Archive Assignment Final Copy
11 December 2012
The Ball Game Manuscript
The pursuit of knowledge is indeed a noble goal, and there are few places that offer the depth and extent of knowledge that is found in literature. Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679 is certainly valuable in the knowledge that it offers. It provides historical insight on both the Spanish in early America, and on the Apalachee tribe, delving into what the relationship between the two groups looked like. In addition to being a wealth of historical knowledge, this account also provides valuable information on the Apalachee culture and customs. As a first hand account containing a depth of both historical and cultural knowledge, Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679, is a valuable piece of American literature with much to offer its reader.
Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679, is a record written by Spanish clergyman, Reverend Father Friar Juan de Paiva (after referred to as Paiva), who was stationed at the Spanish mission settlement of San Luis de Talimali. The purpose of the Spanish mission settlements was to convert Indians to and educate them in Catholicism, and as a Friar at San Luis de Talimali, Paiva was considered a spiritual shepherd or leader to the Apalachee people. (Perron). In the writing of this manuscript, Paiva was aided by two interpreters, one of which was an Apalachee leader, who helped him better understand and translate what was told to him by the Apalachee people, this allowed him to create a more accurate account since it was based not only on his own observations, but also the knowledge passed on to him by the Apalachee people. Pavia's work was written in September of 1679 not as a document to explain Apalachee culture, but as a document stating why he believed that the ball game, played by the Apalachee people, should no longer be played. Because of the nature of this document, it was seen by the people it concerned, but not published into a work until 1982. In 1982, John H. Hann, published it as part of a larger work on the Apalachee people, called Apalachee:the Land Between the Rivers. Hann's use of the document helps to show the historic value that can be found in it. (Early visions of Florida).
While Paiva may have intended for his document to communicate why he believed the Apalachee people should no longer play their ball game, in doing so, he provides a very detailed description of the Apalachee tradition. This text is enormously valuable due to the fact that there are not many of its kind that exist. It is one of very few documents in existence that provides a written first-hand account of a Native American custom. Many of the Native American tribes did not have a written language and so did not have a written record of their history or culture. Not only does Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679 provide documentation of a piece of Native American culture, but has the added benefit of being a first- hand account, as it was written by Paiva who actually viewed the game, and spoke about it with the Apalachee people. Through this document, a piece of Native American history is preserved in a way that would have been impossible without a written record. Had the history of this tradition simply been passed on verbally throughout generations, as was common, it would have no doubt, been changed and distorted over time, but, contained within a written work it has been able to remain unchanged no matter how many generations separate it from when it was written to the present time. Clearly this makes Paiva's manuscript a valuable piece of American literature, but its value does not end with its ability to preserve a part of Native American culture. The value of this document extends even further than that.
There is great value in a work that can preserve traditions, namely those that would have otherwise died and been forgotten. If that was all that Paiva's manuscript on the Apalachee ball game accomplished, it would still be an incredibly valuable text, but Paiva's document manages to accomplish more than that, increasing the value of such a text. Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679, additionally provides insight into Spanish- Indian relations in southeastern America during this time period. First, this document shows the very religious tones in the relationship between the Spanish and the Indians. This can be seen not only in existence of the missions, but also in Paiva's reasons for writing the text in the first place. Paiva wrote this manuscript to express why he believed that the Apalachee people should no longer play their traditional ball game. One of Paiva's main reason's for wanting the game banned was because he believed it to be pagan and harmful to the salvation and wellbeing of the Apalachee people. Paiva's work is religiously based, as is his reason for being among the Apalachee people in the first place. While not all Spanish interaction with the Indians was religiously based, the interaction on the Spanish missions certainly was (Spanish Missions).
Another aspect of Spanish-Indian relations in San Luis de Talimali that can be seen in Paiva's manuscript, is the way that Native American culture and traditions are treated. From this document on the Apalachee ball game, one can see that Paiva expected certain Indian traditions to be abandoned. In this area, religion is once again an aspect. The Spanish expected the Indians to abandon their native religions and convert to Catholicism. The undertones of this desired conversion can be seen throughout the entire text, and once more can even be seen in the existence of the text itself. If the Spanish did not clearly expect the Indians to convert to Catholicism, there would have been no reason to dismiss their ball game on the grounds that it appeared to be a pagan practice. In regard to culture and tradition, this text shows that religion was not the only cultural aspect that the Spanish expected the Indians to give up. The ball game played by the Apalachee was considered one of their oldest traditions, It served as a form of sport, recreation, and as a way to settle disputes between tribes and clans without resorting to war. This aspect of their culture was valuable and important to the Apalachee people. Paiva recognized all that the ball game represented to the Apalachee people, and still expected them to give it up and adopt "more civilized" forms of recreation, or rather, a more spanish-like culture. This text give a first-hand look into Spanish dealings in regard to Native American culture and tradition, and shows how the Apalachee were expected to adapt to the Spanish ways, rather than the Spanish adapting to the Apalachee ways, regardless of the fact that it was the Spanish who were the newcomers in the Indian's native land.
There is so much about the relationship between the Spanish and the Indians in southeastern American that can be learned from Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679; still another thing that can be seen through this text is the power relationship between the Apalachee and the Spanish. One can see that the Spanish felt themselves to be superior to the Indians, in that, they expected the Indians to convert to their religions and their ways. If the Spanish did not believe their ways to be better, then there would have been no need for conversion. In his manuscript, Paiva also assumes that he should be able to stop the Apalachee people from playing their traditional ball game. To be able to order the Apalachee people to cease one of their oldest traditions, then the Spanish must be in a place of power over them, or else they would not be able to make the Indians submit to what they wanted.
America even in the 1600's was a diverse place, but when looking at commonly read early American literature, the vast majority are works by people of English descent. In reading Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679, as a piece of early American Literature, it broadens the window of who the early Americans were. There are not many commonly read early American works by authors of Spanish descent, never the less, the Spanish role in early America was still important and influential to the development of the America that is known today.
Origin and Beginning of the Game of Ball that the Apalachee and Yustagan Indians Have Been Playing Since Pagan Times until the Year of 1679, as a text has so much to offer as a piece of American literature. It serves to educate the reader culturally, giving unique insight into a piece of Native American tradition. It is enlightening historically in many ways, and gives the reader a better understanding of the people who inhabited Florida in the 1600's. The text provides a unique first-hand look into various aspects of the relationship between the Spanish and the Indians, including their power relationship, and views on customs and religion. This manuscript is valuable treasury, containing a wealth of knowledge and insight. While not a commonly read text, it has much to offer its reader.
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