Tag Archives: Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus: No Monuments for Murderers

“Twenty-five years ago, I wrote an article, “Once Upon a Genocide,” reviewing the major children’s literature about Columbus. My conclusion was that these books teach young readers that colonialism and racism are normal.”

The world is still sliced in two between the worthy — the owning classes, the corporate masters, the generals — and the nobodies. The invaded, the owned, the bombed, the poisoned, the silenced.

By

A New York Times article, following the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer, described the growing calls to remove monuments that celebrate the Confederacy. The article went on to cite some who balk, however, when “the symbolism is far murkier, like Christopher Columbus.”

But there is nothing murky about Columbus’ legacy of slavery and terrorism in the Americas. The record is clear and overwhelming. The fact that The New York Times could report this with such confidence — adding that “most Americans learn rather innocently, in 1492 [Columbus] sailed the ocean blue until he discovered the New World” — means that educators and activists still have much work to do.

In fact, Christopher Columbus launched the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1494, when he sent back at least two dozen enslaved Taínos, including children, to Spain. In February of that year, Columbus dispatched 12 of his 17 ships from the Caribbean back to Spain with a letter to be delivered to the king and queen by Antonio de Torres, captain of the returning fleet.

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Uprooting Colonialism: The Limitations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

From Indigenous Action:

Declarations, Disconnect, & Decolonial Recuperation

As momentum has accelerated for occupying forces to issue declarations of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD),” we can’t help but feel disconnected from the revelry.

Aside from psychic solace, if the state dismantles these statues and proclaims Indigenous Peoples’ Days, what do we actually achieve if the structures and systems rooted in colonial violence remain intact? Is it merely political posturing or window dressing to diminish liberatory agitations? Our senses are heightened as most re-brandings of Columbus Day into IPD appear to whitewash ongoing colonial legacies.

The statistics are all too familiar: Indigenous Peoples in the “U.S.” are the ethnic group that faces the highest police murder rate, the highest rates of incarnation, homelessness, and sexual violence.

So yes, we have very good reason to be skeptical of symbolic gestures.

We’re all for removing colonial symbols and nationalistic myths, so long as structures such as colonialism and racism go along with them. Problem is they are not. These edicts are readily embraced by their advocates as “steps in the right direction” for Indigenous interests, yet—as we’ll assert here—only serve to calcify colonial rule. What else are we to glean from superficial declarations handed down by occupying governing bodies?

Decolonial aspirations are stunted with liberal cosmetology if nothing concrete is done to address historical and ongoing anti-Indigenous brutality. This is an insidious conciliatory process of decolonial recuperation that is rooted in cultural and symbolic change primarily fixated on transforming social stature. It fails to meaningfully confront and transform social power.

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Fall 2017 (v1.0)

Edits and contributions by
Indigenous Action Media Collective & friends

www.indigenousaction.org

Downloadable PDFs | Readable | Printable (zine format)

Dismantling Columbus and the Power of the Present

Chad Browneagle, Shoshone/Spokane, joins the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Jaida L Grey Eagle)

Chad Browneagle, Shoshone/Spokane, joins the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Jaida L Grey Eagle)

By Jaskiran Dhillon and Siku Allooloo, Truthout

Though Christopher Columbus never set foot in what is now the United States, Columbus Day is hailed as a symbol of the founding of the country. And without question, his arrival unleashed the Christian Doctrine of Discovery — a colonial invention of European international law that legitimated genocide, enslavement and the expropriation of Indigenous homelands. This paved the way for violent settler colonies like the United States to dominate “the Americas.” Rejecting Columbus Day is about dismantling this legacy, as well as challenging historical representations that erase Indigenous peoples’ lived experience and make colonial narratives about the creation of the US seem both natural and inevitable. But it is also about more than that.

Instead of celebrating Columbus’s symbolic role in the founding of the United States, we can reposition him as a founding source of colonial exploitation, which continues to this day. Recasting our view in this way reveals the contemporary forms of settler colonialism threaded through social and political life in the US. The growing movement to critically interrogate Columbus Day is not simply to acknowledge the atrocities committed by Columbus and his contemporaries. It is twofold: to affirm the continual presence of Indigenous peoples, and to advocate in support of present-day efforts to eradicate state violence against Indigenous lands and bodies, including the return of ancestral territories. Such an interrogation challenges an innocuous and expressly historical commemoration of Columbus Day, which relegates both colonial atrocities and Indigenous peoples to things of the past.

Centering Indigenous experience and urgent concerns is not a plea for inclusion in US society. It is about making visible the reality of systemic violence and injustice that is part of everyday life for Indigenous communities. It’s also about exposing the inescapable, ongoing fact of settler complicity in reproducing these dynamics.It is a demonstration of our active presence, as well as a call for people to face the political moment in which we find ourselves. Moreover, it’s a call to meaningfully engage the ways that Indigenous nations are raising fundamental, critical questions about justice, freedom and the future of the planet.

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Abolish Columbus Day Campaign

From the Zinn Education Project: Teaching A People’s History:

As we write, we are witnessing an inspiring struggle playing out in North Dakota as Indigenous people and allies are attempting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Dave Archambault, chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, stated, “This is a corporation that is coming forward and just bulldozing through without any concern for tribes.” The “bulldozing” of Indigenous lives, Indigenous lands, and Indigenous rights all began with Columbus’s invasion in 1492.

It is time to stop celebrating the crimes of Columbus and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous people who demand an end to Columbus Day. Instead of glorifying a person who enslaved and murdered people, destroyed cultures, and terrorized those who challenged his rule, we seek to honor these communities demanding sovereignty, recognition, and rights. We encourage schools to petition their administration and for communities to introduce legislation to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Below is information and resources to join the campaign to Abolish Columbus Day.

Jump to: WHY | HOW | EXAMPLES | WHERE | PROMOTE | DONATE

Deceptive. Greedy. Murderer. Racist… Hero Who “Discovered” America?

Recently, eight U.S. cities have repealed Columbus Day. The holiday, however, remains a federally recognized holiday.

Recently, eight U.S. cities have repealed Columbus Day. The holiday, however, remains a federally recognized holiday.

Why More States, Cities Need to Repeal Columbus Day

By Sarah Sunshine Manning, Indian Country Today Media Network

Deceptive. Greedy. Murderer. Racist. Not exactly characteristics of a hero, and certainly not the makings of a man worthy of a national holiday.

Jig’s up, America. Christopher Columbus was a genocidal madman. America’s first and original terrorist. And as our global consciousness and awareness of humanity expands, it is time we give up defending Christopher Columbus as anything but otherwise.

Indigenous people have been protesting the Columbus Day holiday for decades. And for some, efforts have successfully resulted in change.

In 2014, the cities of Seattle and Minneapolis successfully abolished Columbus Day, replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day. And recently, eight more cities have successfully made the change, too: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Lawrence, Kansas; Portland, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota; Bexar County, Texas; Anadarko, Okalahoma; Olympia, Washington; and Alpena, Michigan.

Yet it was actually decades earlier, in 1990, that the State of South Dakota made the first waves, declaring the second Monday in October, as Native American Day.  South Dakota is currently the only state to have eliminated Columbus Day.

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RELATED: Who Could Possibly Be in Favor of Columbus Day?

The REAL History Of Christopher Columbus

From The Young Turks

Monday, October 12th is Columbus Day, which we have celebrated in this country since the eighteenth century… and that’s probably long enough. When you find out the actual facts of what Columbus did when he got to America, you’ll find one of the darkest chapters in American history. Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola (Think Tank), hosts of the The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“Second, Columbus wasn’t a hero. When he set foot on that sandy beach in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, Columbus discovered that the islands were inhabited by friendly, peaceful people called the Lucayans, Taínos and Arawaks. Writing in his diary, Columbus said they were a handsome, smart and kind people. He noted that the gentle Arawaks were remarkable for their hospitality. “They offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no,” he said. The Arawaks had no weapons; their society had neither criminals, prisons nor prisoners. They were so kind-hearted that Columbus noted in his diary that on the day the Santa Maria was shipwrecked, the Arawaks labored for hours to save his crew and cargo. The native people were so honest that not one thing was missing.

Columbus was so impressed with the hard work of these gentle islanders, that he immediately seized their land for Spain and enslaved them to work in his brutal gold mines. Within only two years, 125,000 (half of the population) of the original natives on the island were dead.”

For more info, check out Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery

Celebrating Columbus? The Myths Behind the Man

 Christopher Columbus and his men hunted Natives with war-dogs.

Christopher Columbus and his men hunted Natives with war-dogs.

By Steve Russell, Indian Country Today Media Network

Cristóbal Colón aka Cristóvão Colombo aka Cristoforo Colombo aka Christopher Columbus has gotten lots of breaks from history. He escapes blame for the massive die-off of the peoples in this hemisphere on the theory he did not intend the spread of disease, but he also gets a pass on his barbaric personal conduct among the Taino people.

The exploration package he finally sold to the monarchs of what would be Spain (after failing to interest Portugal, England, Venice, and even his hometown of Genoa) involved making him governor of the lands he discovered and conjuring up a new title just for him. He had requested “Great Admiral of the Ocean” but he settled for “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.”

Note that Columbus was Genoan rather than Italian because Italy did not exist. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the middle of the 19th century, the peninsula was a land of warring and conspiring city-states. It was culturally rich but politically fragmented, like the Indians of North America.

Of course, there was no “Spain” either, but the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon laid the geographical and political basis for a nation that would become an empire based on looting of the Americas by the conquistadores who followed Columbus. The miscalculation of the monarchs who turned down Columbus would be unmatched in history until Decca Records turned down The Beatles, but of course the Fab Four were not thieves.

Click here to read the full article…

The Jewish Meaning of Columbus Day

A Jewish American reflects on Columbus Day, the legacy of settler-colonialism, and what it means for people of Jewish heritage

By Jordan Engel

In recent years, Columbus Day has become a day for many non-native Americans (let’s call them settlers) to reflect on their colonial legacy. As settlers in the Americas, we must bare some of the burden of decolonizing these lands, because the guilty parties in the genocide of American Indians over the past five centuries are not just the direct descendants of Indian-killers like Cortez, Custer, and Columbus. Decolonization is the responsibility of everyone alive today who lives on stolen lands, and as Jewish-Americans, we are not exempt.

Our people have a long and complicated history with this continent. We often fail to acknowledge, for example, that most of the Jews in the world, about 54 percent, live in North and South America – an area where 500 years ago, there were no Jews (ignoring, of course, wild theories that American Indians are one of the ten lost tribes of Israel).

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You Are Still Being Lied To: Howard Zinn’s “Columbus and Western Civilization”

From Disinformation:

The following is an excerpt of “Columbus and Western Civilization” written by Howard Zinn that appears in the Disinformation anthology You Are Still Being Lied To edited by Russ Kick.

Author’s Note: In the year 1992, the celebration of Columbus Day was different from previous ones in two ways. First, this was the quincentennial, 500 years after Columbus’ landing in this hemisphere. Second, it was a celebration challenged all over the country by people—many of them native Americans but also others—who had “discovered” a Columbus not worth celebrating, and who were rethinking the traditional glorification of “Western civilization.” I gave this talk at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in October 1991. It was published the following year by the Open Magazine Pamphlet Series with the title “Christopher Columbus & the Myth of Human Progress.”

George Orwell, who was a very wise man, wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future. And who controls the present controls the past.” In other words, those who dominate our society are in a position to write our histories. And if they can do that, they can decide our futures. That is why the telling of the Columbus story is important.

Let me make a confession. I knew very little about Columbus until about twelve years ago, when I began writing my book A People’s History of the United States. I had a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University—that is, I had the proper training of a historian, and what I knew about Columbus was pretty much what I had learned in elementary school.

But when I began to write my People’s History, I decided I must learn about Columbus. I had already concluded that I did not want to write just another overview of American history—I knew my point of view would be different. I was going to write about the United States from the point of view of those people who had been largely neglected in the history books: the indigenous Americans, the black slaves, the women, the working people, whether native or immigrant.

I wanted to tell the story of the nation’s industrial progress from the standpoint, not of Rockefeller and Carnegie and Vanderbilt, but of the people who worked in their mines, their oil fields, who lost their limbs or their lives building the railroads.

I wanted to tell the story of wars, not from the standpoint of generals and presidents, not from the standpoint of those military heroes whose statues you see all over this country, but through the eyes of the G.I.s, or through the eyes of “the enemy.” Yes, why not look at the Mexican War, that great military triumph of the United States, from the viewpoint of the Mexicans?

And so, how must I tell the story of Columbus? I concluded, I must see him through the eyes of the people who were here when he arrived, the people he called “Indians” because he thought he was in Asia.

Well, they left no memoirs, no histories. Their culture was an oral culture, not a written one. Besides, they had been wiped out in a few decades after Columbus’ arrival. So I was compelled to turn to the next best thing: the Spaniards who were on the scene at the time. First, Columbus himself. He had kept a journal.

His journal was revealing. He described the people who greeted him when he landed in the Bahamas—they were Arawak Indians, sometimes called Tainos—and told how they waded out into the sea to greet him and his men, who must have looked and sounded like people from another world, and brought them gifts of various kinds. He described them as peaceable, gentle, and said: “They do not bear arms, and do not know them for I showed them a sword—they took it by the edge and cut themselves.”

Throughout his journal, over the next months, Columbus spoke of the native Americans with what seemed like admiring awe: “They are the best people in the world and above all the gentlest—without knowledge of what is evil—nor do they murder or steal…they love their neighbors as themselves and they have the sweetest talk in the world…always laughing.”

And in a letter he wrote to one of his Spanish patrons, Columbus said: “They are very simple and honest and exceedingly liberal with all they have, none of them refusing anything he may possess when he is asked for it. They exhibit great love toward all others in preference to themselves.” But then, in the midst of all this, in his journal, Columbus writes: “They would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Yes, this was how Columbus saw the Indians—not as hospitable hosts, but as “servants,” to “do whatever we want.”

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Celebrating Hitler Day, Oh I mean Columbus Day

12063542_10156132140400594_3593789153668236835_n 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.

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