October 09, 2010

Columbus the cannibal

Columbus Day Celebration? Think Again...

By Thom HartmannDr. Jack Forbes, Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California at Davis and author of the brilliant book "Columbus and Other Cannibals," uses the Native American word w?tiko (pronounced WET-ee-ko) to describe the collection of beliefs that would produce behavior like that of Columbus. W?tiko literally means "cannibal," and Forbes uses it quite intentionally to describe these standards of culture: we "eat" (consume) other humans by destroying them, destroying their lands, taking their natural resources, and consuming their life-force by enslaving them either physically or economically. The story of Columbus and the Taino is just one example.

We live in a culture that includes the principle that if somebody else has something we need, and they won't give it to us, and we have the means to kill them to get it, it's not unreasonable to go get it, using whatever force we need to.
And:This w?tiko type of theft and warfare is practiced daily by farmers and ranchers worldwide against wolves, coyotes, insects, animals and trees of the rainforest; and against indigenous tribes living in the jungles and rainforests. It is our way of life. It comes out of our foundational cultural notions. So it should not surprise us that with the doubling of the world's population over the past 37 years has come an explosion of violence and brutality, and as the United States runs low on oil, we are now fighting wars in oil-rich parts of the world.

That is, after all, our history, which we celebrate on Columbus Day. It need not be our future.
Comment:  We make a fetish out of eating human flesh, which some indigenous tribes apparently did. But they'd be much more appalled at our clearcutting whole forests or exterminating whole species. Why is one act "immoral" or "evil" but not the other? Because our culture arbitrarily says so.

For more on the subject, see Why We Believe in Columbus and What a Native Utopia Looks Like.

P.S. The "?" stands for a character that isn't readable. I don't know what it's supposed to be.

Below:  Let's kill all the buffalo...because they're there!


Scott said...

Which tribes were cannibals supposedly? I hope you don't believe in that absurd Man Corn book.

dmarks said...

I've never heard of Man Corn. But I have read old accounts of the Winnebago.

Rob said...

Scott is referring to this book:


I haven't read Man Corn, which sounds like a stupid title. I was referring to claims such as these:


Q: Were Native Americans cannibals?

A: Not for the most part, no, but there were some groups who were. The Aztecs were notorious for ritual cannibalism (warriors would eat a strip of flesh from enemies they had slain in combat). Some people dispute this, but the Aztecs' own written and oral histories seem to support it as the truth. The Karankawa tribe of southeast Texas was also said to practice ritual cannibalism on defeated enemies. There were a few Amazonian tribes who practiced funerary cannibalism (family and friends would eat part of a dead tribal member's body as a religious ceremony at the funeral). Finally, the Carib people of South America were said to kill and eat prisoners of war, though it's been pointed out that the Spaniards who made this claim were lining their own pockets by doing so (Queen Isabella had forbidden her subjects from selling Africans, or Indians, as slaves unless they were cannibals).