Day honors truth, people

Day+honors+truth%2C+people

Special To / The Advocate

By Anthony Kinney, Associate Editor

Despite the “white-washing” of traditional American history books, the conveniently forgotten perspective of Columbus as a brutal murderer, rapist and willing participant in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade is slowly becoming a topic of discussion throughout classrooms, libraries and dinner tables across the nation.

Cities and states around the country are swapping out Columbus Day, still a federal holiday, for a holiday signifying a worthier group of people for praise and acknowledgment of their suffering at the hands of European explorers and settlers.

Citizens of all races are welcoming Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Similar to African-American frustration and hatred for the Confederate flag for what it represents, Native Americans are left with the same vile taste as a celebration for the very man responsible for the murderous genocide of their ancestors is observed every year.

Those who celebrate Columbus Day either do so out of blind patriotism or pure racism because any person with an ounce of knowledge can see that this country was greatly populated generations before the Spanish ships the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria steered toward an “undiscovered” land mass across the Atlantic Ocean.

Although it’s impossible to find an exact number, scholars estimate the indigenous population in the Americas was as high as 112 million people — before European contact in 1492.

Research shows that the population dwindled down to fewer than six million by 1650 due to foreign disease, warfare and the colonization of the continent that European explorers brought to the “New World.”

Columbus introduced the mistreatment of indigenous people to the islands and the influence grew to the continent as European colonization spread across the “new- found” land.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Native Americans now only make up 2 percent of America’s population, with their total population marked at 5.2 million in 2013. America provided the surviving tribes with reservations — land secluded from the general population — in what seems
to be a deterrent from what would be a constant reminder of the murder of the indigenous people of America.

However, pro-Native American right groups and activists are urging legislators around the country to take the step in righting a deadly wrong in America’s barbarous history by abandoning Christopher Columbus Day and establishing Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The concept of Indigenous Peoples’ Day isn’t new. The idea stemmed from discussions during the 1977 International Conference on Discrimination Against Populations in the Americas hosted by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. South Dakota was the first state to ditch the holiday observing the murderous explorer Christopher Columbus entirely.

In 1989, the state’s Legislature voted unanimously to change Columbus Day to Native American Day as well as make MLK’s birthday a state holiday.

Berkeley was the first city in the country to instate the holiday in replace of Columbus Day in 1992. Along with the re-naming, the city implemented school programs, libraries and museums to promote a better understanding of the indigenous peoples’ struggle since the founding of the Americas by Europeans.

The idea then stretched to Santa Cruz in 1994, making it the second city in the nation to embrace Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative to Columbus Day.

Ten years later various cities such as Seattle, Grand Rapids and Minneapolis decided to follow in the steps of Berkeley and adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2004.

And the list continues to grow as cities such as Austin, Iowa City, Los Angeles and Portland dropped Columbus Day this year for the holiday recognizing native people.

States such as Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon don’t acknowledge Columbus Day at all, as others like California and Nevada declared the fourth Friday of September Native American Day to make amends for the racial genocide placed upon them by the first European settlers.

Columbus deserves no one’s sympathy for his dethroning from social sainthood and the removal of his holiday.

He was a brutal racist who shared the same repulsive disregard for Native American life as he did African life.

With the establishment of Hispaniola, the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, Columbus began killing, capturing and enslaving the indigenous people of the island. Once the cruelties of forced labor and famine demolished the island population, Columbus ordered an import of African slaves to fill the void. Under Columbus’ rule, slaves who didn’t collect enough gold were punished by getting a hand chopped off. Rebel Spanish colonists who were sympathetic to natives were executed.

Columbus was arrested for his tyrant like rule and lost his governorship, although he was quickly set free and subsidized for his fourth voyage.

Embracing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in replace of Columbus Day is a clear attempt to atone for the enslavement, disease, genocide and forced assimilation that native populations endured for hundreds of years at the hands of colonists. But is it enough? Clearly no, but it’s start.

Native American heritage should be observed for an entire month and their history should be taught in every school around the nation.

The destruction of nearly an entire indigenous population is a shameful stain on America’s history that is in need of washing.