Monday, October 10, 2011

Boycotting Columbus Day: A Native American Perspective

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

You know my life is all about learning about the other. I truly enjoy reading, writing and researching about other cultures and ethnicities and seeing how we are similar and at the same time honoring the differences. It's not always easy to honor those difference but we have to try. That's why I am always interested in meeting people who come from ethnic and/or cultural groups different from my own. And I always ask a lot of questions.

Last year, I taught a class at Temple called Race and Racism in the News. During the course of the class, I invited many guest speakers from different ethnic groups around Philadelphia to come speak. One of my speakers was a Native American man, who was also an activist and educator. (He also happens to be my accountant but that's another story.)

He talked about reservation life, Native American traditions being co-opted as cool and a host of other issues facing modern day Native Americans. But one thing he said stuck in my mind and always will. Not surprisingly, he said he not only ignores Columbus Day, he boycotts it. Why? In his mind, and many others in the Native American community, Christopher Columbus is likened to Hitler. Yes, he said Hitler. They see him as a man responsible for the utter destruction and decimation of Native people in the Americas. And not for nothing, they also find it highly disturbing that streets are named after Columbus in almost every major city. "Can you imagine a Hitler street?" he asked my class. Ouch.

So, on this Columbus Day, I'm thinking about the Native American community and how they must be feeling on a day honoring a man they consider pure evil. I'm not heading out to join any protests, but I'm definitely sympathetic. This is how we learn, people. This is how we learn.

What do you do on Columbus Day? Do you celebrate, sympathize, protest, or just enjoy a day off work?

I'm listening.



Anonymous said...

My husband went to work, my daughter went to school and I am taking a semester off of teaching due to an accident I had over the summer. But the University as classes today. Its a non holiday for most people I know (save for my Banker mother)

There are all sorts of moves to reclaim Oct 12.
I stand behind this 100%
Last fall, I spent a part of my class period explain about how the native population of Cuba, Puerto Rico was wiped out in less than 100 years, etc. I read some stats that I had recently discovered about the genocide of the Caribbean people and will do that every fall for October 12th.

I do not buy into any renaming of the Holiday either, Día de la Raza, Día de Hispanidad.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend "También la lluvia" (even the rain) available on demand via netflix.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't do anything for Columbus Day because everyone else pretty much ignores it, but for Thanksgiving I always make myself obnoxious (in everyone ELSE's opinion) by insisting on doing a reading about what the "real" Thanksgiving "really" meant for Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

Columbus' acts of cruelty were so unspeakable and so legendary - even in his own day - that Governor Francisco De Bobadilla arrested Columbus and his two brothers, slapped them into chains, and shipped them off to Spain to answer for their crimes against the Arawaks. But the King and Queen of Spain, their treasury filling up with gold, pardoned Columbus and let him go free.

One of Columbus' men, Bartolome De Las Casas, was so mortified by Columbus' brutal atrocities against the native peoples, that he quit working for Columbus and became a Catholic priest. He described how the Spaniards under Columbus' command cut off the legs of children who ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades. According to De Las Casas, the men made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half. He says that Columbus' men poured people full of boiling soap. In a single day, De Las Casas was an eye witness as the Spanish soldiers dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3000 native people. "Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel," De Las Casas wrote. "My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write."

De Las Casas spent the rest of his life trying to protect the helpless native people. But after a while, there were no more natives to protect. Experts generally agree that before 1492, the population on the island of Hispaniola probably numbered above 3 million. Within 20 years of Spanish arrival, it was reduced to only 60,000. Within 50 years, not a single original native inhabitant could be found.

LT said...

Thanks for sharing. Facts like these stun me. It's outrageous to me that the we don't discuss what Columbus really did in America.

I'll check it out. Thanks.

Keep teaching and keep preaching!

I never knew any of those details. Thank you for sharing the truth. I will def keep using my platform to educate others.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is that years from now there will be native Europeans boycotting various non white days of celebration, and this stupid cycle will continue to manifest itself because of the idea of the 'melting pot'.

generic viagra news said...

Why people celebrate this massacre it doesn't have sense after all.