From: Deanne Sczepanski
Over 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus got lost, winding up in what is now the Bahamas. The native people of the islands were the Taino-Arawak who appeared to be red as they gathered along the shore at sunset, in awe of the big ships that were coming in. They were attracted to the sailors’ shining swords. When one was handed to them, the natives cut their hands on it, not recognizing it was a weapon, as they had none. Columbus recorded in his journal that night, “They do not bear arms and do not know them … They would make fine servants. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Columbus took 250 Natives back to Spain, putting them to hard labor. Within a year, all were dead. Columbus returned, deciding to put more to labor there. Within 20 years, the population went from 8 million to 28,000.
Bartolome de Las Casas recorded Columbus’ return, “And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor the pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags. Some were snatched by the arms and thrown into the river to the chant: ‘Boil there, you offspring of the devil!’ They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victims’ feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of 13, in memory of our Redeemer and His 12 apostles, then setting burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them around the victims’ neck saying, ‘Go now, carry the message,’ meaning: take the news to those who have fled to the mountains.” These people are now extinct.
In the late 1800s the federal government of North America issued a proclamation stating that the savages to be exterminated were actually “human beings with a soul.” Therefore, no county was to pay bounties on Native scalps any longer, as they paid on nuisance animal pelts.
American Indian Movement founder Bill Means recalled the Longest Walk from Alcatraz to Washington, D.C., on February 11, 1978, to bring international attention to proposed federal legislation to terminate all Indian treaties, resulting in the loss of tribal sovereignty, tribal identity, and tribal lands. He said the arrival of Columbus to the Americas is not a day of celebration. Columbus didn’t discover anything; he just got lost.
In South Dakota on October 9, 2017, they celebrated the first Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders’ Day. Belfast became the first city in Maine to make the change to Indigenous People’s Day in 2015. The Bangor, Maine, City Council approved the change. The states of Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont don’t recognize Columbus Day.
I would ask school administrators to discourage classroom costumes of Indians and Pilgrims, especially through October and November.