Celebrating Hitler Day, Oh I mean Columbus Day

By Corine Fairbanks, AIM Southern California

Since the first “American history” book was written, there has been, still is, a systematic and effective cover up locked in to place that perpetuate the fallacies and myths of Christopher Columbus and the assumed “divinity” of the fated voyage.[1] “Christopher Columbus’ reputation has not survived the scrutiny of history, and today we know that he was no more the discoverer of America than Pocahontas was the discoverer of Great Britain.”

Some academics consider Columbus one of the first instigators of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and set in motion, one of the largest intentional efforts of ethnic cleansing known in history- and also the one of the least known. By some accounts, over 95 million, Indigenous peoples throughout the Western hemisphere were enslaved, mutilated and massacred.   Go down to your local public school and peruse the American History section and tell me if there has been any formal accountability for this American Holocaust.  Columbus, Cortez, Father Junipero Sierra, and hundreds of others are still celebrated as our countries brave nautical explorers and finest heroes, not as perpetrators of crimes against humanity. 

Obviously, Columbus’s atrocities are rarely discussed in the public school system.  Recently, Roberta Weighill, Chumash, shared that her third grade son disagreed with his teacher about the Columbus discovery story and added that he knew Columbus to be responsible for the deaths of many Native people.  The public teacher corrected him: “No. Columbus was just a slave trader.” Hmmm, just a slave trader? Oh! Is that all?

On October 12, 1492, Columbus wrote in his journal:

“They should be good servants …. I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses.” These captives were later paraded through the streets of Barcelona and Seville when Columbus returned to Spain.”[2] 

Soon, there was evidence showing that this was fast becoming a profitable business, yet, did these “Savages” deserve to go into bondage and slavery? According to Columbus:

“they are artless and generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe but him who had seen it. Of anything they have, if it be asked for, they never say no, but do rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hearts.” [3]

In a short time, Columbus seized 1,200 Taino Natives from the island of Hispaniola,[4] tearing families apart by abduction and killing the ones that resisted going.  On board Columbus’ slave ships, hundreds died; and as “Christian” as those sailors were, they callously tossed the Natives bodies into the Atlantic.

Being the nice guy that history would like us to believe, Columbus felt required at least to inform the natives of the terms by which they would be treated from now on in the “New World” ;

“I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us..”[5]

(ask yourself how many Taino people understood what Columbus was saying)

Within four years of Columbus’ arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000.

The History of Columbus Day has been as erratic as Christopher Columbus himself.  Since 1971 Columbus Day has been celebrated in the U.S. as federal holiday.  Then, Columbus Day was terminated as a national holiday in the 1990’s.  However, October 9, 2002, President George W. Bush (why should we not be surprised it was George W.?) issued a presidential proclamation celebrating:

“Columbus’ bold expedition [and] pioneering achievements, … the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of Christopher Columbus.”

Then six years later, On Oct 11, 2008 Indigenous Peoples Day was established as the new holiday replacing Columbus Day.   How often do your children bring notices home from school on that?  November is Native American History Month, but it is NEVER celebrated with as much zealousness and vigor as our African American Awareness Month of February-  go figure, oversight? Mishap? Uh, no, I think not.

So why is there this instance of celebrating such a horrible person in history?  Is there an Adolf Hitler day? Well why not? There some similarities here.  Ethnic cleansing, slavery, concentration camps, and annihilation.

And here we are in 2011, where there is an effort to “erase” Native people; literally & historically, and replace it with a watered down romanticized one.  “As a student in the public school district, I’ve noticed that my teachers have been leaving out gaps in their teachings,”  said 12-year-old Starr GreenSky, a Native student in the Santa Barbara School District. “For instance, my teachers have told me that a whole nation, filed by tribes, inhabited a continent. Well if that’s true, then why are there only two-to-three Native American children at my school out of the hundreds? What happened to all of us?”

Turn on your television and check out the commercials and imagery that saturate prime time hours around this time and through Thanksgiving.  Teri Di Gregorio, long time Native rights activist states;

“People are oblivious that negative stereotypes of Native people and the myth of Columbus and colonizers as “hero” are strategic as product placement. I would come across recipes for children to make “Columbus fruit boats bowls” to “commemorate” “Columbus Day” in a Fisher Price cookbook for young children, “fun” crafts for “Columbus Day” in family oriented magazines written for all those homogeneous patriotic drones out there, and of course the list goes on and on. Every single grocery, department, big box, retail, book, warehouse, furniture, electronics store in ‘merica has a sale for “Columbus Day.”

Pay attention to what your kids are being taught in their schools. Walk around the school and check out the signs, the symbols, and the imagery being used in this twisted contorted “discovery” story. “He who controls the past, controls the future; and he who controls the present, controls the past.”[6]

Our schools have a responsibility to teach the truth, and we have a responsibility to demand it.

[1] Jack Weatherford is an anthropologist at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minn. His most recent book is “Indian Givers.” He wrote this article for the Baltimore Evening Sun.

[2] http://www.americanindiansource.com/columbusday.html , Bourne, pp. 111-112; Page 18 of Hanke, L. (1949). The Spanish struggle for justice in the conquest of America. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press

[3] Bourne, pp. 265-266

[4] Hispaniola (Spanish: La Española) is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west, and Puerto Rico to the east,

[5] Text quoted from: “El Requerimiento” in Wilcomb Washburn, ed. The Indian and the White Man

[6] George Orwell

©Corine Fairbanks (2010)

“I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us..”- Christopher Columbus
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6 responses to “Celebrating Hitler Day, Oh I mean Columbus Day

  1. Pingback: Celebrating Hitler Day, Oh I mean Columbus Day « Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

  2. Pingback: Christopher Columbus: The Heroification of a War Criminal « Muslim Reverie

  3. Pingback: Happy Native American Day | Black Write & Read

  4. I’d like to pee in Christopher Columbus’s mouth.

  5. Pingback: Columbus Day Rebuked | Soul Snatcher, Productions ™ Democracy Wall

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