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12 October 2005

Genocide Columbus Day

So Monday was Columbus Day, one of only two major U.S. holidays to be named after a specific person. The other, Martin Luther King Day, is named after a man who fought most notably for civil rights, but also for the rights of the poor and against the Vietnam War. Columbus Day, in contrast, is named after a tyrant responsible for mass genocide of Native Americans, who transported Native Americans to Europe to be sold as slaves, and who did it mostly for gold. It's a bit peculiar that we in the United States see fit to celebrate a man who nearly brought about the downfall of an entire group of people, all in the name of profit margins. I know it's rather politically incorrect to compare anyone to Hitler these days, but, really, when you come down to it, genocide is genocide. If we're going to name a holiday after a lunatic who kills in the name of God, we might as well have a Hitler Day while we're at it.

It is also perhaps a bit timely that George Bush is threatening to make the first veto of his presidency against an anti-torture amendment written by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an ammendment favored by 90 members of the Senate. But human rights violations is par for the course these days, at least in this country. We're the good guys, so we get to do whatever we want.

Anyways, instead of throwing confetti, I thought I'd quote from Bartolomé de Las Casas, a 16th century Spanish priest who witnessed the torture and genocide of Native Americans firsthand:

And of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve. They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world. And because they are so weak and complaisant, they are less able to endure heavy labor and soon die of no matter what malady. The sons of nobles among us, brought up in the enjoyments of life's refinements, are no more delicate than are these Indians, even those among them who are of the lowest rank of laborers. They are also poor people, for they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods. For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy. Their repasts are such that the food of the holy fathers in the desert can scarcely be more parsimonious, scanty, and poor.


Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days. And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during the past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.


As for the vast mainland, which is ten times larger than all Spain, even including Aragon and Portugal, containing more land than the distance between Seville and Jerusalem, or more than two thousand leagues, we are sure that our Spaniards, with their cruel and abominable acts, have devastated the land and exterminated the rational people who fully inhabited it. We can estimate very surely and truthfully that in the forty years that have passed, with the infernal actions of the Christians, there have been unjustly slain more than twelve million men, women, and children. In truth, I believe without trying to deceive myself that the number of the slain is more like fifteen million.


On the Island Hispaniola was where the Spaniards first landed, as I have said. Here those Christians perpetrated their first ravages and oppressions against the native peoples. This was the first land in the New World to be destroyed and depopulated by the Christians, and here they began their subjection of the women and children, taking them away from the Indians to use them and ill use them, eating the food they provided with their sweat and toil. The Spaniards did not content themselves with what the Indians gave them of their own free will, according to their ability, which was always too little to satisfy enormous appetites, for a Christian eats and consumes in one day an amount of food that would suffice to feed three houses inhabited by ten Indians for one month. And they committed other acts of force and violence and oppression which made the Indians realize that these men had not come from Heaven. And some of the Indians concealed their foods while others concealed their wives and children and still others fled to the mountains to avoid the terrible transactions of the Christians.

And the Christians attacked them with buffets and beatings, until finally they laid hands on the nobles of the villages. Then they behaved with such temerity and shamelessness that the most powerful ruler of the islands had to see his own wife raped by a Christian officer.
To read de Las Casas' Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies, visit History is a Weapon.

Comments on "Genocide Columbus Day"


Blogger Roy said ... (10/13/2005 09:01:00 AM) : 

Christian. what is the true meaning of the word.
-following the teachings or manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus Christ. It has become known as a people group instead of an allegiance group. (same can be said for the word church)

I am not in the position to judge one's salvation, whew!, however I believe we call these people Christians when their actions do not justify. Bush - call him what you may. Spaniards, as discussed here, call them what you may.

Good word about Columbus! Agree completely.


Anonymous Gwenyth Paltrow is my Idol said ... (10/13/2005 10:25:00 AM) : 

You know what K Daddy, I think you've taught me more than you know. I mean, i knew about the Columbus thing don't get me wrong. But you've taught me that blogs can be much more influential than I thought and a great breeding ground (whoa whoa. . . that means sex right? maybe) for discussions about HOTT topics. Hey have you ever been to that store Hot Topic? You should write about that. And when you're an even more famous Christian Author where people in the South burn your books cuz they're too liberal, I'll stand up and tell everyone that I knew you when. . . you had a one bedroom apt. and Pippen scratched at my leg. jerk.
So I still haven't made it through the Kidder book, which one did you read by the way??

oh and Oprah, yea was it good? When can I come over and watch so we can talk about all the people we know who are racist? (and share our own stories) I'll ask Mrs. Wasp Jerky. . . .


Blogger jvpastor said ... (10/13/2005 10:27:00 AM) : 

The music minister at our church is a native american. He wears a shirt that has Mt. Rushmore in the background of four Indian Chiefs, and the text reads "the orignal founding fathers". I love it. I have thought for years that Thanksgiving is a horrible holiday to celebrate for the very same reasons you mentioned concerning Columbus Day. How insulting is it for native americans? Let's celebrate by being thankful the day we came to destroy you and your culture?


Blogger Ol Cranky said ... (10/13/2005 04:28:00 PM) : 

Am I the only one who can not understand why we have a fedral holiday to celebrate an explorer who got lost?


Anonymous zalm said ... (10/13/2005 05:45:00 PM) : 

Here in Berkeley, it's "Indigenous Peoples Day." Or at least that's what the parking meters say.

I guess the traditional celebration involves free parking for all.

Well, except those of us who no longer have a drivable car. *sigh*


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/13/2005 07:52:00 PM) : 

"If we're going to name a holiday after a lunatic who kills in the name of God, we might as well have a Hitler Day while we're at it."

You know, Kevin, if Hitler had "discovered" America, we just might.

Sigh. What might have been...

(Good post, sir. Good post.)


Anonymous Rebecca said ... (10/13/2005 10:59:00 PM) : 

I'm not sure what you meant by "named after a specific person," but I would think that qualifier includes Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays. They weren't saintly, but they didn't spark the destruction of an entire indigenous people either.


Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (10/14/2005 12:23:00 AM) : 


Didn't see it yet. Oprah generally scares me. :) But give us a call and we'll hang out.


I debated counting those, but I don't think anyone would really consider either Washington's Birthday or Lincoln's Birthday as "major holidays." I don't believe anyone actually gets those days off from work or school, although I could be wrong. And technically those two days have been combined into President's Day anyway. It seems to me that a far greater fuss is made over Columbus Day. But regardless, my main point is that we have named a major holiday after a genocidal tyrant, a man who, it could be argued, is the father of modern slave trade.


Anonymous zalm said ... (10/14/2005 01:26:00 AM) : 

Don't forget Casimir Pulaski Day. :)

(Yeah, yeah, it's not a national holiday. But it's a Sufjan song, and that's almost better.)


Blogger Daniel Levesque said ... (10/16/2005 03:19:00 PM) : 

Come on. Christopher Columbus didn't have anything to do with genocide. He didn't do anything that wasn't par for the course in the world back in those days. Genocide didn't happen in Mexico and South America. Nearly every resident of these latin countries has a healthy portion of native blood inhim or her. This is called integration, not genocide. In the US genocidal activities didn't happen until westward exapnsion when the white man met the warlike Plains Indians. This was centuries after Columbus died. Pay attention to all of history, don't let others cherry-pick it for you. If you let them they will lead you to believe revisions based on filmsy evidence or totally made up suppositions.



Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (10/16/2005 09:14:00 PM) : 

I suppose you're right, Daniel. Why should I believe the words of Bartolomé de Las Casas, who was, you know, actually there? When he says that millions were slaughtered, I'm sure he's just being a revisionist historian.

Incidentally, just because something is par for the course doesn't mean that it is right.


Blogger Dan Trabue said ... (10/19/2005 09:30:00 AM) : 

Cranky said:
"Am I the only one who can not understand why we have a fedral holiday to celebrate an explorer who got lost?"

Don't you get it? Columbus is our perfect metaphor?


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