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Up the shore the national observance of Columbus Day is increasingly an October hot spot. In the old perspective the date recognizes the navigational feat that led to the first systematic contact between the Old World and whatever it is we should call the part of the world we’re in. My end of the shore is the champion in the cause of putting Indigenous People Day in the place once occupied by Chris C. Virtually all levels of county and municipal government plus the School Board favor indigenous identity. These days Gem of the Ocean clearly requires something other than Columbia to precede it so we can avoid honoring Columbus; source original to the denigration of rights, persons, lands, and property of the ancestral inhabitants of the North and South continents.
This is tricky business if we try to take into consideration the concerns and feelings of those original inhabitants now forced to live on occupied lands. It is a serious business as well. With many hundreds of original groups on the north continent and an equal or better number in the south we’ve got a lot to choose from. Where would you begin? That’s about where I am, too, but one thing is clear. Spanish or English are probably not the languages to use due to the very bad things speakers of those languages began doing soon as they arrived on these unspoiled northern and southern lands.
I confess to considerable skepticism when first exposed to the truths that expose discoverers and explorers as villains in genocidal rape, murder, and pillage. It helps if you think of Columbus as a fascist forerunner on a par with Heinrich Himmler. Columbus was Italian and fascism did begin in Italy. Connect the dots and there it is. I used to think that the way the great Aztec empire in current (probably could use a new name) Mexico fell apart so utterly from the pressure of so small a group of conquistadors was a sign of something rotten in Aztec land. But if you cast the conquistadors as an SS battalion and the Aztecs as gypsies sent to Auschwitz the picture fills in.
I used to think that history was dull dry facts about the dates of events and deeds. As a historic date 1492 seemed pretty obvious as the start of a process on this side of the globe that had been going on for a lot longer in Europe, Africa, and Asia and with no help whatever from Columbus, Drake, Pizarro, Hudson or anyone else except the Dutch East India Company and Portugal who were leaders but have wisely stayed out of the limelight. When historical facts are adjusted by the goal of revealing truths then the Period of Discovery comes out in a new outfit showing off its ignorance, dedication to greed, or its awful racism.
Racism is the heavy weapon in that arsenal. Greed and ignorance are humdrum next to racism which did not exist on the two new continents until we brought it here. Prior to European meddling disputes between tribes were matters of ritual rather than race. Race is the nuclear weapon of political change. Someone told me I was racist to question replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People Day. I didn’t see 1492 as racist. I naively thought Indigenous People Day had a better shot in the race area than does recognizing a date. A date is a date. Indigenous represents groups of people based on birth. Compared to classification of people based on birth, the date of a navigational event seemed innocently free of race. That was before being told it was racist to think so. Not at all attracted to classing people according to birth groups, I have no desire to be racist. Being called a racist makes you think. Was I unconscious of my failing or was my error from systemic flaws any of which are bad as willful race bias. I didn’t want to class people by birth and origin, but after getting the racist tag I see the light. I know it is confusing, but definition by birth and ethnic group is not racist. Any of us not wanting to define by birth group have to be especially careful about it, but it can be done. A fine way of doing so is to support indigenous ethnic identity.
Getting Columbus out of Indigenous People Day is a step seen as much needed. It might help if we understand that use of indigenous replaces Indian and native. This, however, is not universal because some places say First or Original People. I don’t think use of aboriginal has ever been very current here, though other places use it. We don’t often note changes in language that mean significant shifts in social attitude. For example, PC for Pre Columbian has become Pre Contact to good effect. In a similar way BC has shifted from Before Christ to BCE saying Before the Common Era. Some found it essential make history bias-free by removing Christianity as much from the foreground as possible same as we do today by separating ISIL and ISIS from Islam. I haven’t heard Non Indigenous applied to others, but some term is needed. I was born in the US. I could claim status as a Distant European, but I can’t imagine any situation other than an academic one where I might actually need or want to say such a thing. Obviously, I have to be something, but as an illegitimate birth I should probably keep my nose out of race or ethnicity and keep my free agent standing. I consider myself lucky. Birth has not shackled me to one culture or identity. I can be human without so much baggage.
Thoreau credited native people as those who gave names to things. I did a paper on that long ago at the U. Those who gave names were the original poets. To me that sounds rather nicer than tagging people with a long label. I’ll call myself a poet of the heart. What others call me is their problem.