Indigenous Peoples’ Day stretches across the country as many join designation

By Albert Bender
- News From Indian Country -

Each year more cities, states and universities choose to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Last year there were more than 60 cities that had opted to observe Indigenous Peoples Day in lieu of Columbus Day.  

Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors Native  Americans as the original inhabitants of the land that as a result of colonization became the United States. Columbus obviously did not “discover “  the land but began the horror of colonization, contend advocates of the change of celebration. Indigenous activists for decades have argued for abolishing Columbus day, which became a federal holiday in 1937.   

When the United Nations in 1994, declared August 9, as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Berkeley, California had already become the first city in the U.S. to replace Columbus day. The city’s decision was spearheaded by the First Intercontinental Conference of 500 Years of Indian Resistance in Quito, Ecuador in 1990 (this writer was a delegate to that conference).

From those beginnings Indigenous Peoples’ day became a movement that is sweeping the country east to west and north to south.  From Asheville, North, North Carolina to Los Angeles, California and from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Austin, Texas, cities large and small have hoisted the banner of Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate the Native inhabitants and the vibrant cultures that survived the mass genocide spawned by Columbus and his rapacious legions of  bloodthirsty  invaders.  

In May of this year Vermont joined a number of other states in recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. The Republican governor Phil Scott  signed  the bill making the change on May 10. The Vermont law states that “ Vermont was founded and built upon lands whose original inhabitants were Abenaki people and honors them and their ancestors.”  The governors of  New Mexico  and Maine signed similar bills in April.

It was New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham who signed the bill that changed Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples Day. “This new holiday will mark a celebration of New Mexico’s 23 sovereign Indigenous nations and the essential place of honor Native citizens hold on the fabric of our great state” said Grisham.

Also, in addition to Vermont,   Maine and  New Mexico ,  the states of  Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon have officially replaced  Columbus Day  with Indigenous  Peoples’ Day. The list of cities  making the change even includes Columbus, Ohio which also usurped its namesake holiday  last year for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Nashville, Tennessee also joined that list of cities in 2017 and celebrated its second Indigenous Peoples Day in October of 2018. In 2017 the Nashville Metro Council Resolution officially recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day was personally delivered to the Native celebrants by Councilman Brett Withers, who was also a co-sponsor of the Resolution. The Metro Council overwhelming passed the Resolution on October 3, 2017. So far Nashville is the only capital city in the South to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This was the result of consistent community organizing and demonstrations at Metro Council.  

The last year’s celebration  was held at the NIA House / Montessori School which  primarily  serves African American children of the city. That gathering additionally paid tribute to the passing of prominent local Indigenous activist, Luther (Lou) White Eagle, a member of the Southern Cheyenne Nation of Oklahoma.

The celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day is always bittersweet because of the intergenerational trauma emanating from the crimes against humanity committed by that arch villain of the ages, Columbus.  It can never be forgotten by Indigenous people that Columbus was a mass murderer, a sex trafficker, a slave trader, a promoter of pedophilia - a monster whose horrific, unspeakable atrocities waxed unsurpassed in the annals of human history. 

If Columbus lived today he would, in all likelihood, be sitting on Death Row awaiting execution.

A historical narrative of this mass murderer is in order. Columbus made his first landfall in October, 1492, in the Bahamas and immediately  and illegally announced he was seizing the land in the name of Spain. Shortly thereafter, marked the beginning of the genocide of the Lucayos, a peaceful people who  inhabited the Bahamas, and  who were no match for the merciless European invaders. The end of the hapless Lucayos began with  the seizure of several of them to take back to Spain as slaves. Little did the Lucayos know that the arrival of these  homicidal aggressors would seal their fate as being the first Indigenous people of this hemisphere to suffer complete genocide. Within the first two years of Columbus making landfall 125,000 out 250,000 Lucayos were dead.

In 1509 the King of Spain ordered that all remaining Natives in the Bahamas be deported to Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Re[public) to make up for the massive Indigenous population collapse due to horrendous slave conditions in the brutish gold mines. On Hispaniola  the Indigenous were worked until they literally died of exhaustion. Within a short time the Bahamas were mostly  bereft  of any Native population because of the deportations.

It is estimated the Spaniards had carried off as slaves tens of thousands of Lucayos by 1513. By 1520 only eleven Lucayos could be found in all of the Bahamas. Columbus made most of his income from slavery.

As for Hispaniola, historians generally agree that the Indigenous population was huge, numbering from a minimum of 3 million to a maximum of 6 million. It was reduced to only 60,000 within 20 years of the Spanish invasion. Five decades later the Indigenous population was virtually extinct. The genocide was ghastly.

A description of the carnage was chronicled in 1516 by Spanish historian, Peter Martyr, when he wrote “A ship without compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola.”

A description of the carnage was chronicled in 1516 by Spanish historian, Peter Martyr, when he wrote “A ship without compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola.”

Columbus himself kept copious diaries which grimly disclosed his loathsome, criminal intentions, upon first contact, for the unwary Natives:

“They… brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things … They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well built, with good bodies and handsome features… They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… They would make fine servants… With fifty men could I subdue them all and make them do whatever we want.”

After his first trip to the Caribbean, he returned to Spain and left 39 men who began molesting Native women. Upon returning he found all his men had been killed by the outraged Indigenous population. But with 1,200 soldiers at his command rape, homicide and pillage became commonplace and was encouraged by Columbus.

Accounts of abominable, unimaginable cruelty abound (this is all documented in the diaries of other Spaniards) such as soldiers testing the sharpness  and strength of their swords by cutting Native people in half, beheadings in macabre contests and killing them in vats of boiling soap. There are also written accounts of suckling infants being torn from their mother’s breasts and dashed headfirst onto large rocks.

Bartolome De Las  Casa, a former Spanish colonist and former slave owner, was driven to the priesthood by the horror he beheld and became a protector of the Indigenous peoples.   

De Las Casas described these atrocities, writing chilling accounts. In a single day De Las Casas eyewitnessed Spanish soldiers dismembering, beheading  or raping 3,000 Indigenous islanders. “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel. My eyes have seen such acts so foreign in nature that I now tremble as I write.”  

All Natives over the age of 14 had to supply a thimble full of gold dust every three months and were required to wear copper bracelets as proof of their obedience. Those who failed to comply had their hands cut off and tied around their necks and bled to death. Over 10,000 died in this manner-handless.

Columbus also sold Native females as sex slaves to his soldiers, many of whom were children as young as 9 years old. The admiral and his soldiers commonly raided villages for sexual enslavement and fiendish killings. This was entertainment for these barbaric conquerors.

Unabashedly, Columbus wrote  tongue-in-cheek of these pedophiliac  perversions: “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.”

Moreover, in the early years of the Columbus invasion there were butcher shops where Indian bodies were dismembered and sold as dog food! This again is well documented in Spanish diaries.

There was also the horrible practice known as Monteria Infernal, the infernal chase or manhunt, in which Natives were hunted down by armored war dogs who would tear off the arms and legs of screaming men and women while they were yet alive.

But, the most horrific of his devilish, unspeakable crimes was the practice of feeding live Indigenous infants - babies - to these war dogs as sport, oftentimes in front of transfixed  parents. At other times, live Native babies were fed to the canines as dog food. This is also documented in the Spanish diaries. This begs the question: What manner of human beings were these monsters ?

 But, fast tracking to the present it is ever more likely that with the increasing numbers of cities, states and universities casting Columbus Day to the dustbin of history, this will escalate the momentum for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day throughout the country. This will bring about a veritable sea change  on this issue before October of this year.  

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