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Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Part III- The Meaning of “Indigenous”

https://quotefancy.com

This blog is the third in a series of five about the issue of Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The first one Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Lose-Lose War arose due to some recent state decisions to “dump” or “ditch” Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ day. The second Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Part II – Columbus and America examined the place of Columbus and Columbia in American history. This blog will examine the use of the word “indigenous.”  In the following blogs, I will address how this war happened and suggest what we should do about it.

The following items about the meaning of “indigenous” are the product of reading the newspaper daily. In my case it is the New York Times. These examples are not the result of internet searches or exhaustive research. They derive from current events provided one pays attention. Dates are from the print editions

TRADITIONAL MYTHS MIXED WITH TECHNOLOGY: A GROUP OF INDIGENOUS FILMMAKERS PRESENTS NINE SHORT MOVIES IN A RETROSPECTIVE (May 17, 2019)

Who are these “Indigenous” people? The article does identify them but the title is telling. In the previous blog I mentioned the Italians, Irish, and Germans in America. Can you imagine an article about filmmakers from any of these people that did not identify them by name in the title? Or by black people? Instead, “Indigenous” is treated as a capitalized proper noun as if it were the name of the people. It conveys the message that there is a global people called Indigenous as if they are a single people.

Where in the world are these Indigenous people located anyway? Are they Indigenous Canadians? Indigenous Americans? Indigenous Mexicans? Indigenous Peruvians? I exclude Europe because rarely if ever are white people referred to as Indigenous. That exclusion is part of the weaponization of the term. In fact white people, non-capitalized, are separate from Indigenous people in the article. As it turns out in this instance the Indigenous people are in Australia.

How do Indigenous people live? According to this article, Indigenous life is one of “hunting, fishing, lounging in the stunning and rugged landscape, interacting with condescending local [white, one presumes] bureaucrats.” Keep in mind the pre-technology description of the people living a Paleolithic life. That description of a simpler life also is part of the weaponization of the term to be addressed in the next blog.

THEIR ISLANDS ARE ERODING, AS ARE THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS, A CLAIM SAYS (MAY 13, 2019)

Once again the Indigenous people are Australians but this time on islands. They are very small islands compared to the main island of Australia. These islands are threatened by the rising seas due to global warming. According to a lawyer involved in seeking to resolve this situation on behalf of the Indigenous people:

“If Indigenous people are disposed of their homelands, then they can’t continue to practice their culture.”

It should be comforting to know that if we non-Indigenous people are disposed of our homelands we still will be able to practice our culture.

CANADIAN INQUIRY DESCRIBES KILLINGS OF INDIGENOUS WOMEN AS GENOCIDE (JUNE 4, 2019)

Given that Indigenous people are located globally except for Europe, one might think that to perpetrate a genocide against them would require a global action. However, that is not the case. Putting the inconsistency aside, what is striking about the article is the reference to the people attending the announcement of an inquiry into these killings:

Most in the audience were in traditional Indigenous dress and held red flowers in remembrance of the women.

They did not wear traditional Irish dress or Greek dress or Ukrainian dress but an Indigenous dress worn by all Indigenous people.

LOUIS LEVI OAKES, 94, THE LAST OF THE MOHAWK CODE TALKERS (JUNE 5, 2019)

In this instance, the title identifies the person as a Mohawk and not as an Indigenous person. The article does recount the use of indigenous (non-capitalized) languages. It lauds the “contributions of indigenous soldiers in World War II.” The obituary reads like a composite. Part of it seems to have been written in pre-politically correct times when American Indians were referred to by their proper noun names. Four different tribes are mentioned in the article. Another reads as if the word “Indian” in the original obituary subsequently was cleansed and replaced by “indigenous.” I cannot prove that but it is an odd mixture of the traditional and the politically correct.

Suppose now you were an historian thousands of years from now and came across these articles. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to include that all Indigenous people wore the same traditional clothes, practiced hunting, fishing, spoke the same or similar languages, and were condescended to by presumably white bureaucrats? Australia, islands, Canada, United States, it’s all the same. They are all Indigenous. How would you they are different? Don’t these descriptions remind you of the phrase “if you’ve seen one Indigenous people, you’ve seen them all”? Doesn’t the depiction of these people remind you of two-dimensional Disney characters?  Isn’t the condescension of the politically correct white people abhorrent and degrading?

Let’s turn to some more explosive political situations.

UNDER MODI, HINDU RIGHT CONSOLIDATES POWER (APRIL 13, 2019)

In this situation, the indigenous peoples are Indians. They practice the Hindu religion. They are in conflict with the non-indigenous Moslems. One Muslim complained of the treatment.

“I could be lynched right now and nobody would do anything about it. My government doesn’t even consider me Indian. How can that be when my ancestors have lived here hundreds of years?”

These foreigners will never belong in India. They can never become indigenous. They will always be the outsiders to the native Indians who have superior numbers and power unlike the American Indians. This foreigner fears being lynched by the indigenous people. As nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked:

“Who attempted to defame our 5,000-years-old culture? Who brought the word Hindu terrorism? Who committed the sin of labeling Hindus as terrorists?”

As one supporter said:

“[I]f Hindus can come together and Muslims can be defeated, then India can regain its past glory.”

India is not looking to an imaginary Wikanda or to the Paleolithic past. These indigenous people of 5,000 years are looking to defeat the non-indigenous foreigners in this world. Since this newspaper article was written, Modi won his re-election by a huge amount. Score one for the Indigenous people over the outsiders.

LIVING IN A NOWHERE LAND: NEARLY A MILLION ROHINGYA MUSLIMS HAVE BEEN EXILED TO BANGLADESH. WILL THEY EVER GET TO LEAVE? (Time, June 3-10, 2019)

This article recounts the plight of the Muslim Rohingya. They have been displaced by Myanmar Buddhists. According to Wikipedia,

Myanmar law does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the eight “national indigenous races”.

Score two for the Indigenous people over the outsider.

FIGHTING FOR THE SOUL OF ISLAM (MAY 3, 2019)

This op-ed piece followed the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. According to the Sri Lanka Moslem author:

Sri Lankan Muslims trace our roots back to the Arab traders and Sufi mystics who brought Islam to Sri Lanka in the seventh century.

That doesn’t cut it. Whether it was the hundreds of years cited in the Indian article above or 1300 years here those time frames do not make you a native. You are not indigenous to Sri Lanka. You will always be an outsider and never will belong there.

The reference to the Arabs and the seventh century is a reminder that Arabs are scarcely indigenous anywhere. Loosely speaking they originated in the area where Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan come together. They are not indigenous to Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Yemen, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and most of the those four countries. Thanks to the camel they began to expand outwards as traders, mercenaries, and guides beginning in the 9th century BCE, over 1500 years before Mohammed.  Some Arabs were forcibly resettled by the non-Arab Assyrians. The big push occurred in the seventh century when the Arabs conquered much of the Middle East and imposed their religion on the locals. Sounds like Spain in the Western Hemisphere doesn’t it?  Christian Lebanese sometimes identify as non-Arab Phoenicians who were in the land before the Arabs. A recent article on DNA analysis DNA from Medieval Crusader Skeletons Suggests Surprising Diversity concludes:

Today’s Lebanese people are clearly descended from the people who have lived in the area since the Bronze Age, with little trace of the temporary European invaders.

That Bronze Age ended roughly 2000 years before the Arab invasions. The Arabs are indigenous only to a small area of the lands they occupy today.

Consider this final example from op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof (“The Missing Element to Beat Poverty” [May 30, 2019]). He describes his visit to Paraguay. While there he encounters indigenous people. He chooses not to capitalize the word unlike the reporters for the newspaper. He writes about the economic hardships these people face and likens it to the plight of indigenous people around the world from America to Australia. Now suppose this woman he met emigrated to the United States, would she still be indigenous? Or since she was from Paraguay would she be classified as Hispanic? When indigenous people are repressed by non-indigenous people in Latin America, how should they be classified when both of them come to America?

That very issue was raised in “The Brutal Math of Asylum” (March 10, 2019). The article describes another woman who:

was part of the Garifuna community, descendants of enslaved Africans and Indigenous Central Americans [in Honduras].  

Notice the reporter capitalizes Indigenous. So what is this person if she is granted asylum in America? Is she still Indigenous even though she no longer lives in her homeland? Is she Hispanic because she is from Central America even though she seems to have no European ancestry? Is she African American even though she was not part of the middle passage to the United States (like Obama and Harris)?

In a previous blog not sent to the history community, I wrote: How the Politically-Correct Helped Elect Donald Trump…..in 2016

The issue of American Indians bears further analysis. In the United States there are Indian nations or tribes. Demographically they are categorized separately from other peoples. What about Indian peoples from south of the American border. How are they classified? Consider this letter from my local paper (2/15/19) entitled “I’m not Latin:”

Let me start off this letter by saying that I’m not Latin nor am I Hispanic, Latino, Spanish, or Latin American. These wildly misleading terms for Spanish-speaking Americans are implicative of European colonization and its culturally-corrosive ethos. My family heritage is that of the Quechua peoples of Ecuador, and many Spanish-speaking individuals I’ve encountered find offense in being subjected to a label that misconstrues their ethnicity (i.e., “Latin”). I consider myself an Indigenous Americano, so don’t call me or my Central and South American neighbors “Latin” or any of the misguided aforementioned labels.

When I was growing up I don’t recall hearing the word “indigenous” often. Peoples usually had real names. Sometimes they were their own names, sometimes they were the names others applied to them – Indians, Asians, Egyptians, etc. Now these Eurocentric names are to be banished from polite conversation. People are to be referred to as Indigenous no matter where they are in the world. The word “Indigenous” has now been weaponized by some white Americans in the culture wars against other white Americans and imposed on people who had names for themselves and never used the word “Indigenous.” The result is a simpleminded, superficial, bogus term that produces strange results when removed from the American context that created it. Why did the politically correct unleash this weapon?

To be continued.

Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Part II – Columbus and America

New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo and participants march down Fifth Avenue during the annual Columbus Day parade on October 8, 2018 in New York City. [Photo/VCG](www.chinadaily.com)

This blog is the second in a series on the war between Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The catalyst for this series was the recent string of victories for Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Maine, Vermont, and New Mexico. Those events were covered in the first blog Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Lose-Lose War. In this blog I will examine Columbus and America before turning to Indigenous Peoples.

Let’s review various events in American history to gain a sense of what Columbus meant to the country even before the wave of Italian migration began.

In 1775 on the eve of the American Revolution a poet wrote “His Excellency, George Washington” using the Columbia symbol.

Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light,
   Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.
While freedom’s cause her anxious breast alarms,
She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.
See mother earth her offspring’s fate bemoan,
And nations gaze at scenes before unknown!
See the bright beams of heaven’s revolving light
Involved in sorrows and veil of night!

   The goddess comes, she moves divinely fair,
Olive and laurel bind her golden hair:
Wherever shines this native of the skies,
Unnumber’d charms and recent graces rise.

The poem lauds Washington and the cause of freedom. Eventually Washington did meet the author of the poem. The author’s name was Phillis Wheatley, a very recently freed slave in Massachusetts by way of Senegal. The use of female Greek goddesses to represent countries was not new; her selection of the name Columbia for the colonies who had not yet declared their independence apparently was.

Regardless of whether or not Wheatley was the first to employ the name Columbia, the female version of Columbus, the name certainly stuck [one always has to wonder how the audience would have understood the symbol if it had never been used before but then again somebody has to be the first].

In 1784, King’s College reopened after the conclusion of the American Revolution as Columbia College.

In 1789, Washington took office to the music “The President’s March”. Then in 1798, the music acquired lyrics and a new title “Hail, Columbia.”

Hail Columbia, happy land!
Hail, ye heroes, heav’n-born band,
Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
And when the storm of war was gone
Enjoy’d the peace your valor won.
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.

While “Hail Columbia” is no longer the unofficial national anthem, it did become the official anthem of the Vice President to this very day.

In 1791 in between the composition of the music and the writing of the lyrics, when the City of Washington was assigned to a Federal District, it was named the District of Columbia.

In 1792, the first recorded celebration of Columbus Day in the United States took place on October 12. The Society of St. Tammany, also known as the Columbian Order, commemorated the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ landing.

Around 1843, another unofficial nation anthem was composed entitled “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” It sounded remarkably like “Britannia, the Pride of the Ocean” and I will leave it to the scholars to debate the relationship.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3293369

O Columbia! the gem of the ocean,
The home of the brave and the free,
The shrine of each patriot’s devotion,
A world offers homage to thee;
Thy mandates make heroes assemble,
When Liberty’s form stands in view;
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white, and blue.
When borne by the red, white, and blue,
When borne by the red, white, and blue,
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white and blue.

A presentation at the May 2019 conference of the National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS) and the North American Society for Oceanic History (NASOH) co-hosted by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center focused on precisely this image.

A Goddess of Our Own: Columbia and American Naval Hyper-Identity
Stephen N. Sanfilippo, Maine Maritime Academy

A new breed of sailor carried a new flag to the oceans and seaports of the world during the late 18th through mid-19th centuries. This new breed of sailor was the “Columbian Tar,” and he had a goddess of his own – – – “Columbia.”. This presentation analyzes the creation of an American enlightenment goddess, “Columbia,” as a contra-distinction to the overthrown “Britannia.” More than a nickname for the United States, or a poetic metaphor for America, “Columbia” was the divine embodiment of natural rights, constitutional liberties, the virtuous republic, and the forces that defended them. Placed into an ancient pagan setting, rather than one of American Protestant Christian “Providence,” “Columbia” proclaimed a special and uniquely endowed People. The frequent use of “Columbia” in naval and shore defense ballads and anthems of the Early Republic through the Civil War created a particular form of hyper-identity of the American naval sailor. Praised as “Columbian Tars,” this breed apart was the sons of the male god of war, Mars, and a female goddess, the American Athena, “Columbia.” Broadside ballads and formally composed naval anthems celebrated American victories on the high seas and in coastal defense against the French, the Barbary States, the British, and the Confederacy with such lines as “And ne’re shall the Sons of Columbia be slaves,” “Rejoice, Columbia’s Sons, Rejoice,” “Ye sons of Columbia, O hail the great day, which burst your tyrannical chain,” and “Columbia Tars are the true sons of Mars;” which will be performed by the presenter himself.

In 1896, Columbia College became Columbia University. One year later in moved uptown to its present location.

Japan makes her début under Columbia’s auspices

In 1899, Udo Kepper in the political cartoon entitled “Japan makes her debut under Columbia’s auspices” portrayed Japan, England, and America through female symbols along with Russia, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Spain, and France.  The continued use of Columbia reflects that the Statue of Liberty had not yet attained the iconic status it has today as a symbol of the United States.

However, the big event of the 1890s was not for Columbia but for Columbus. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage in 1492 [yes, they were a year late!]. It was a celebration of huge proportions and known throughout the land.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61961770

I mention all these items to provide a context to the world Italian immigrants found when they first began arriving in the United States in significant numbers. From the capital of the country to the unofficial anthems of the country to the symbol of the country to a big extravaganza celebration, Italian immigrants who wanted to become part of the melting pot as Americans saw the place of importance Columbus had in their new country.

These Italians did not have the same option in becoming Americans as the Irish immigrants who also were not white when they arrived. The Irish linked themselves to the war for independence from Great Britain. While the Irish in America during the American Revolution did participate in it on the American side, it was the celebration of freedom from British rule that clearly resonated with them in the 19th century. In New York City, the Irish loved to celebrate the anniversary of Evacuation Day, November 25, 1783, when Britain finally pulled out after seven years of occupation. Of course, George M. Cohan’s 1904 version of Yankee Doodle Dandy strengthened the connection between the Irish and the American Revolution.

The Germans who also were not white when they arrived had the option of going back even further in time. The Germans in the 1890s were able to look back on the German settlement in and contribution to America beginning in the colonial era in the late 1600s. They could favorably compare their colonies to those in New England and elsewhere in the cause of freedom.

The Italians joined the Germans and the Irish in not being white when they arrived and went back even further in time to link themselves to the American experience: all the way to Columbus, a person they knew America already revered. Those efforts would take physical and calendric form.

Columbus Statue at Columbus Circle at Columbus Avenue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus_Circle)

In conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition, New York City erected a statue of Columbus at Columbus Circle at Columbus Avenue. A commission of Italian businessmen from around the United States contributed 60% of the funding needed to build the statue. The statue was constructed with funds raised by Il Progresso, a New York City-based Italian-language newspaper. (“FROM ITALIANS TO AMERICA: THE GREAT STATUE OF COLUMBUS TO ADORN NEW-YORK,” The New York Times, July 9, 1890.)

The Italian-Americans also promoted the creation of a holiday in honor of Columbus.

[T]he Knights of Columbus, an international Roman Catholic fraternal benefit society, lobbied state legislatures to declare October 12 a legal holiday. Colorado was the first state to do so on April 1, 1907. New York declared Columbus Day a holiday in 1909 and on October 12, 1909, New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes led a parade that included the crews of two Italian ships, several Italian-American societies, and legions of the Knights of Columbus. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt designated Columbus Day (then celebrated October 12) a national holiday in 1934.

It should be noted that the day in various forms is recognized in other counties in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

These recap brings us to the controversy today over Columbus Day.

The efforts bring down Columbus led to some hyperbolic language in New York when now-Presidential-candidate Mayor Bill de Blasio created a commission to review the statues in the city. De Blasio, pols clash over historical statues symbolizing hate in NYC (Erin Durkin, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, August 22, 2017; As de Blasio mulls Columbus statue removal, Italian Americans lodge protest (GLORIA PAZMINO, Politico, August 24, 2017).

Here are some excerpts.

“It’s just outrageous and the line needs to be drawn,” said Assemblyman Ron Castorina (R-Staten Island). “It stands for the pride that Italian immigrants have for their contributions to America. To call it anything other than that is completely misguided,” he said. “This is part of a left wing agenda which attacks Columbus. They revise history to support a narrative that works for rebuking Columbus.”

Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) added in a letter to de Blasio and [Council President] Mark-Viverito that the planned task force had opened a “tremendous can of worms” and should not meddle with “a revered figure in Italian-American culture.” “Our past historical leaders are not without sin, nor are our current ones,” Borelli said, flanked by several officials sporting American and Italian flag lapel pins and at least one protester clad in an Italian flag sweatband, waving an Italian flag in the background. “We shouldn’t be foolhardy enough to judge people from so long ago with our modern eyes,” Borelli said. “If that’s the case then surely we are set to lose monuments and parks named after people like Andrew Jackson, like FDR, like Ulysses S. Grant.”

But Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) said Columbus should go, calling him “the biggest genocidal murderer the globe has ever seen.”

NYC could be a town without heroes if PC insanity wins out” Steve Cuozzo, New York Post, August 26, 2017.

As you can see from these comments and headlines, the issue of Columbus is very much connected to the culture wars that are currently dividing America. You almost get the impression that if Columbus had not sailed the ocean blue in 1492 that Europeans, smallpox, and genocide never would have occurred and that the United States would not even exist as a country since there would have been no one here to declare independence from England. Such ruminations also reveal that the issue is only partly the individual human being Christopher Columbus. It is a clash between the America noted in the above examples the America of Howard Zinn in A People’s History of the United States (1980).

What does all this mean about the fate of Columbus Day?

1.Italian-Americans are not a politically correct people. Therefore they can’t be disrespected and there is no need to be sensitive to their feelings (unless there are a lot of them in your political district).

2. The Italian-American goal to become part of the melting pot is politically incorrect. They should be striving to preserve their authenticity as a hyphen and not be absorbed into the vision of e pluribus unum.

3. Just as it is now illegal to dance to the music of Michael Jackson, laugh at a joke by Woody Allen, or watch anything involving a #MeToo person, so Columbus is to be cleansed from our midst. Therefore it is incumbent on Americans to purify the country of its sins and the stains on the social fabric.

As should be obvious, more than a single individual is involved here. The stakes are the entirety of American history and therefore of America itself.

In the next blog, let’s turn to the proposed alternative to Columbus Day and to what Indigenous Peoples’ Day means for American history.

Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Lose-Lose War

Columbus Is More Than a Day (https://brooklynprints.com)

Columbus Day is in the news again. Given that it is months away, its appearance may seem surprising. However, in the ongoing culture wars, the battle continues throughout the year. The reason for the recent appearance of Columbus Day is due to its defeat in three states.

According to a blog headline dated April 3, 2019, New Mexico just became the latest state to ditch Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

As of this year, New Mexicans will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day, a move that proponents say better reflects the state’s culture. According to 2017 U.S. census data, more than 12 percent of the state’s population is indigenous.

This report was followed on April 22, 2019, with an article entitled Two more states are dumping Christopher Columbus to celebrate indigenous people instead.

Vermont and Maine are the latest to join the growing number of cities, states and municipalities that have renamed the October holiday for the people who lived in America long before the explorer arrived.

Notice the choice of words in the two headlines: Columbus Day is ditched and dumped.

Rep. Debbie Ingram, who introduced the bill in Vermont said it is a “step to right, or at least acknowledge, the many wrongs perpetrated on our Native American brothers & sisters.”

“Vermont was founded and built upon lands whose original inhabitants were the Abenaki people and honors them and their ancestors,” Vermont’s bill says. “The establishment of this holiday will aid in the cultural development of Vermont’s recognized tribes, while enabling all indigenous peoples in Vermont and elsewhere to move forward and formulate positive outcomes, from the history of colonization.”

Note that these Native Americans actually have a proper noun name: Abenaki.

The story in New Mexico was similar.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill which replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, saying she was “proud” to make the change.

“This new holiday will mark a celebration of New Mexico’s 23 sovereign indigenous nations and the essential place of honor native citizens hold in the fabric of our great state,” she said. “Enacting Indigenous People’s Day sends an important message of reconciliation and will serve as a reminder of our state’s proud native history.”

The odds are that these 23 sovereign indigenous nations actually have proper noun names as well.

Turning momentarily from Columbus’s day to his statues, newly hat-thrown into-the ring presidential candidate Mayor de Blasio said this when statues in New York City became a hot topic:

“We’re trying to unpack 400 years of American history here,” de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated press conference. “This is complicated stuff. But you know, it’s a lot better to be talking about it and trying to work through it than ignoring it.” (“De Blasio, pols clash over historical statues symbolizing hate in NYC” Erin Durkin NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, August 22, 2017)

Sometimes the language can become a little heated to say the least. Consider the following article while the subject of the statue of Columbus in New York was being debated.

Treat Columbus like Weinstein: Topple him
(Michael Henry Adams, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, December 15, 2017)

Isn’t it ironic that even as bad men like Harvey Weinstein get their names taken off productions, even as Alabamians repudiate Roy Moore, people in New York City — our bastion of liberalism — are refusing to reckon honestly with the terrible deeds of people who’ve been dead for hundreds of years?

Message for Mayor de Blasio’s statues commission, whose final report is due any day now: If we are willing to make pariahs out of people like Matt Lauer and Kevin Spacey, we must not continue to enshrine Christopher Columbus and others who offend our core values.

After allegedly discovering America, Columbus was, for a long time, widely respected — as widely respected as, say, Charlie Rose.

A reawakening followed the widespread recognition that he ruthlessly enslaved indigenous Tainos initially praised for their generosity and gentleness.

Note that here too the indigenous people have an actual proper noun name.

The blog on the New Mexico ditching of Columbus Day was not a simple article of reporting. It mocked Columbus as well.

What is the point of Columbus Day again? Anyone?

Let’s go over brief reacap [sic] of why Americans have spent decades celebrating Christopher Columbus every October:

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue in search of a Western route to Asia. Instead, he ran into the islands of the Caribbean, but declared that he had, in fact, found the land he was looking for. He said Cuba was China. He thought that Hispaniola was Japan. He maintained these erroneous claims for two entire trips back and forth from Europe.

While he was at it, he also pillaged and tortured the native population of the islands, forced them into slavery, offered them the gift of infectious diseases, and claimed their lands for Spain.

But hey, we need an October holiday. And Columbus was a pretty good sailor, so surely he deserves a national holiday in a country that isn’t even physically part of the land he “discovered,” right?

Come on now.

In the eagerness to mock Columbus, the blogger has failed to address the issue of why Columbus became a revered figure in the first place. It is safe to say that it was not because of any of things mentioned in the blog. Presumably there must have other reasons to explain how this individual, sometimes in the masculine form and sometimes in the feminine form “Columbia” became a symbol of the country, the capital city of the country, the name of cities, and the name of the renamed Kings College that Alexander Hamilton had attended. True this was a blog and not a serious op-ed piece yet alone an historical essay or journal article, but the flippant superficiality expressed in it complicates the challenge of dealing intelligently with a legitimately serious issue.

The blogger was not done with the vituperation.

Seriously, though. Isn’t it time to make this change national?

I can’t think of one good reason why we don’t change the federal holiday of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I know some people have a hard time letting go of tradition, but it’s not like this holiday has been around since our founding. It became a holiday in 1937. It’s not sacrosanct.

And it’s long past time for our country to start atoning for some of what the native people endured at the hands of our government. A holiday acknowledging the contributions of indigenous people and recognizing what they’ve been through would at least by a symbolic gesture of goodwill, especially if it replaces a holiday honoring someone who caused great pain and suffering to native people.

It would be great to see the whole country follow New Mexico in putting the Columbus Day holiday into the historical vault in which it belongs and honor indigenous people instead. It really is the least we can do.  

A close reading of text exposes certain shortcomings in the reporting.

Why did it become a holiday in 1937? It’s not as if Americans suddenly discovered Columbus then.

Why the use of the word “atone”? Why bring a religious dimension to the discussion? Who are the people who are to atone? And who are you to tell those people they need to atone?

The debate over Columbus Day provides an opportunity to discuss a number of serious issues. In practice no such discussion will occur but I intend to write some blogs addressing the issues anyway

1. The use or lack of use of proper names for American Indians.
2. The use and abuse of the terms “native” and “indigenous.”
3. The meaning of Columbus to America in general and Italian-Americans in particular
4. The need of some Americans to call upon other Americans to atone their sins

and then to make some suggestions about what should be done.