Native American Pearl Research Paper

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Thousands of years before the Spaniards arrived, Native Americans included pearl oysters in their diet. They collected them (along with many other kinds of shellfish) by diving headfirst from their boats and prying them from the rocks with a wooden spear, a tool they also used to fend off fearsome sharks and rays. When Christopher Columbus left Spain, his directions were simple and clear. According to his ship’s log, he was “to discover and acquire new lands,” to promote the expansion of the Catholic faith,” and to secure “Pearls, Precious Stones, Gold, Silver, Spiceries and other Things and Merchandise.” Even the name California was related to the pearling potential of the Gulf. Its origin lies in a popular sixteenth-century legend that said, “There is an island named California inhabited only by beautiful Amazons who ride on griffins and wear nothing but jewels made of gold and pearls . . .”…show more content…
It was no accident that these lustrous treasures of the sea were at the top of Columbus’ list. Pearls fetched more than gold. When the first Spanish expedition under Cortez reached the Bay of La Paz in 1533, the explorers noticed both the superb freediving ability of the natives, as well as the crudely strung pearl jewelry they wore. The Spaniards were impressed by natives’ ability to distinguish the camouflaged mollusks from rocks using only their well-trained eyesight. Lacking metal tools, the natives opened the oysters by tossing them the fire, which made the pearly treasure inside the bivalves come out blackened or

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