Indigenous Peoples’ Day

I actually have no problem honoring Christopher Columbus. Even though he had no idea where he was going and didn’t know where he was when he got there, this is no different from countless other explorers and pioneers throughout history. Though I understand others’ doing so, I am not prepared to judge him by the standards of the 21st century or to lay at his feet the genocide of the indigenous peoples of this land after his “discovery” (really?) of America.

But Columbus certainly does not deserve an entire holiday dedicated to his memory when so many other explorers do not, and especially when there is not day set aside in our national calendar to those who first settled this part of the world and whose legacy has largely been forgotten and marginalized while we rhapsodize about the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

I have a wonderful tee shirt from the Native American museum in Phoenix which depicts four heroic looking “Indian” chiefs above the presidential busts on Mt. Rushmore (which Native peoples call, “white man’s graffiti!) and the caption reads: The Original Founding Fathers: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.  More significant is the quotation on the back of the shirt attributed only to a “Blackfoot Chief:”

“THE LAND…WAS PUT HERE FOR US BY THE GREAT SPIRIT AND WE CAN NOT SELL IT BECAUSE IT DOES NOT BELONG TO US.

YOU CAN COUNT YOUR MONEY AND BURN IT WITHIN THE NOD OF A BUFFALO’S HEAD, BUT ONLY THE GREAT SPIRIT CAN COUNT THE GRAINS OF SAND AND THE BLADES OF GRASS OF THESE PLAINS.

AS A PRESENT TO YOU WE WILL GIVE YOU ANYTHING WE HAVE THAT YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOU, BUT THE LAND —

NEVER!

Isn’t this a far more noble sentiment to think on today than the usual “Columbus Day” falsehoods?

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