Indigenous Peoples Day

So today is Columbus day. School holiday and anniversary of my first and thankfully forgotten marriage . Nefarious to say the least. When you mention Columbus to the average American, they always break out in this calm smirk, “Oh, he discovered America”. I think this holiday represents one of the key brainwashing points of our education. We were told only niceties about Columbus. Consider that the entire teaching about Columbus is wrapped up in the lyrics that I have reproduced below. This ditty has been stuck in my head since childhood.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two  Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain; He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day; He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know  How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;  Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep; And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land; They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true, You never saw a happier crew!
“Indians!  Indians!”  Columbus cried; His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But “India” the land was not; It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice; They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold To bring back home, as he’d been told.
He made the trip again and again, Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American?  No, not quite. But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

This represents just about everything we were taught in school about Columbus. It took a long time for me to research the real story. I think it was provoked by a Calypso song I heard on the radio. “You may like Columbus, but he is no friend of mine”

Columbus and his beloved discovery

Columbus and his beloved discovery

Hmm. Somehow our Caribbean neighbors have a whole different attitude about our continents’ discoverer. It occurred to me eventually that my understanding of history was pretty skewed. I had to admit to myself that I had not really learned history, and that my knowledge was extremely spotty. In fact, I knew nothing, had learned nothing about American history, or world history in my education. So one day I was speaking to a business associate about this, and he recommended The Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn. As I was on a trip to Europe at the time, I took the book with me and I remember laying down one evening, opening the book in a Swiss hotel, and there on the very first page were words from Columbus’ own diary. It, in fact expressed his immediate intention to harvest the island he landed on, for slaves.

Great read and eye opening it was. As I am now married to a Jamaican, I can tell you that Columbus is definitely no friend of mine or our household. Subsequently I read more books, especially an account of all four voyages, Columbus: His Enterprise: Exploding the Myth by Hans Konig The thing that stood out in this account was that of Columbus’ third voyage. Much of the material is from his diary as well as his brother Bartholomew who was the ship jounalist. Columbus’ own son kept a journal and was on the voyage as well. It was a family affair. It seems that Columbus had gone rogue. Below is a bit from Wikepedia which refers to him setting up Governorship on Hispanola (Haiti):

The native Taino people of the island were systematically enslaved and murdered. Hundreds were rounded up and shipped to Europe to be sold; many died en route. For the rest of the population, Columbus demanded that all Taino under his control should bring the Spaniards gold. Those who didn’t were to have their hands cut off. Since there was, in fact, little gold to be had, the Taino fled, and the Spaniards hunted them down and killed them. The Taino tried to mount a resistance, but the Spanish weaponry was superior, and European diseases ravaged their population. In despair, the Taino engaged in mass suicide, even killing their own children to save them from the Spaniards. Within two years, half of what may have been 250,000 Taino were dead. The remainder were taken as slaves and set to work on plantations, where the mortality rate was very high. By 1550, 60 years after Columbus landed, only a few hundred Taino were left on their island. In another hundred years, perhaps only a handful remained.

I have compared the scene where the Spaniards had sent an armada to arrest Columbus, who had set himself up as Governor of this carnage, to the Marlon Brando character in Apocalypse Now. If this was shot honestly as a movie, it would be downright surreal. Francis Ford Coppola would have to direct. Anthony Hopkins as Columbus. Ok, I am no Hollywood agent. The Horror!

Now we can say that discovery of these lands was inevitable. the trade winds that allowed the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria to cross the Atlantic, would have been discovered in due course. Explorers were already lining up to aid in the quest for power in Europe. But to celebrate this day as a happy occasion is extremely naive. It was a rude awakening to realize that I had not learned a thing in school, and it was only my own curiosity that got me to learn. My own interest. (Another book I recommend is 1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann.)

I am no historian. I am just a curious and interested participant in life. It is my belief that everyone is. But it is time to shake the bullshit from your eyelids. Be curious about the world around you and do not take anything for granted. Especially the motivation behind our silly national holidays.


5 Comments on “Indigenous Peoples Day”

  1. Diane Zeines says:

    What’s even sadder is that the Italian people now celebrate Columbus Day as Italian Pride Day. I don’t think Columbus is someone to be proud of.

    • bzeines says:

      The truth is that Columbus could not get funded by Italy so he went to Spain. All his voyages were financed by Spain. And he died in Spain, poor and mentally deranged.

  2. Larry Schwartz says:

    Here ya go. Some reasons why our history about Christopher Columbus reads as it does:

    • bzeines says:

      David Wuhl gives a great show and a great lecture. Makes perfect sense. Of course now we live in an age of information and so much fact is available. But as I learned recently from a KGB brainwash expert, if you tell the lie long enough, even if you show people the body, they still do not believe it is dead. We know enough now that the media, and especially our teachers , can dispense with these myths because they are not useful anymore. There is no beneficial agenda, at least not for us. In order for us to form a better, more efficient community for all people, in essence, a society, the we have to let go of these myths and view the reality. Fantasy is costing US too much.

  3. […] not really want to chat about Columbus. I did that two years ago on this blog in an article called “Indigenous Peoples Day.” I am kind of done with […]

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