Truth Be Told

I am currently writing a book about the Doctrine of Discovery along with Dr. Soong-Chan Rah. There is a crowdfunding campaign to support the writing process with reward levels that includes SIGNED COPIES of the book once it is released! Click here for more information.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why America Needs to Remember Columbus Day

There is a movement across the country to re-appropriate Columbus Day as a Native American Heritage Day or Indigenous Peoples Day. Cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and others have begun this trend, and I am sure other municipalities will soon follow suit.  However, as a native man, I am wary of such actions. Please don't get me wrong. I am all for honoring the native peoples and Indigenous hosts of Turtle Island, but I am hesitant to do so on October 12.

You CANNOT discover lands that are already inhabited. But that is exactly what Christopher Columbus, the nations of Europe, early American colonists, and the United States of America purported to do! 

I am often invited to speak on this topic, and, to demonstrate my point, I ask members of the audience to put their wallets, money clips, smart phones, or purses out in front of them, so that I may walk by and "discover" these items.

The idea that Christopher Columbus "discovered" America is a racist colonial concept that assumes the dehumanization of native peoples. 

Some Americans are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of celebrating Columbus Day. However, when you are a citizen of a nation that believes in its own exceptionalism, you can only celebrate. There is no room for mourning and admitting the fact that you, and your founding fathers, were wrong.  But that is exactly what the United States needs to do.

Schools in Germany are required to teach the holocaust, so that they will never repeat it. If America does not keep its unjust history in front of itself, it will never learn, never grow, and never mature. If America merely replaces the celebration of its racist roots of discovery, with another celebration, it is destined to repeat its failures.


So I propose that we keep October 12 as Columbus Day but turn it into a day of honest education, deep reflection, and national mourning. A day to remind ourselves that October 12, 1492 was the first day of 500 years of dehumanization, theft, war, genocide and even extinction for countless tribes, languages, cultures, and for millions and millions of people.  This was a day when the nations of Europe, colonists, and the United States of America got it wrong.



Mark Charles
Navajo

4 comments:

Mark Charles said...

There is a movement across the country to re-appropriate Columbus Day as a Native American Heritage Day or Indigenous Peoples Day. Cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and others have begun this trend, and I am sure other municipalities will soon follow suit. However, as a native man, I am wary of such actions. Please don't get me wrong. I am all for honoring the native peoples and Indigenous hosts of Turtle Island, but I am hesitant to do so on October 12.

Duane Clinker said...

Mark writes:

"Some Americans are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of celebrating Columbus Day. However, when you are a citizen of a nation that believes in its own exceptionalism, you can only celebrate. There is no room for mourning and admitting the fact that you, and your founding fathers, were wrong. But that is exactly what the United States needs to do."

I am a non-native person and I believe Mark is absolutely right. It is one of the reasons that I, as a pastor, demanded that the American flag not be displayed on an altar or in the front of a room for worship. Repentance will be required for true social liberation in America.

But now the question for any who seek to support a project of true liberation in America is, "how?" How can repentance happen among people who believe that America is somehow better than other nations? It can't happen without A LOT of struggle. Celebrating Columbus Day as a Day of Remembrance is an appropriate strategy at some stage - perhaps. But, a liberated society cannot be consolidated i suspect without the abolition of celebration in any sense of those like Columbus upon whose name an empire of slavery and oppression was built. Seeking to find ways to re-appropriate oppressive celebrations - hopefully on the way to liberation - is one thing. But, a whole reconstituted, non-oppressive society in this land will require more. The roots of the theology of discovery have to be dug out. We must be careful to do more than rename them. New doors must be opened and new heroes celebrated I think. We have a long way to go.

Iris Carufel said...

Wow this was interesting. I have never thought about this in this light. It reminds me a bit of colorblind racism with the idea of covering something up so we don't have to look at its "ugliness".

Anonymous said...

Cristóbal Colón es una persona muy controvertido y todos mis compañeros de clase tenían opiniones muy diferentes. Dependiendo de donde eres un individual podría pensar en cosas diferentes sobre Colón. Por ejemplo algunos de mis compañeros de clase de Europa aprendieron diferentes hechos en la escuela. Algunos piensan que Colón estaba haciendo su trabajo pero creo que lo que hizo fue terrible.
Una cuestión que discutimos era “Que te parece que se celebre su día?”. Una persona hizo el punto de que Colón no navegar a América por lo tanto, que en realidad no descubrir América. También Cristóbal Colón mató a miles de personas nativas en la tierra que les pertenecía. En la película Tambien la lluvia hay director de cine y él y su equipo crean una película sobre la colonización por Colón. La historia filman tanto como la trama general muestra cómo la gente nativa a menudo son tratados. La gente nunca parecen preocuparse por la gente especialmente porque Colón era una persona muy egoísta. A veces había personajes egoístas en la película también y que sólo estaban preocupados por la filma. Esta película y la historia de Colón nos enseña a recordar siempre que hay muchas personas en este mundo.