Friday, October 13, 2006

Cday- 2 articles.

The Historical Debt to Native People Has Still
Not Been Paid
The Myth Keepers of Columbus

In 1993, 500 years after European invaders of the Americas had brought the first Native Americans to Europe in chains, my plane landed in Barcelona, Spain, I had been invited to the International Cultural Symposium to speak on behalf of Leonard Peltier . The day after my arrival, I took a walk down their famous Rambler to the Placa del Portal de la Pau where I ran head long into a monument of Christopher Columbus. Build for the World Exhibition in 1888, the iron column is an impressive 197 feet tall and weighs 205 tons. On top the column stands a 26 foot statue of Columbus with head sculptured high, positioned to face out over its outstretched arm, with finger pointing over the Mediterranean sea and out to the distant horizon toward the Americas. As I moved around its base I discovered a series of relief’s depicting the “new lands.” What I saw was not the innocence that had been carved, but instead the first stages of colonization, the rape and plunder of the land and people of the Americas.
The popular fallacy is that Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy. At age 14 he became a sailor, shipwrecked off of Portugal in 1470, he remained until his idea to sail west to India, known then as “Hindustan,” was financed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in 1492.[Prior to his voyages west, he traded African slaves for the Portugese] He reached the Bahamas on October 12th, visited Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti), where he left a small colony before returning to Spain on March 15th, 1493 bringing with him six captive Taino people, taken from the Caribbean islands, who were presented to Ferdinand and Isabella in the royal court of Barcelona as proof of his travel. A painting that today hangs in (government building) show the Taino people at the feet of the king and queen in servile postures of slaves. The six Tainos never saw home again, their spirits still linger in the streets of Barcelona.
In his delirium Columbus thought he landed in Paradise. He wrote in his journal that Taínos had beautiful, tall, slender olive bodies.
They wore short haircuts with a long hank at the back of the head.
They were clean-shaven and hairless. According to Columbus the Taíno tongue was “gentle, the sweetest in the world, always with a laugh.”
Friendly relations did not last long, many Tainos were beaten and murdered. The Spanish brought diseases with them that the Tainos lacked immunity to. The weapons that the Spanish were far superior to the Tainos. An estimated fifty thousand Tainos perished within two years of Columbus landing. The Spanish jammed more then five hundred Taino prisoners into a boat for Spain. They became homeless in their own land. They were devastated by abuse, starvation, and disease. Life was never the same for Indians of the Americas after 1492. Puerto Rico, an Island once occupied by Tainos were almost wiped out within two decades.
With the arrival of Columbus begin the onslaught of genocide in the Americas that Europeans only whisper about. The legacy of Columbus has kept Native Americans at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
Population surveys of the Americas estimates that at the time Columbus stumbled onto the Americas 100 million people inhabited it, a count far greater then that of all Europe in those times. More then 10 million resided in the United States, today less then a million remain in the United States. Many tribes have long become decimated and extinct.
The myth that continues to be propagated is that Native Americans were savages and the civilization brought by Europeans saved them. Reality is that the foods, medicines and political structures of Native Nations in the Americas not only saved Europeans from constant famine in Europe but also taught them much about freedom and democracy, later adopted by the forefathers of Euro Americans. The model of Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee, also known as the League of Peace and Power) enabled the United States to form in part its constitution which, thanks to President Bush’s Patriot Act, is well on the road to become myth. Today, the myth of democracy, has become a perverted tool to dominate, subjugate and colonize other countries around the world such as Iraq and Palestine.
The United States held their first celebration of the “discovery of America” in New York, on October 12, 1792. At that time the only statue of Columbus in existence was in New York.
In 1876, Italian
Americans of Philadelphia erected a statue of Columbus in Fairmount Park. In 1905 Italian Americans in Denver, Colorado were the first to observe Columbus Day. It was not until September 1934 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it national holiday. Finally, Columbus Day became a federal legal holiday in 1971 after lobbying from the National Columbus Day Committee. Columbus Day or “El Dia de la Raza” has brought a wave of dissent across the United States and Canada by many Native Americans who feel that it perpetuates a myth that breeds bias and racism toward them.
Since 1970 Native Americans have gathered to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving in remembrance of the genocide of millions of Native Peoples, theft of Native lands and the relentless assault on Native cultures since Columbus open the flood gates to European invasions of the Americas. It is curious that Columbus Day is, except for religious holidays, the only historical event which all Pan-American countries celebrate.
Since 1989 the Colorado AIM chapter has lead a protest against the Columbus Day Parade in Denver declaring, “As the original people of this land, we cannot and will not, tolerate social and political festivities that celebrate our genocide. We are committed to the active, open and public rejection of disrespect and racism in its various forms---including Columbus Day and Columbus Day Parades.” For these last 17 years they have tried to educate the general public about their feelings for Columbus Day; they have protested, blockaded and gone to jail for their efforts to stop this parade of indoctrinated myth keepers.
The issue of Columbus and Columbus Day is not easily resolvable in a society spoon feed on its propaganda of myths and historical lies that propagate the idea that Europeans were a superior race of two legged homo sapiens that came to save the Indians from their barbaric ways.
The Europeans who came and settled invented and schooled the myth that they had created the New World by their imaged “discovery, “ just as they had come to create the creation myth of its origins known as the “Bearing Strait Theory.” Native Americans just had to have come from somewhere, but not the western hemisphere.
What good does Columbus Day contribute by celebrating racist propaganda and myths that perpetuate genocide in institutions of education. Nazi Germany is perfect example of where such false, racist and opportunistic ideas lead. The most popularly believed myth of scholars is that native Americans were Jews.
Louis Hennepin, in his
New Discovery of a Vast Country in America wrote, “These savages originally sprung from the Jews,” because they lived “in a form of tents, like as did Jews” and they are “subtle and crafty as Jews.”
The first thought that crept to mind was that the encounter with the statue of Columbus must represent some sort of warning and I had better watch my step. Sure enough in 1996 I was teased back to Barcelona, Spain where I began a new life out of the reach of the FBI and the emergence of fascist rumblings in the States.
Europe too, I felt, had a historical debt and there was social need to transmit that Indian cultures had not been completely destroyed. We still existed despite 500 years of genocide and so I founded an AIM museum to bring awareness of it to Europeans so that they would not forget.
Robert Robideau is Co Director Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. He can be reached at:

Denver Columbus Day Confronted with Marches & Encampment
Colorado AIM Calls for Support to Halt Celebration of Genocide in 2007
Klee Benally, Indigenous Action Media

Denver, CO - Indigenous Peoples and their allies gathered in Denver, Colorado to confront the celebration of Christopher Columbus, one of the most infamous symbols of colonization, genocide, and slavery.
Hundreds of people from throughout the country participated in peaceful events organized by the Transform Columbus Day Alliance, which has been protesting the Columbus Day Parade in Denver since 1989.
According to the Alliance’s website, “The celebration of Columbus is the veneration of colonialism, conquest, and genocide. As people of conscience, we must move our society closer to the democratic values of equality for all, through historical accuracy, justice in the judicial and political processes of the country, and respect for diverse peoples and cultures.” On the night of October 6th, the Four Directions March brought together people of all nations. From the East, South, West and North the marches wound through downtown Denver with participants singing traditional tribal songs, holding colorful signs and wearing colors representing four directions. The four marches converged at Veteran’s Park in front of the state’s capitol building. Prayers were offered and representatives from the American Indian Movement of Colorado and local tribes expressed their concerns with the celebration of Columbus Day, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sacred sites protection and ongoing struggles for Indigenous People’s rights.
“Sure there is some anger in our hearts.” Said Dr. George Tinker from the Osage Nation. “There can’t be help but be anger at the injustice in the world around us, at the power mongering that goes on in political places like the Governor’s office in this state and the Mayor’s office in this town. They’ve had 17 years to deal with the reality we’ve brought in each protest. We have a right to feel some anger, use that anger, hold on to it make it work in a good way, in a gentle way, in a nonviolent way. That’s why we’re here. We stand for peace!”
Glen Spagnuolo, a member of the group Progressive Italians to Transform the Columbus Holiday, urged for peaceful action against the parade and called for support to halt the 100th year of the Columbus Day celebration in 2007. He called for groups from throughout the country to join in efforts to stop next year’s parade. “All gloves are off” he stated.

Although signs were posted saying, “No camping or sleeping”. an “All Nations Camp” was established at the Veteran’s park with a teepee and over a dozen tents.
Glenn Morris, member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado proclaimed, “This now is a liberated zone. This now is a piece of freedom in the middle of Denver. Tonight this is a free community of free people who have a different vision for this city and this state and this country.” He presented permits for the camp obtained from the Cheyenne and Ogalala Nations.
Initially law enforcement officials stated that anyone remaining in the park after an 11:00 p.m. curfew would be evicted, but there were no incidents. The encampment was granted an overnight permit by the city in an email just the night before, which was neither requested nor acknowledged by the organizers.
“We don’t need the permission of this city to occupy land that does not belong to them in the first place.” Said Mano Andrews, a volunteer street medic and organizer. “’Granting’ us permit to sleep here in no way exempts government officials from the fact that this is Indian land, treaties here were broken, and there is a responsibility to recognize that as one of the many horrors of Columbus’ legacy, and to take a stand to abolish this holiday. It is time the officials that condone this barbaric holiday take the same responsibility to denounce the Indian killer Columbus.”
Food Not Bombs brought a mobile bus with a kitchen to freely feed people, street medics cared for everyone from local homeless to young children while Copwatch and Legal Observers patrolled the area to ensure that rights were upheld. Police presence was minimal, across the street from the park several cops were stationed in SUVs and bike cops and unmarked cars patrolled the area occasionally.
A ceremonial fire was lit and tended to throughout the night and at around 4:00 a.m. police barricades were set up around a small portion of the parade route.
The sunrise was welcomed with a prayer circle and traditional singing.

Before the parade began, dozens of police with riot gear lined the street, protesters assumed their positions with signs along the barricade and a handful of Columbus supporters clenched small Italian and American Flags. Although it was a sunny day, an eerie silence echoed through the downtown area away from the park as only a handful of people watched the parade.
In a display that only fueled the tension between people in the parade and protesters, the Sons of Italy’s Columbus Day Parade began with the mounted Calvary from Fort Carson’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The 3rd Colorado Calvary is infamous for its role in the 1864 “Sand Creek Massacre” In which hundreds of Cheyennes and Arapahos including women and children were killed and mutilated, while the Calvary reportedly paraded scalps and other body parts, including human fetuses and genitalia through the streets of Denver.
Harsh comments were yelled from both sides as motorcycles in the parade attempted to drown out but only compounded the intensity.
The Sons of Italy punctuated the parade with additional messages of intolerance. Vehicles displaying slogans such as, “Homosexuality is a sin that will kill” and “Stop gay marriage” ended the procession.
In contrast to previous years that have been marked by more direct confrontation (two years of the protests have seen numerous arrests) no one attempted to physically block the parade.

Related links:

More photos at:
Calvary photo by Richard Myers ( - Independent Indigenous


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