Monday, October 10, 2005

happy subjugation of indigenous peoples day!

today is the day when we celebrate how christopher columbus "discovered" america. he is credited with this despite the fact that there were already people living there, and that the vikings had already "discovered" it centuries earlier, sort of how you tell your friends that you "discovered" this neat little cafe in that trendy neighborhood, where hundreds of people have already been eating for months. but "it's new to you" as they say in nbc marketing parlance, so you've "discovered" it.

columbus didn't even "prove" that the earth was round. educated people already knew this. but educated europeans didn't realize the earth was quite as big as it is, or that there were two large, inhabited continents to the west of europe.

what columbus did was sail to occupied land and begin to exploit and enslave the people who lived there. this is particularly egregious when you realize that columbus himself never even claimed to have discovered a new continent. he thought he was in india, which is why american indigenous people are still called "indians" to this day, and why my home state is called "indiana". he knew damn well what he was doing from the getgo: he planned to go to india and exploit indians. instead, he fucked up, went to the caribbean and south america, and exploited "indians".

why does a man like this deserve a national holiday? banks and federal offices are closed today. in past years, i'm pretty sure even i got columbus day off work a couple times (but not this year). if someone proposed a holiday to celebrate those slavers who sailed to africa, kidnapped african natives, and brought them stateside to sell, people would rightly flip out. so how is columbus any different?

some communities (berkeley is virago's favorite example) have replaced columbus day with indigenous peoples day, a holiday to celebrate the oppressed rather than the oppressor. i think that's pretty cool. but not here in indiana, the state that actually has "indian" in its name. maybe we should change the name of our state to indigenouspeoplesiana.


Jon Silpayamanant said...

We actually had a field day with this at the IMN board.

Mark MacIver said...

Actually, slavers did not have to go to Africa to "capture" people. They were sold by people who already lived there. African tribes routinely warred on one another, the norm was to take POWs as slaves. If they had more than they could use, they killed, or preferably sold them. This doesn't make slavers any less wrong.