28 September 2008

A Message from Bluehawk...


When Columbus arrived on this continent on October 12, 1492, there were already more than six million people here representing hundreds of different cultures and speaking more than a thousand different languages. The indigenous people of this continent had well-established cultures in which many advances were made in the area of arts, sciences, mathematics and medicine. The Aztec lunar calendar is still the most recent and accurate ever developed. The Mayans developed the concept of zero before the ancient Greek mathematicians did and the Ho Ho Kam built sophisticated irrigation systems that allowed them to farm the deserts we now call Arizona as well as the structure Casa Grande (still standing today) in which the sunlight shines through a series of windows only on the summer solstice. Archaeological evidence indicates that Native Americans have occupied this continent for at least 40,000 years, and Stone Age tools found in the Mojave Desert east of Los Angeles date back as many as 200,000 years.

By the time Columbus 'discovered' America the indigenous people had already developed their own political and legal systems, constitution and religions. However, it was the spiritual and religious differences between Columbus and the New World that were used as justification of enslaving Natives and destroying cultures that had been in existence for centuries. Columbus, a devout Catholic, began his journey in the name of Jesus Christ and saw the people he met in the New World as nothing more than 'pagans' who needed to be 'enlightened' .

Surprisingly, there are many people who do not realize that Columbus never set foot in what is now the United States, and it is disturbing to hear how many people think he landed at Plymouth Rock. The first Europeans to arrive in what is now the United States was Ponce de Leon who led an expedition into what is now Florida. The first European explorer to thoroughly document his visit to North America was the Italian explorer Giovanni Cabota, who sailed for England's King Henry VII and became known to us by his Anglicized name, John Cabot.

Cabot arrived in 1497 and claimed North America for the English sovereign while Columbus was still searching for India in the Caribbean. After three voyages to America and more than a decade of study, Columbus still believed that Cuba was a part of the continent of Asia, South America was only an island, and the coast of Central America was close to the Ganges River. Columbus made four voyages to the New World in which he visited San Salvador, Cuba, the Bahamas and Mexico.

Columbus died thinking he had visited the east coast of India. Hence we have the terms 'West Indies' and 'American Indian'.

Although crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1492 required a great deal of courage, Christopher Columbus was responsible for setting off the largest wave of genocide the world has ever seen. On the other hand, it should be remembered that Columbus was not a villain who acted alone.

The Spanish monarchy invested in his excursion, but only on the condition that Columbus would repay this investment with profit by bringing back gold, spices and other tribute from Asia.

This pressing need to repay his debt underlies the frantic tone of Columbus' diaries as he raced from one Caribbean island to the next, stealing anything of value.

After he failed to contact the emperor of China, the traders of India, or the merchants of Japan, Columbus decided to pay for his voyage in the one important commodity he had found in ample supply ~ human lives. He seized 1,200 Taino Indians from the island of Hispaniola, crammed as many onto his ships as would fit and sent them back to Spain, where they were paraded naked through the streets of Seville and sold as slaves in 1495.

Columbus tore children from the parents, husbands from wives. On board Columbus' slave ships, hundreds died; the sailors tossed the Indian bodies into the Atlantic.

Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work in mines and plantations which he, his family and followers created throughout the Caribbean.

His marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit ~ beating, raping, torturing, killing and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus' arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000.

Within another 50 years, the Taino people had been made extinct ~ the first holocaust of American Indians. The plantation owners then turned to the American mainland and to Africa for new slaves to follow the tragic path of the Taino.

If history is witness to the six million Jews liquidated by Hitler's death camps, surely it must also remember the six million and more Native inhabitants exterminated by the Anglos as the end result of the advent of Columbus to the Americas. Columbus for all First Americans is equated to the antichrist and war criminal Hitler. If we consider the human misery and death inflicted by both men upon humanity, the cost in human life and resources on a grand scale is irreparable and can never be compensated by any terms. Can we imagine our people celebrating a holiday to a man like the Nazi dictator? Unthinkable as it is utterly despicable. Do not think for one second that the Native people will bestow any dignity upon the man Columbus. We denounce the man and his evil deeds.

The United States honors only two men with federal holidays bearing their names. In January we commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., who struggled to lift the blinders of racial prejudice and to cut the remaining bonds of slavery in America.

Americans might not have a Columbus Day if Christopher Columbus had not been born in Italy. Out of pride for their native son, the Italian population of New York City organized the first celebration of the discovery of America on October 12, 1866. The next year, more Italian organizations in other cities held banquets, parades and dances on that date. In 1869, when Italians of San Francisco celebrated October 12, they called it Columbus Day.

In 1905, Colorado became the first state to observe a Columbus Day. Over the next few decades other states followed. In 1937, then- President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed every October 12 as Columbus Day. Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. 1992 marked the 500th anniversary of the Columbus discovery
On Columbus Day we honor Christopher Columbus, who opened the Atlantic slave trade and launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history. Although I realize it probably will not change the way people treat each other, abolishing Columbus Day would be a step in the direction toward social equality for Native American people. If the people of this country find it necessary to celebrate the discovery of this continent, then we should follow Berkeley, California's example and have an Indigenous People Day in honor of the people who really 'discovered' America. Better yet, let's follow the footsteps of South Dakota, the only state in the country to honor its Native population by changing Columbus Day to Native American Day. From the Native American perspective, Christopher Columbus was an unwelcome visitor 500 years ago; he remains an unwanted presence now, and it is time for him to go away.

©Copyrighted 2004 by
Bluehawk Anderson
7 Millstream Lane
Penacook, NH 03303-1819

I have copyrighted this article but please, feel free to distribute if you wish. Maybe one day we will be able to be recognized in a proud way and have a day in honor of all Native Americans.

My people in this state joined together and we went to the New Hampshire State Legislature with a proclamation of request for such a day to be considered.. . we were turned down. I will never give up and I hope you don't either.

~ In the Spirit of Crazy Horse ~
Bluehawk, Lakota Nation

20. January 2009: The End of an Error

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Anonymous Indigenous Peoples Advocate said...

I agree, I will not be celebrating this horrible holiday. It is a disgrace to keep framing it as a glorious moment for America.

9:54 am  

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