florida. After splitting up into groups one of de Vaca’s barges sank and more men were lost. On November 6th 1528 they landed on Galveston Island where they encountered Native Americans, and this is where the rest of the story begins. The Indians showed them compassion when they saw they were in need of help. A bit apprehensive, the men went home with them. The Indians began to think of the men as healers for prayers bestowed upon them. Once the men had become sick from cold and hunger, sadly, they began to die. When some of the men turned to cannibalism the Indians were shocked by this. They thought it was immoral and wrong. As the Indians began to die of disease they blamed the men and wanted to kill them for obvious reasons. From the persuasion of one Indian alone their lives were spared. Now down to 15 men the Indians decided to enslave them instead. The men eventually escaped in 1534. The men encountered more tribes witnessing many different rituals as they headed west. The Indians came to believe that these men were healers after witnessing an operation where an arrowhead was removed and the wound seemingly was almost fully healed the next day. Because of this the men were constantly traded for food between tribes which also benefited them. Each time they arrived into a new tribe they were celebrated and treated very well. Eventually the Indians were forced to flee to the mountains when another group of Spaniards invaded their land. This group was extremely evil even though they considered themselves Christians. It was the Indians that had morals even while under attack, which was surprising because the Indians, having out numbered the Spaniards, could have easily stopped them. This makes one wonder who the actual “savages” were. Learning more about de Vaca’s encounter with Native Americans was intriguing and most memorable to me because my great grandmother is more than half Native American.


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