Monday, October 10, 2005

Indigenous Peoples Day

Even in jail the propaganda of how Columbus had discovered America is being perpetuated in the classroom. The teacher called him the world's greatest business man because he was able to accumulate wealth for his descendants.

So the message for the students: it's okay to lie, exploit, enslave, and colonize poeple in the pursuit of personal wealth. Because 500 years later he still gets honored.

Thank goodness for historian and author Howard Zinn who depicts the often neglected facts of American history in his book A People's History of the United States!

No doubt Columbus was a historical figure, but let's teach all the facts.

Let's honor those generous native people who are often forgotten.


Blogger Right Wing Nut said...

Columbus does deserve to be recognized, but not because he was able to accumulate wealth. His achievement was pioneering the exploration and development of the Americas by the Europeans. That's not to say that without him, America would be controlled by various Indian tribes today. It really was just a matter of time before the Europeans arrived in the Americas and Columbus accelerated the entire process.

I don't understand why anyone would like to romanticize the pre-European Indian existence. Living as a hunter or farmer is a difficult existence. That's why regardless of your location in the world, people prefer to migrate from rural areas to urban areas where there are more opportunities for entertainment and employment.

Did your family come to the US to share a life with Indians on the reservation or to take advantage of the economic and education opportunities that were created by a political, social and economic system implemented by descendents of the Europeans? I would suspect the latter.

11:47 AM  
Blogger frank0000 said...

right... so genocide of the indigenous people, the slave trade, and worldwide U.S. imperialism should all be forgotten because of the "development of the americas by the europeans." seems to me like this "development" is really backwards.

Its not romanticizing pre-European civilizations by saying that Europeans such as Columbus caused them great harm, in this case genocide.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Right Wing Nut said...

I don't exactly see a stream of people lining up for a return to pre-Columbian America.

Also, what genocide are you talking about? I certainly don't recall Columbus setting up death camps and gassing millions of Indians to death.

9:38 AM  
Blogger frank0000 said...

"Columbus' voyage was financed by the Spanish monarchy. Spain was then a newly unified nation-state in competition with other European powers to expand its domain and amass great wealth. The purpose of his expedition was to establish an alternative trade route to the East and return with riches. Gold and silver were of particular interest to Columbus.

When he landed in the islands now known as the Bahamas, Columbus encountered the Arawak Indians, whose kindness and generosity he noted in his journal and letters. Columbus quickly took a group of Arawaks captive, hoping they could lead him to gold. He then sailed to Hispaniola-Haiti and the Dominican Republic-where he enslaved even more Indians.

After returning to Spain and reporting on the incredible wealth in the islands of the "New World," the monarchs gave Columbus 17 ships and more than 1,200 men to plunder the Caribbean. His new expedition went from island to island gathering slaves and gold with unprecedented brutality.

Opening the continent to slavery

Columbus was the first European slave trader in the Americas. He sent more slaves across the Atlantic Ocean than any individual of his time-about 5,000.

He and his men captured and enslaved the Arawak people almost as soon as they landed. Some were sent to Spain and others served Columbus on the islands. In 1496, Columbus jubilantly wrote Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella about the possibilities for exploitation in the West Indies: "In the name of the Holy Trinity, we can send from here all the slaves and brazil wood which could be sold."

In Hispaniola, Columbus and the Spanish set up a system that made every Indian over the age of 14 responsible for gathering a certain amount of gold each month. They received copper tokens to hang around their necks if they succeeded. If an Indian was caught without a token, the Spanish cut off their hands and let them bleed to death.

Such murder and torture occurred frequently because the Spanish wildly overestimated how much gold existed on the island. Gathering enough gold to satisfy the Spanish conquerors was an impossible task.

When it became clear there was no more gold to take, the Spanish started a form of plantation slavery, known as the ecomienda system. This system thrived by working Indian slaves to death on large, privately owned estates. Indian slave labor was later used in gold and silver mines.

Sexual slavery was also widespread among the Spanish settlers. In 1500, Columbus wrote: "A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand."

Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Spanish priest sympathetic to the plight of Indians, described the terrible violence against them: "[the Spanish] rode the backs of the Indians as if they were in a hurry," and they "thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades."


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