First Encounters: Cultural Perspectives
Here you can examine sixteenth-century accounts of first encounters between members of Hernando de Soto’s expedition and Southeastern Indian communities. One topic to consider is how each group’s cultural views influenced what happened during these encounters.
The most detailed account written by a participant in Soto’s expedition is the one penned by the anonymous Gentleman of Elvas. This unknown individual was one of a number of noblemen who came from the town of Elvas, Portugal. The account was first published in 1557, and today only three copies of this original edition exist. Adding to the problems stemming from the anonymous status of the author is the fact that the original manuscript is lost, so the relationship of the published version to its source cannot be determined. Recent studies of the manuscript suggest that the account actually contains two sources—one representing a military officer (perhaps the “gentleman” himself) and the other representing a second writer who combined the officer’s text with literary elements that were popular at the time.
A four step approach can be followed to evaluate the influence of Spanish and Indian cultural views:
Step 1: Select a text from the series provided here.
Step 4: Compare and contrast Indian and Spanish objectives and actions: what cultural concepts or themes do the recorded events reflect, and in what ways did these concepts and themes shape the final outcome?
These excerpts from the Elvas account are from The De Soto Chronicles: The Expedition of Hernando de Soto to North America in 1539-1543, edited by Lawrence A. Clayton, Vernon James Knight, Jr., and Edward C. Moore (1995, University of Alabama Press). They appear here courtesy of the University of Alabama Press. All rights reserved.