October 07, 2006

The Columbus attitude

Columbus Day no reason to celebrateThe Columbus attitude has justified U.S-Indian policy all the way from stolen lands and broken treaties to recent attacks on tribal sovereignty and the failure to make good on Indian trust funds.

Currently, mainstream America has a "just get over it" attitude to native peoples, dismissing our grievances as political correctness gone awry. But in the recent words of an elder, "If the shoe were on the other foot, Americans would carry laminated copies of their ancestors' treaties until they got their just dues."

Asking the U.S. government to abandon Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day is akin to asking for a sea change in the national psychology. It demands a soul-searching objectivity that is simply too threatening to the mainstream culture and economy.


Kai said...

Recently, I made a comment to a coworker about Columbus Day. (I was annoyed because that morning I'd watched the news, and during a commercial, I'd heard a furniture salesman telling the public to 'be sure & cash in on the great Columbus Day Specials'! WHAT? Are they selling Pinta patio sets? Nina nightstands? Good grief!) Anyway, she stared at me for a second then answered, "Well, it may be silly to talk about ads in reference to Columbus, but I don't understand why you Indians get so irate about a once-a-year, one-day tribute to a great discoverer. (Sic) For God's sake, Kai. You people have all of NOVEMBER for yourselves." And off she went in a self-righteous huff. ALL OF NOVEMBER? Can it REALLY be that people consider Thanksgiving OUR holiday? They still want to parade us thru' the pilgrim line and call it even for every injustice they've ever visited on us? It infuriates me. I think I may have to go buy myself a Santa Marie sofa and lie down and sulk. Columbus - BAH!

Rob said...

Good joke, especially if you came up with it spontaneously.

The coworker may have been thinking of Native American Heritage Month (November), which includes Thanksgiving. But that isn't comparable to Columbus Day since it's not a holiday.

Rob said...

I've read about pre-Columbians coming to the Americas, but not about Columbus finding their artifacts. Wikipedia and other sites confirm this point:



Interestingly, Bartolomé de las Casas quotes Columbus speculating on the African origin of Indian cloth. So even back then, people were aware that Columbus probably wasn't the first. This is another reason to demote him from "discoverer" status and remove or rename his holiday.

Incidentally, Ports O' Call is in San Pedro, not Long Beach. I know because I grew up nearby on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.