Columbus v. Indigenous Peoples’ Day

a statue of Columbus at Columbus Circle at Columbus Avenue

indigenous peoplesIn May 2019, the Institute of History Archaeology and Education’s Peter Feinman started a series of articles about Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Part I was A Lose-Lose War.

He noted how, in April, New Mexico, Vermont, and Maine all joined “the growing number of cities, states, and municipalities that have renamed the October holiday for the people who lived in America long before the explorer arrived.”

Yet the pieces announcing these changes often “fail to note that the indigenous people presumably being lifted up have actual proper names, which are seldom mentioned.” Conversely, the pieces about the ditching of Columbus Day were usually not simple articles “of reporting. It mocked Columbus as well.” This was not helpful.

How did the Genoan sailing for Spain become “a revered figure in the first place?” There must have been “reasons to explain how this individual, sometimes in the masculine form and sometimes in the feminine form ‘Columbia’ became a symbol of the country, the capital city of the country, the name of cities, and the name of the renamed Kings College that Alexander Hamilton had attended.”

In Part II, Columbus and America, Feinman noted: “From the capital of the country to the unofficial anthems of the country to the symbol of the country to a big extravaganza celebration, Italian immigrants who wanted to become part of the melting pot as Americans saw the place of importance Columbus had in their new country.

The Italians [were not considered] white when they arrived. [They] and went back even further in time [than the Irish or Germans] to link themselves to the American experience: all the way to Columbus, a person they knew America already revered. Those efforts would take physical and calendric form.

“In conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition, New York City erected a statue of Columbus at Columbus Circle at Columbus Avenue. A commission of Italian businessmen from around the United States contributed 60% of the funding needed to build the statue…

“The Knights of Columbus, an international Roman Catholic fraternal benefit society, lobbied state legislatures to declare October 12 a legal holiday. Colorado was the first state to do so on April 1, 1907.

“New York declared Columbus Day a holiday in 1909 and on October 12, 1909, New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes led a parade that included the crews of two Italian ships, several Italian-American societies, and legions of the Knights of Columbus. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt designated Columbus Day (then celebrated October 12) a national holiday in 1934.”

Part III tackled The Meaning of “Indigenous” and how tricky it is to truly define.

“The debate over Columbus Day provides an opportunity to discuss a number of serious issues” that I think have been addressed in an oversimplified manner.

When I missed seeing John Lennon

I don’t what he said specifically that day, but we were all disappointed to miss it first-hand.

The new documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which I am watching, though not in real time, reminded me of the time I might have seen John Lennon but did not.

I have noted that I participated in a number of antiwar demonstrations between 1968 and 1974. (In 1967, it would not have occurred to me.) A few were in my hometown of Binghamton, NY, which got bigger and bigger as the war dragged on.

But most Vietnam prtook place while I was a student in New Paltz, NY, starting in 1971. A handful took place in town or around the area (Kingston, Poughkeepsie). But most were in New York City, with a fair number in Washington, DC.

It was at one of the New York City rallies – there were so many, I no longer remember when – that a bunch of us took a charter bus to New York City to stand up against what was the latest incursion. And after we rallied for a couple hours, we got the bus home.

Someone was listening to the rally on the radio – I’m guessing WBAI-FM, which makes sense, given its history. An organizer at the announced John Lennon and Yoko Ono, only ten minutes after we had reboarded the bus. We were still in Manhattan, but, of course, there was a schedule to keep.

I don’t what he said specifically that day – it was probably similar to the ideas expressed here – but we were all disappointed to miss it first-hand.

John Lennon’s struggle against war I thought was brave, not because he had been a Beatle, but because he was facing deportation from the United States because of what was likely was a bogus drug possession arrest and conviction in the UK a couple of years earlier.

Hmm – interesting how what would have been the the 77th birthday of John Lennon converges with the now-controversial celebration of Columbus Day, given the often xenophobic polices of the current regime.

Listen to:
Give Peace a Chance – Plastic Ono Band here or here.

Indigenous Peoples Day v. Columbus Day

Dumping Columbus Day seems unfortunate in that it becomes a zero-sum equation.

indianOctober 12, before the federal government turned it into a Monday holiday, was, Columbus Day in the US, to honor that guy “who sailed the ocean blue in 14 hundred 92.” However, several towns are instead celebrating Indigenous People’s Day.”

“For decades, celebrating ‘Columbus Day’ has been hotly debated. Many feel Christopher Columbus is largely responsible for the decimation of the Native Americans, and giving him a day of celebration just adds insult to injury.” In this blog, I’ve been supportive of this redesignation. Check out this article.

Still, I’m not quite sure if it’s the holiday one would really want. It seems to be mostly about sales, and a chance to get away and perhaps see the autumn colors before the cold weather comes.

Now, if there were some conversation about what Indigenous People means – see this video for a limited time, e.g. – maybe it’d be a more meaningful change. The Dakota Pipeline story was underreported because the Native Americans lack political muscle.

Still, dumping Columbus Day seems unfortunate in that it becomes a zero-sum equation: Indians, si, Italians, no. Columbus Day has always felt like some of those non-legal holiday celebrations, such as St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) for the suddenly Irish and Cinco de Mayo (May 5) for the ersatz Mexicans, only without all the alcoholic consumption. And there’s usually a parade!

But the Italian experience in America is interesting to me. As this article notes that when Columbus, who was Italian, but sailing for Spain arrived:

“We think of this day as when America became white. But nearly 400 years after Columbus, a large wave of Italians would arrive on American shores, and they would not be considered as such. The period between 1880-1920, known as ‘The Great Arrival,’ when at least three million Italians immigrated to the United States, created an era in which southern Italians had to become white.”

This is an interesting story, when, early on, they were considered black, especially in the South, and treated as such, which is to say, badly.

Maybe we can have some other, less polarizing, Italian-American’s birthday celebrated and learn more about our ever-changing country.

Not a drop to drink: Columbus/indigenous people day 2015

If it weren’t for Darlene Arviso, the “Water Lady”, there would be no potable water for these folks.

arviso_water4editIn the “THAT won’t happen” department: US should return stolen land to Indian tribes, says United Nations.

OK, so what does the US do? It needs to address some basic inequity. This is embarrassing, and uncivilized:

It’s easy to miss this corner of the Navajo Nation, just 100 miles west of Albuquerque. Most things pass the Reservation right by, including progress.
Many of the roads here are unpaved. Electricity is spotty. Unemployment in the area hovers near 70 percent.
But perhaps most shocking of all? An estimated 40 percent of the people who live here don’t have access to running water.

Continue reading “Not a drop to drink: Columbus/indigenous people day 2015”

Goodbye, Columbus?

jackson20Goodbye, Columbus – was that a Philip Roth novel or a song by the Association (#80 in 1969)? Ah, my annual ambivalence about Columbus Day.

This is related: did you ever wonder why Hispanic Heritage Month runs from mid-September to mid-October?

The reason why September 15 was chosen as the official start of the month was it is the anniversary of independence of a number of Latin American countries…

The 30-day celebration acknowledges the huge impact the Latino community has had on shaping the United States into the country it is today. From Christopher Columbus’ first contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas in 1492, to the Spanish colonies of the West to the fortress of St. Augustine, Florida — the oldest continuous European settlement in North America – founded in 1565, decades before Jamestown, Virginia.

Hispanics have been in this country longer than anyone beside Native Americans.

I’ve written before that while Columbus’ voyages started a chain of events that were often obviously terrible for American Indians, slapping ALL the blame on him individually seems unmeasured. Though, if the Seattle School Board wants to observe ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ on the Columbus holiday, that’s fine by me.

On the other hand, if you wanted to dump Andrew Jackson from the $20, I could definitely go for that. An ad for a book I have not read – An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz:

[She] adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.

He is arguably the most shameful American.

I do like this:
From Etsy’s Bold Statement – No More Redsk*ns powwows: “Another small victory for the Change the Mascot movement. Effective immediately Etsy will no longer allow any item to be sold via their website that includes the Washington NFL team’s logo or the term Redsk*ns.”

A down payment at least: U.S. To Pay Navajo Nation $554 Million in Largest Single Tribe Settlement in History.

This is an ad about indigenous Australians, but the sentiments are applicable much more widely.