Today is Columbus Day! Any school child in the United States can tell you that this holiday celebrates the historic events of 1492 when Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas while trying to find a route to South Asia. I choose to remember more historically accurate details like the fact that before Columbus, Leif Ericson of Scandinavia found the Eastern shores of North America and even earlier than that some crazy people materialized on that continent to “discover” it. The other important fact to remember, one which is consistently overlooked in elementary schools in the US, is the fact that the “discovery” of the Americas by Columbus lead to the genocide of numerous cultures that were indigenous to North America. That is why I refer to this particular day as “Rape and Pillage of Indigenous Peoples Day.”
We should all remember to do our best to evoke the spirit of the day. As this photo asks us to do, take a moment to imagine how your life would be changed if someone had the power to just walk into the place you call home, claim it as their own, insist they know better, and kill you off if you don’t agree. Most Americans would insist that this kind of behavior is the exact opposite of what the US stands for, but we could hardly claim any of the land of the United State if it were not true.
So on this Columbus Day (or Thanksgiving Day as our neighbor to the north, Tam, calls it!), please remember the languages, peoples and cultures that have been lost for all time due to the discovery of North America by Christopher Columbus. Not all discovery need lead to destruction, but all discovery is the opportunity for collaboration and growth.