EARLY PORTUGUESE CONNECTION WITH WARRI (PART 2)

According to the tradition recorded by William Moore, the Portuguese met the ITSEKIRI people under GINUWA at IJALA. HUELA may well have been IJALA which would have been difficult for the Portuguese to pronounce properly.
On the other hand, he ITSEKIRI people may have moved by this time to ALE IWERRE, and this place which is also on the Warri River may have been the place of barter.

If we accept this, it follows that the ITSEKIRI people had settled, surrounded by the URHOBO and IJOH, before the Sixteenth Century. The articles of trade consisted of “Slaves and Cotton Cloths, with some Panther Skins, Palm Oil and some Blue Shells which they call ‘Coris’.
The Portuguese bought these with Brass and Copper Bracelets. The Shells found an easy market on the GOLD COAST where they were exchanged for Gold”.
“From the URHOBO, the Portuguese bought Pepper; from the IJOH, Slaves and Ivory.” Most of the Ships stopped at the Portuguese Colony of SAO TOME from where smaller Vessels were sent into the Forcados River.

The King of Portugal did not often find it easy to collect annual dues from those to whom the contract for trade along the Slave Rivers was given and repeated demands were made by the treasury for payment.
The situation was further complicated by the concessions granted to the Settlers in SAO TOME to trade in the same area. In order to regularize affairs along the BENIN, ESCRAVOS and the FORCADOS RIVERS, Royal Ships were sent from the GOLD COAST FORT of San Jorge de Mina for direct trade.
The high mortality rate among the Portuguese Sailors, however, made this venture hazardous and the trading from SAO TOME was presently resumed.
Most of the Settlers of this Island as well as those of O Principe had Children by African Women and these acclimatized Mulattoes had greater immunity to Malaria than the Portuguese.

“From the year 1522, Portuguese records show that the important Port of IWERRE was being regularly used and there can be little doubt that the Portuguese were trading with the ITSEKIRI People who acted as Middlemen.” They took with them such articles as Indian Cowries, Copper Manillas, Glass Beads, Linen and Red Caps which the People in IWERRE particularly liked.
All these articles had to be reduced to the Local Currency of Cowries which were counted into Monetary Units for the purposes of buying and selling. There were two main denominations:
910 Cowries – 1Goat
40 Cowries – 1 Hen
The Pilot who recorded his purchase of a girl aged eighteen for seven Goats of Cowries therefore paid the equivalent of 6,370 Cowries.

Portuguese contact with the rising ITSEKIRI Kingdom was mainly commercial and probably intermittent. They concentrated most of their attention both Commercial and Religious on the BENIN KINGDOM where they were more certain of obtaining what they wanted. Warri was still insufficiently developed to rival Benin in terms of trade.

By the middle of the Sixteenth Century, however, when it had become evident that the Benin People were not interested in the CHRISTIAN RELIGION in spite of the CHURCH which had been built there, and that Commercial Monopoly imposed by the Oba prevented free access to possible sources of trade, Portuguese traders turned their attention to the smaller KINGDOM of WARRI which they had formerly neglected.
Behind the traders came Missionaries to make WARRI a CHRISTIAN KINGDOM.

END OF PART TWO

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