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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Francis Drake and the History of California

In 1577, a group of investors that included Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, Christopher Hatton, John Wynter and John Hawkins, decided to support a plan for Francis Drake to take a fleet into the Pacific and raid Spanish settlements there. Two years later, Drake's The Golden Hinde was leaking badly and needed to be careened. On 17th June 1579 Drake landed in a bay on the the coast of California. According to Drake's biographer, Harry Kelsey: "Sixteenth-century accounts and maps can be interpreted to show that he stopped anywhere between the southern tip of Baja California and latitude 48° N."

Most historians believe that Drake had stopped in a bay on the Point Reyes peninsula (now known as Drake's Bay). Drake has been reported as saying: "By God's Will we hath been sent into this fair and good bay. Let us all, with one consent, both high and low, magnify and praise our most gracious and merciful God for his infinite and unspeakable goodness toward us. By God's faith hath we endured such great storms and such hardships as we have seen in these uncharted seas. To be delivered here of His safekeeping, I protest we are not worthy of such mercy."

A local group of Miwok brought him a present of a bunch of feathers and tobacco leaves in a basket. John Sugden, the author of Sir Francis Drake (1990) has argued: "It appeared to the English that the Indians regarded them as gods; they were impervious to English attempts to explain who they were, but at least they remained friendly, and when they had received clothing and other gifts the natives returned happily and noisily to their village."

On 26th June a large group of Miwok arrived at Drake's camp. The chief, wearing a head-dress and a skin cape, was followed by painted warriors, each one of whom bore a gift. At the rear of the cavalcade were women and children. A man holding a sceptre of black wood and wearing a chain of clam shells, stepped forward and made a thirty minute speech. While this was going on the women indulged in a strange ritual of self-mutilation that included scratching their faces until the blood flowed. Robert F. Heizer has argued in Elizabethan California (1974) that self-mutilation is associated with mourning and that the Miwok probably thought the British sailors were spirits returning from the dead. However, Drake took the view that they were proclaiming him king of the Miwok tribe.

Drake now claimed the land for Queen Elizabeth. He named it Nova Albion "in respect of the white banks and cliffs, which lie towards the sea". Apparently, the cliffs of Point Reyes reminded Drake of the coast at Dover. Drake had a post set up with a plate bearing his name and the date of arriving in California.

When the The Golden Hinde left on 23rd July, the Miwok exhibited great distress and ran to the hill-tops to keep the ship in sight for as long as possible. Drake later wrote that during his time in California, "not withstanding it was the height of summer, we were continually visited with nipping cold, neither could we at any time within a fourteen day period find the air so clear as to be able to take height the sun or stars."

History of California

6 comments:

ARMAAN said...

I've visited every single Spanish mission of California. I learned a lot about the people and how California developed over time.
Logic Slim

ARMAAN said...

Supposedly a secret route developed by the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II to be used in case of main routes being cut off.
Skinny Fiber

ARMAAN said...

Don't say Dave Pelzer because in his own book it said he was the third. I want to know the first please.
Xtreme No

ARMAAN said...

Supposedly a secret route developed by the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II to be used in case of main routes being cut off.
Grow Lean 15 Max

PCOOL said...

Don't say Dave Pelzer because in his own book it said he was the third. I want to know the first please.
Revitaderm

SarahM said...

What an amazing tale about an amazing period in the history of mankind - the bravery of Francis Drake and the sailors that sailed with him nearly 500 years ago is almost beyond belief. Thanks for this interesting historical interlude.
Wartrol