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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why Does the USA Honor Columbus with a Day?

By Evelyn Garcia (Taino) - reprinted with permission

Columbus Day is a federal holiday in the USA, but why? Why don’t seventeen states in the USA celebrate Columbus Day? Why do protestors turn up at every Columbus Day parade or event? Why is there so much confusion about this man and this holiday?

Anyone who has ever read the public school version of events knows that Columbus set sail in 1492 hoping to find new lands, gold, spices, a shorter route to India and personal recognition for himself. Columbus has gone down in history for discovering America. Never mind the fact that the land he stumbled upon was already occupied… he is still given credit for it, although obviously the people who lived on that land had discovered it themselves.

We call ourselves Americans and Columbus is given credit for discovering America. But, although some people refer to our country simply as America, the truth of the matter is we are the United States OF America . The Americas encompass 43 different countries from the northernmost reaches of Canada to the Southernmost tip of South America and all points in between. The points reached in The Americas by Columbus were the islands in the Caribbean. Columbus never actually set foot in any part of the land now referred to as the USA, so why does the USA have a holiday for him?

Even though Columbus never set foot in our country, we honor him with a holiday. But, there are seventeen states that do no celebrate it. WHY? Why are there always protestors at any event honoring Columbus? Why don’t our public (or government) schools teach the truth about this man? The answer to that can only be that seventeen states know the truth about Columbus that the public schools don’t teach and that is that Columbus was a land-stealing, slave-trading, murderer whose practices and policies set in motion of wave of genocide, colonialism and oppression against the indigenous peoples of the Americas that continues to this day.

Everyone has seen the infamous picture of Columbus’ first act in the Americas… he falls to his knees giving thanks to God as he plants the flag and claims the land for Spain while the people who live on that land peek at this strange event from behind the trees. Isn’t it strange that no one ever thinks to question that the land obviously already belonged to someone else?

The events that transpired from that moment on are truly despicable… On his first voyage in 1492, Columbus sailed with three ships; the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Columbus wrote in his journal that the people were strong and well-built and with 50 of his men he could enslave the entire population and force them to do as he commanded. He set out to do this and on his second voyage, he returned to the islands with many more ships and over 1700 men all looking to get rich quick. They brought cannons, swords, attack dogs. He forced the local Taino people to mine for gold for him. Those who refused were killed, those who did not meet the gold quotas set out for them had their hands cut off and were left to bleed to death. Women and children were raped. The people were tortured, starved and worked to death. Others were killed in horrific ways. They were cut in half with swords, torn apart by the starving attack dogs, burned alive and hung in groups of 13 representing the Savior and his apostles. Shiploads of Taino were taken to Spain to be sold for profit at the slave market in Seville, many of them died en route and their bodies were thrown overboard.

Other opportunists hoping to get rich quick, said it was possible to find their way to the Indies by following the trail of these bodies.

Columbus was the first slave trader in The Americas. Millions died as greed and brutality brought slavery, death and destruction to the Taino people and ultimately all native peoples of The Americas. Although the truth is known about the exploits of Columbus, the USA continues to allow this federal holy day in his honor.

Please investigate these facts for yourself and require your schools to teach the truth. Voice your disapproval with your local and state political representatives. Many people don’t want to give up their paid day off - I say let’s give it to someone who is worthy!

Evelyn is a great friend and ally. She lives in Washington state, in the last town before Canada. Here we are at the Bedford Pow Wow. I am between her and her partner, Joe. His family lives locally. They are Taino. That's my own cheerleader, Savannah.