Marc Simmons: Discovering what Indians already knew
"In the wake of the Haitian earthquake, one of my fellow columnists wrote an excellent summary on that country's history.

Therein, he noted that Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, adding that the island was "discovered" by Columbus on his first voyage.

As I have done often in recent years, I winced at the now almost obligatory placing of the word discovered in quotation marks.

They are understood to be little red flags, indicating that the mariner did not really discover America, since that honor ought to belong to Indians or Vikings.

However, the archaic definition of discover prevailing in the late 15th century states that the word meant simply "to make known, to reveal, to disclose" without reference to other peoples (such as Indians or Vikings) having previously acquired the same knowledge.

Thus, when Columbus returned to Spain after his first voyage and appeared at the royal court, he claimed to have made an authentic discovery. Queen Isabel, using the same word, acknowledged it, as did all of Europe."

Get the Story:
Marc Simmons: Trail Dust: Of Spaniards, colonists and the discovery of new lands (The Santa Fe New Mexican 3/6)

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