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Leif Erikson, c. 970 – c. 1020
First European to set foot in the Americas

Inspired by Bjarni’s tales;
“There was now much talk about voyages of discovery. Leif, the son of Erik the Red, of Brattahlid, went to Bjarne Herjulfson, and bought the ship of him, and engaged men for it, so that there were thirty-five men in all.” 
- Greenlandic Saga

They Discover the 3rd island Bjarni spotted and name it Helluland, “land of flat stones” (believed by historians to be Baffin Island).

“Now prepared they their ship, and sailed out into the sea when they were ready, and then found that land first which Bjarne had found last. There sailed they to the land, and cast anchor, and put off boats, and went ashore, and saw there no grass. Great icebergs were over all up the country, but like a plain of flat stones was all from the sea to the mountains, and it appeared to them that this land had no good qualities.

Then said Leif, “We have not done like Bjarne about this land, that we have not been upon it; now will I give the land a name, and call it Helluland.” Then went they on board, and after that sailed out to sea”
- Greenlandic Saga

Baffin Island

They discover yet another land and name it Markland, “the land of forests”.

“-and found another land; they sailed again to the land, and cast anchor, then put off boats and went on shore. This land was flat, and covered with wood, and white sands were far around where they went, and the shore was low. Then said Leif, “This land shall be named after its qualities, and called Markland 2 (woodland.)”.” - Greenlandic Saga

Leif spots a 3rd land (believed by historians to be Labrador)

“They then immediately returned to the ship. Now sailed they thence into the open sea, with a northeast wind, and were two days at sea before they saw land, and they sailed thither and came to an island which lay to the eastward of the land, and went up there, and looked round them in good weather, and observed that there was dew upon the grass; and it so happened that they touched the dew with their hands, and raised the fingers to the mouth, and they thought that they had never before tasted anything so sweet.” 
- Greenlandic Saga 

Labrador Peninsula 

They Settle in the 4th land (now believed to be modern Newfoundland or the Gulf of Saint Lawrence)

“After that they went to the ship, and sailed into a sound, which lay between the island and a ness (promontory), which ran out to the eastward of the land; and then steered westwards past the ness. It was very shallow at ebb tide, and their ship stood up, so that it was far to see from the ship to the water.

But so much did they desire to land, that they did not give themselves time to wait until the water again rose under their ship, but ran at once on shore, at a place where a river flows out of a lake; but so, soon as the waters rose up under the ship, then took they boats, and rowed to the ship, and floated it up to the river, and thence into the lake, and there cast anchor, and brought up from the ship their skin cots, and made their booths.

After this took they counsel, and formed the resolution of remaining there for the winter, and built there large houses. There was no want of salmon either in the river or in the lake, and larger salmon than they had before seen.

The nature of the country was, as they thought, so good that cattle would not require house feeding in winter, for there came no frost in winter, and little did the grass wither there. Day and night were more equal than in Greenland or Iceland, for on the shortest day was the sun above the horizon from half-past seven in the forenoon till half-past four in the afternoon.”
 - Greenlandic Saga

Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence 

Leif’s foster father went missing and upon being found relates to Leif his discovery of a land of vines and grapes which Leif names, Vineland or Wineland (where they built a settlement that visitors would name Leifsbúðir, “Leif’s Booths” believed to be modern L’Anse aux Meadows)

“I have not been much further off, but still have I something new to tell of; I found vines and grapes.” “But is that true, my fosterer?” quoth Leif. “Surely is it true,” replied he, “for I was bred up in a land where there is no want of either vines or grapes.

"They slept now for the night, but in the morning, Leif said to his sailors: "We will now set about two things, in that the one day we gather grapes, and the other day cut vines and fell trees, so from thence will be a loading for my ship”.

That was the counsel taken, and it is said their long boat was filled with grapes. Now was a cargo cut down for the ship, and when the spring came they got ready and sailed away, and Leif gave the land a name after its qualities, and called it Vinland, or Wineland.” 
- Greenlandic Saga

L’Ans aux Meadows

After returning to Greenland, Leif’s tales become known to the people and his brother Thorvald wishes to explore these lands further, so they set sail back. Upon exploring the land further they find inhabitants, the Skrælings (“wretched ones”).

Native contact

“Now when spring began, they beheld one early morning, that a fleet of hide-canoes was rowing from the south off the headland; so many were they as if the sea were strewn with pieces of charcoal, and there was also the brandishing of staves as before from each boat.

Then they held shields up, and a market was formed between them; and this people in their purchases preferred red cloth; in exchange they had furs to give, and skins quite grey.

They wished also to buy swords and lances, but Karlsefni and Snorri forbad it. They offered for the cloth dark hides, and took in exchange a span long of cloth, and bound it round their heads; and so matters went on for a while. But when the stock of cloth began to grow small, then they split it asunder, so that it was not more than a finger’s breadth. The Skrælingar gave for it still quite as much, or more than before.”
 – Saga of Erik the Red, Chapter 11

There are two different accounts on how conflict began

Account #1, Saga of Eric the Red:
“Now it came to pass that a bull, which belonged to Karlsefni’s people, rushed out of the wood and bellowed loudly at the same time. The Skrælingar, frightened thereat, rushed away to their canoes, and rowed south along the coast. There was then nothing seen of them for three weeks together.

When that time was gone by, there was seen approaching from the south a great crowd of Skrælingar boats, coming down upon them like a stream, the staves this time being all brandished in the direction opposite to the sun’s motion, and the Skrælingar were all howling loudly. Then took they and bare red shields to meet them. They encountered one another and fought, and there was a great shower of missiles. The Skrælingar had also war-slings, or catapults.

Then Karlsefni and Snorri see that the Skrælingar are bringing up poles, with a very large ball attached to each, to be compared in size to a sheep’s stomach, dark in colour; and these flew over Karlsefni’s company towards the land, and when they came down they struck the ground with a hideous noise. This produced great terror in Karlsefni and his company, so that their only impulse was to retreat up the country along the river, because it seemed as if crowds of Skrælingar were driving at them from all sides.

And they stopped not until they came to certain crags. There they offered them stern resistance. Freydis came out and saw how they were retreating. She called out, “Why run you away from such worthless creatures, stout men that ye are, when, as seems to me likely, you might slaughter them like so many cattle? Let me but have a weapon, I think I could fight better than any of you.”

They gave no heed to what she said. Freydis endeavoured to accompany them, still she soon lagged behind, because she was not well; she went after them into the wood, and the Skrælingar directed their pursuit after her. She came upon a dead man; Thorbrand, Snorri’s son, with a flat stone fixed in his head; his sword lay beside him, so she took it up and prepared to defend herself therewith.

Then came the Skrælingar upon her. She let down her sark and struck her breast with the naked sword. At this they were frightened, rushed off to their boats, and fled away. Karlsefni and the rest came up to her and praised her zeal. Two of Karlsefni’s men fell, and four of the Skrælingar, notwithstanding they had overpowered them by superior numbers.

After that, they proceeded to their booths, and began to reflect about the crowd of men which attacked them upon the land; it appeared to them now that the one troop will have been that which came in the boats, and the other troop will have been a delusion of sight.

The Skrælingar also found a dead man, and his axe lay beside him. One of them struck a stone with it, and broke the axe. It seemed to them good for nothing, as it did not withstand the stone, and they threw it down.

[Karlsefni and his company] were now of opinion that though the land might be choice and good, there would be always war and terror overhanging them, from those who dwelt there before them. They made ready, therefore, to move away, with intent to go to their own land.

They sailed forth northwards, and found five Skrælingar in jackets of skin, sleeping [near the sea], and they had with them a chest, and in it was marrow of animals mixed with blood; and they considered that these must have been outlawed. They slew them.”

The Norse settlers suffer a surprise attack
by swarthy well-armed strangers
- By Roger Payne 

Account #2, Greenlandic Saga:
“Then went they to the ship, and saw upon the sands within the promontory three elevations, and went thither, and saw there three skin boats (canoes), and three men under each. Then divided they their people, and caught them all, except one, who got away with his boat. They killed the other eight, and then went back to the cape, and looked round them, and saw some heights inside of the frith, and supposed that these were dwellings. 

After that, so great a drowsiness came upon them that they could not keep awake, and they all fell asleep. Then came a shout over them, so that they all awoke. Thus said the shout: “Wake thou! Thorvald! and all thy companions, if thou wilt preserve life, and return thou to thy ship, with all thy men, and leave the land without delay.” 

“Then rushed out from the interior of the frith an innumerable crowd of skin boats, and made towards them. Thorvald said then: “We will put out the battle-skreen, and defend ourselves as well as we can, but fight little against them.” So did they, and the Skrælings shot at them for a time, but afterwards ran away, each as fast as he could.

Then asked Thorvald his men if they had. gotten any wounds; they answered that no one was wounded. “I have gotten a wound under the arm,” said he, “for an arrow fled between the edge of the ship and the shield, in under my arm, and here is the arrow, and it will prove a mortal wound to me.” 

In the spring they left to Greenland once again with grapes and vines. Thorstein Erikson, brother of Leif Ericson and the fallen Thorvald, wished to retrieve his brother’s body (this Journey would be ended by a fatal sickness)

“Early that winter came sickness amongst Thorstein Erikson’s men, and there died many of his people” 

“Now it was not long before the sickness came also into Thorstein’s house-”
Greenlandic Saga

“Three of Erik the Red’s children visited the North American continent: his sons Leif and Thorvald, and their sister Freydis.”

Saga of the Greenlanders -

Eirik the Red’s Saga - 

Pontiac-Guyasuta War

Part 4: Gambit

For Part 1: Uprising,  Rebellion, Insurrection -
For Part 2: First Blood - LINK
For Part 3: Warpath - LINK

Post Suggested by moonlightramblr​: “-anything cool or  interesting about Detroit/Michigan-”

Fort Michilimackinac
June 2, 1763

Before the Game by Robert Griffing

A group of Ojibwa (Chippewa)  play a game of stickball that the Ojibwa call baaga'adowe (“bump  hips”) outside of the fort since they first arrived in the area. This was to  get the English comfortable with seeing them so close and to throw off any  suspicion of them being a threat.

(Note: Lacrosse was influenced by the Native American game. These include games were played by many tribes throughout the Americas and could include as  many as 1000 people from neighboring villages from sunrise to sunset)

Sketch of the Fort at Michilimackinac by Magra Perkins, 1765

On June 2, 1763 they enact their  plan to take Fort Michillimackinac
“-the Chippewas, who live in a plain near this fort, assembled to play ball,  as they had done almost every day since their arrival. They played from  morning till noon; then, throwing their ball close to the gate, and observing  Lieutenant Lesley and me a few paces out of it, they came behind us, seized  and carried us into the woods.

In the meantime, the rest rushed into the  fort, where they found their squaws, whom they had previously planted there,  with their hatchets hid under their blankets, which they took, and in an  instant killed Lieutenant Jamet, and fifteen rank and file, and a trader  named Tracy. They wounded two, and took the rest of the garrison prisoners,  five of whom they have since killed.

Feared by His Opponents by Robert Griffing
They made prisoners all the English traders,  and robbed them of everything they had; but they offered no violence to the  persons or property of any of the Frenchmen.
Captain Etherington next related some particulars of the massacre at Michillimackinac, sufficiently startling, as will soon appear. He spoke in  high terms of the character and conduct of Father Jonois, and requested that Gladwyn would send all the troops he could spare up Lake Huron, that the post might be recaptured from the Indians, and garrisoned afresh.
Gladwyn, being scarcely able to defend himself, could do nothing for the  relief of his brother officer, and the Jesuit set out on his long and  toilsome canoe voyage back to Michillimackinac. The loss of this place was a  very serious misfortune, for, next to Detroit, it was the most important post  on the upper lakes.”

The Warriors Game by Robert Griffing Fort  Ligonier: June 2, 1763 
“The last important fort on the Road to  Pitt was Ligonier, about one hundred and  fifty miles from Carlisle. It would be necessary to use this post as a  base; but it was beset by Indians and in danger of being captured. Lieutenant  Archibald Blane in charge of it was making a gallant defense against a horde  of savages.”
But Fort Ligonier was in bad condition, ” the wooden stockade and fascine batteries were rotting away”. The Scotsman, Lieutenant Archibald Blane, had a small garrison of about 8 men but was intent on strengthening their position. Locals entered the fort and he quickly assembled a militia of 40 men.

Fort Ligonier, Sketched on the spot - 30th June 1762 - Lt. Archibald Blane Delint, of the Royal Americans”

“The lieutenant’s preparations came  none too soon, for a war part appeared at the edge of the timber on June 2nd and began firing on the  fort.”
“As the day wore on, the Indians continued their fire and began to work their way toward the cover of buildings that stood near the post’s outer works. To Deny the enemy of cover, Blane sent out a detachment led by his sergeant to set fire to the structures. Foiled by that wise decision, the Indians faded  back into the forest. Upon learning of this incident sometime later, General  Amherst failed to appreciate Blane’s wisdom.”

I cannot help expressing my surprise,
that on the appearance of a few Indians,
all out houses should be burnt and destroyed,

the general complained,
for I can see no sort of necessity for  that,
on approach of so despicable an enemy as the Indians are,
without any kind of war-like implements,
but those of ill provided small arms.

Fort  Venango
June 16, 1763

The trade center of Fort Venango  was attacked on the 16th of June
“In 1763 there was a small garrison here under Lieutenant Gordon. For a time all that was known of the fate was reported by fugitives from Le Boeuf and a soldier named Gray, who had escaped from Presqu’isle.

Seneca Scouts by Robert Griffing

These fugitives had found Venango completely destroyed, and , in the ruins, the blackened bones of the garrison. It was afterwards learned that the attacking Indians were Senecas, and that they had tortured the commandant to  death over a slow fire, after compelling him to write down the reason for the attack. It was threefold:”

(1) the British charged exorbitant prices for powder, shot, and clothing;
(2) when Indians were ill-treated by British soldiers they could obtain no redress;
(3) contrary to the wishes of the Indians, forts were being built in their  country, an these could mean but one thing—the determination of the invaders  to deprive them of their hunting-grounds.”

Seneca by David Wright

Fort Le Boeuf
June 18, 1763 

Shia LaBeouf!? Shhh don’t question it

Next, the Seneca attack Fort Le Boeuf (Waterford, Pa)
“A few miles inland, south of  Presqu’isle, on the trade-route leading to Fort Pitt, was a rude blockhouse  known as Le Boeuf. This post was at the end of the portage from Lake Erie, on  Alleghany Creek, where the canoe navigation of the Ohio valley began. Here  were stationed Ensign George Price and thirteen men. One June 18 a band of  Indians arrived before Le Boeuf and attacked it with muskets ad fire-arrows.  The building was soon in flames.
As the walls smoked and cracked the savages danced in wild glee before the gate, intending to shoot down the defenders as they came out. But there was a window at the rear of the blockhouse, through which the garrison escaped to the  neighboring forest. When night fell the part became separated. Some of them  reached Fort Venango two days later, only to find it in ruins. Price and seven men laboriously toiled through the forest to Fort Pitt, where they  arrived on June 26. Ultimately, all save two of the garrison of Fort Le Boeuf  reached safety.”

“Had detachments of Rogers’s Rangers  garrisoned these posts, or had they been held by such men as the Rocky  Mountain trappers of the present day, wary, skillful, and almost ignorant of  fear, some of them might, perhaps, have been saved; but the soldiers of the  60th Regiment, though many of them were of provincial birth, were not suited  by habits and discipline for this kind of service.”

 Fort Presque Isle

“Fort  Presqu’ Isle stood on the southern shore of Lake Erie, at the site of the  present town of Erie. It was an important post to be commanded by an Ensign,  for it controlled the communication between the lake and Fort Pitt; but the  blockhouse, to which Christie alludes, was supposed to make it impregnable  against Indians.

This blockhouse, a very large and strong one, stood at an  angle of the fort, and was built of massive logs, with the projecting upper story usual in such structures, by means of which a vertical fire could be had upon the heads of assailants, through openings in the projecting part of  the floor, like the machicoulis of a medieval castle. It had also a kind of bastion, from which one or more of its walls could be covered by a flank fire.

The roof was of shingles, and might easily be set on fire; but at the top was a sentry-box or look-out, from which water could be thrown. On one side was the lake, and on the other a small stream which entered it. Unfortunately, the bank of this stream rose in a high steep ridge within forty yards of the blockhouse, thus affording a cover to assailants,  while the bank of the lake offered them similar advantages on another side.”
The Siege of Fort Presque Isle
June 19-22, 1763

On the third of June, Christie, then safely ensconced in the fort  which he commanded, had written as follows to his superior officer, Lieutenant  Gordon, at Venango: “This morning Lieutenant Cuyler of Queen’s Company of Rangers came here, and gave me the following melancholy account of his whole  party being cut off by a large body of Indians at the mouth of the Detroit  River.”

Here follows the story of Cuyler’s disaster, and Christie closes as follows: “I have sent to Niagara a letter to the Major, desiring some more ammunition and provisions, and have kept six men of Lieutenant Cuyler’s, as I expect a  visit from the hell-hounds. I have ordered everybody here to move into the blockhouse, and shall be ready for them, come when they will.”
“After his visit from Cuyler, Christie, whose garrison now consisted of  twenty-seven men, prepared for a stubborn defense. The doors of the  blockhouse, and the sentry-box at the top, were lined to make them  bullet-proof; the angles of the roof were covered with green turf as a  protection against fire-arrows, and gutters of bark were laid in such a  manner that streams of water could be sent to every part. His expectation of  a “visit from the hell-hounds” proved to be perfectly well founded.

Fort Presque Isle, French 1753

About two hundred of them had left Detroit expressly for this object. At  early dawn on the fifteenth of June, they were first discovered stealthily  crossing the mouth of the little stream, where the bateaux were drawn up, and  crawling under cover of the banks of the lake and of the adjacent saw-pits.  When the sun rose, they showed themselves, and began their customary yelling. Christie, with a very unnecessary reluctance to begin the fray, ordered his men not to fire till the Indians had set the example.
The consequence was, that they were close to the blockhouse before they received the fire of the garrison; and many of them sprang into the ditch, whence, being well sheltered, they fired at the loopholes, and amused themselves by throwing stones and handfuls of gravel, or, what was more to the purpose, fire-balls of pitch. Some got into the fort and sheltered themselves behind the bakery and other buildings, whence they kept up a brisk  fire; while others pulled down a small outhouse of plank, of which they made  a movable breastwork, and approached under cover of it by pushing it before  them.
At the same time, great numbers of them lay close behind the ridges by the stream, keeping up a rattling fire into every loophole, and shooting burning arrows against the roof and sides of the blockhouse. Some were extinguished with water, while many dropped out harmless after burning a small hole. The Indians now rolled logs to the top of the ridges, where they made three  strong breastworks, from behind which they could discharge their shot and  throw their fireworks with greater effect.

Fort Presque Isle, British 1760

Sometimes they would try to dart across the intervening space and shelter themselves with their companions in the ditch, but all who attempted it were killed or wounded. And now the hard-beset little garrison could see them throwing up earth and stones behind the nearest breastwork. Their implacable foes were undermining the blockhouse. There was little time  to reflect on this new danger; for another, more imminent, soon threatened  them.

The barrels of water, always kept in the building, were nearly emptied in extinguishing the frequent fires; and though there was a well close at hand,  in the parade ground, it was death to approach it. The only resource was to  dig a subterranean passage to it. The floor was torn up; and while some of  the men fired their heated muskets from the loopholes, the rest labored  stoutly at this cheerless task. Before it was half finished, the roof was on  fire again, and all the water that remained was poured down to extinguish it.  In a few moments, the cry of fire was again raised, when a soldier, at  imminent risk of his life, tore off the burning shingles and averted the danger.”
“With the fall of  Presqu’isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango, the trade-route between Lake Erie an Fort  Pitt was closed. Save for Detroit, Niagara, and Pitt, not a British fort  remained in the great hinterland; and the soldiers at these three strong  positions could leave shelter of the palisades only at the risk of their lives. Meanwhile, the frontiers of the British settlements, as well as the  forts, were being raided. Homes were burnt and the inmates massacred. Traders were plundered and slain. From the eastern slopes of the Alleghanies to the Mississippi no British life was safe.”

Sidenote:  Continued Siege of Fort Detroit
“The  condition of the garrison was now extremely critical. The besiegers had recently been reinforced by several bands of Ojibwas, thus increasing their force to more than eight hundred men.[Ottawas, Wyandots, Ojibwas and Pottawatamies]  The troops were worn out with want of sleep, and their daily allowance of  food was reduced to the smallest pittance.”

“Added  to all this, their cheerful spirits, which had hitherto sustained them, began  now to give way under the news that reached them of the fall, one after another of the western posts, until it was soon evident to them that they  stood alone in the heart of the wilderness, a mere handful of men, surrounded  by hundreds of implacable and relentless foes.

Fortunately,  however, on the twenty-third of June, a schooner arrived from Niagara,  bringing Lieutenant Cuyler and sixty men, together with ample supplies of  provisions and ammunition. This opportune reinforcement renewed the fainting  hopes of the garrison; and now no one spoke of abandoning the fort, but on  the contrary, resolved to await patiently the relief which, as their  situation was known, could not be far distant.”
- CHAPTER X,  1763

To be Continued… [If anyone is interested]

Possible Future Posts that stem from this one are: 
Siege of Fort Pitt (Smallpox): June 22 - August 20, 1763 
Battle of Bloody Run: July 31, 1763
Battle of Bushy Run: August 5-6, 1763 
Battle of Devil’s Hole: September 14, 1763
Royal Proclamation of 1763: October 7, 1763
Conestoga Massacre: December, 1763

- History Channel:  Pontiac’s Rebellion begins

- Rogers’s Journal; Rogers’s account of North America; Parkman’s Life of Pontiac

- Gutenberg: The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada by Francis Parkman

- YouTube Documentaries:
The Rebellion of Pontiac 1763 and Pontiac’s Rebellion

- Pontiac and the Indian Uprising By Howard Henry Peckham

- The War Chief of the Ottawas: A Chronicle of the Pontiac War by  Thomas Guthrie Marquis, George M. Wrong, H. H. Langton


Smithsonian’s Panama debate fueled by zircon dating

via: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

New evidence published in Science by Smithsonian geologists dates the closure of an ancient seaway at 13 to 15 million years ago and challenges accepted theories about the rise of the Isthmus of Panama and its impact on world climate and animal migrations.

A team analyzed zircon grains from rocks representing an ancient sea and riverbeds in northwestern South America. The team was led by Camilo Montes, former director of the Panama Geology Project at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He is now at the Universidad de los Andes.

The team’s new date for closure of the Central American Seaway, from 13 to 15 million years ago, conflicts with the widely accepted 3 million year date for the severing of all connections between the Atlantic and the Pacific, the result of work done by the Panama Paleontology Project, directed by emeritus scientists Jeremy B.C. Jackson and Anthony Coates, also at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute…

(read more: EurekAlert! - AAAS)

image: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Obama and Castro Shook Hands Last Night. That’s a Big Deal.

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shared a historic handshake Friday night at the Summit of the Americas, currently taking place in Panama City, Panama. It’s expected the two will meet some time on Saturday, the highest level meetings between the two countries in at least 50 years. Obama and Castro were seated at the same table at dinner on Friday, separated by two people, according to the New York Times’ report.

Today, in a speech at the Summit, Obama said that the U.S. would not be “imprisoned by the past,” although the two countries have sharp disagreements. Speaking later, Castro, in an emotional speech, reminded the Summit of what he believed to be a long history of unjust treatment of Cuba by the U.S. before going on to say that Obama was not responsible for past American action. He also called the president an “honest man,” according to the AP.

(Image via Associated Press)

We explain what’s happening with U.S.-Cuba relations here: