Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Challenging Columbus Day

I probably shouldn't be surprised that Columbus Day is still celebrated. I think it's important that he be remembered. What completely shocks and appalls me is that he is still celebrated as a hero, that internet searches turn up biographies that are straight out of 3rd grade book reports that are regurgitated from history books written solely from the colonizer's perspective, describing this "explorer" as the forward-thinking man who proved that the world was not flat (while people had known the earth was round for centuries). The cycle of misinformation continues and continues, warping our perceptions of the foundations of the United States. If any of the very words of Columbus and his crew are even included in textbooks and history classes, they're cherry picked for condescending, dominating, assumptive descriptions of the land and people that he supposedly "discovered." The tales of rape and enslavement of the indigenous people of the lands he invaded are not mentioned. The mass genocide and torture don't make it into the book reports.

Being in grade school in 1992, bombarded by "500 years of Discovery!" in class and the "500 years of Catholicism" Boy/Girl scout retreat, there was no acknowledgment of the of what these five centuries have meant for the many indigenous nations that were in the Americas and Caribbean long before European invasions. I happened to be in eighth grade that year, the year when an entire quarter of the school year was devoted to Christopher Columbus. My classmates studied and presented on the music and fashion of that time. My friend (who has indigenous ancestry on her mother's side) and I (who's Pilgrim ancestors enslaved indigenous peoples) collaborated to paint another perspective. We created a mural and painted it at the front of our history class, where all the students could see. Rather than the common Eurocentric view - from the boat's vantage point, perceiving the exoticized lands and peoples that they encountered, we showed an indigenous person with the boats arriving behind them, and lined either side of the mural with bloody handprints. Somehow, despite what we were learning in school, we knew that what we were being taught was not the truth. Somehow, we not only designed the mural, we were allowed to paint it and I believed it stayed up for a few years, too.

This mural's image (and its message - that there are other perspectives, more stories than what we're commonly taught) that my friend and I created should not be a tiny current against the glossed- over miseducation we receive in our culture and its schools. While I'm glad that we offered another, more accurate perspective to what we were surrounded by, this pro-conquistador misinformation is unfortunately what is still being taught and celebrated twenty years later. While it's important that the teachers, parents, mentors, and other adults in childrens' lives who are concerned with truthful history and challenging racism speak up about the truth about Columbus, it's not only youth that need to be schooled.

The mainstream history taught in schools and the media glorifies and justifies (both through its lessons and its omissions) racism, imperialism, genocide, rape culture, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. Unless we consciously and collectively re-educate ourselves, listen to our elders and learn history from those who lived it, seek out the voices of those who are systematically silenced, and share truthful, inclusive information with each other, we will continue to hold, and be held-down by, misinformation that seeks to divide us.

Below I've included some of my favorite truth-about-Columbus resoures - an article, video, and many images. Please share these resources with teachers, students, neighbors, classmates, parents/guardians, children, youth, co-workers, and others in your life. Please also leave comments with other resources that you've drawn upon and would like others to know about and share.

Columbus Day Celebration? Think Again article 

Reconsider Columbus Day!

In these time of racist anti-immigrant laws running rampant through our country and creating inSecure Communities, asking questions about who "belongs" here, whose land this is, the history that we're taught about the past and the present, becomes more and more important. Where are your ancestors from? If they are not indigenous to this land then how did they get here? Why did they come? How were they received? What laws discriminated against them or benefited them? What laws discriminate against you and your family and friends or benefit you and your loved ones? How many generations have you been on this land? How does the history of colonization in the US affect you? How do militarized borders affect you? What peoples in your communities are silenced due to racism, colonization, and militarized borders?

Please see previous Dandelioness Herbals blog post:
*(Im)migration and Lip Balms for Social Justice?!

Invaders Weekend/ Day of Indigenous Resistance additions:

Transform Columbus Day Alliance site.
Unitarian Universalist Associations' Indigenous Peoples Day site.
A Guide to Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day by Taylor Payer

Mural by: MEChA, University of Wyoming, from Frank's wall, depicting the effects of the invasion of Mexico by Spaniard Hernan Cortes. Effects which continue today across not only Mexico, but all of the Americas.

Venezuelans in Caracas tear down the statue of Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day and rename it the Day of Indigenous Resistance.


English-Only what?! Check out this map of the major linguistic groups in what is now known as North America (Canada, US, and Mexico) and the Caribbean.  (See 'So You Want to Learn Spanish?! Hooray! English-only, No Way!' post)

Additional Images and links posted Oct 2012 and 2015

1 comment:

  1. wow that map really got me. my heart is throbbing and eyes swelling look at it. Thank you so much for this post and thank you for being you. keep doing what your doing.