Since 1937, the United States has been given the closest Monday to the 12th of October to celebrate Christopher Columbus. Today, I won’t go to the bank and there will be no mail in my lock-box. Some of you have children off of school, though our district is in full session. All to commemorate the man who discovered our country.
Or the man who helped to wipe out entire indigenous tribes once he found Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In fourteen-hundred and ninety two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
These two lines are the extent of what a lot of Americans know about Christopher Columbus. It’s all I remember from my own elementary school days. Even in my beginning years of teaching, October was the month of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria art projects and crossword puzzles.
In fact, it wasn’t until the last few years substitute teaching and then home-schooling when I really began doing research on who discovered what. Imagine this: people already lived in North America and South America long, long, LONG before any European showed up. I guess this land didn’t really need discovering, huh?
Luckily for Columbus, he landed near the home of the Taino, a peaceful tribe. Had he instead landed on an island nearby, he would have met the Caribs – warriors who probably would have killed ol’ Chris then and there.
Instead, Columbus and his troop set up shop in the Dominican Republic, accepted help from the native peoples, and then killed, raped, enslaved, and left disease folk behind. Not right away, mind you. This happened over a few years and at least four voyages to and from Spain.
So you’ll forgive me if I’m not shouting Yay, Chris! in today’s parade.
I don’t mean for this post to be a high school term paper. But I would love for you to spend a few moments researching a bit of history for yourselves.
Maybe you’ll find information to refute my beliefs.
Maybe you’ll learn something new.
Maybe you’ll encourage your hometown to follow Seattle’s lead and use the day to honor indigenous citizens.
How cool would it be if we could actually come up with a way to use October 12 as an awareness day to help existing tribes with their many oppressions; poverty, alcoholism, and cultural disconnection to name a few.
If you have today off, why don’t you spend some time educating yourselves instead of heading to the nearest department store sale. Honor those who deserve to be honored.
Resources to check out:
Wiconi International (The work of Richard Twiss, rest his soul)
The Oatmeal Comic, Columbus Day (warning – it’s simple, but graphic)
What’s your view on the subject of this Federal Holiday? Comment below to get this conversation started.