War & Peace
More US Cities Rejecting Columbus Day, Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day
Albuquerque, New Mexico has joined the growing list of US cities rejecting Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of the role the ‘discoverer’ of the Americas played in the genocide of the continent’s original inhabitants.
The Albuquerque Journal reports the Albuquerque City Council voted 6-3 to celebrate the second Monday in October—the federal Columbus Day holiday—as Indigenous Peoples’ Day from now on.
Outgoing City Council President Rey Garduño told the Journal that Christopher Columbus, the Genoese explorer who generations of American schoolchildren were taught discovered the New World in 1492, didn’t “discover” anything, and anyone who thinks he did “needs to take a refresher course in history.”
“So Columbus ‘discovers’ America and the indigenous people who were already here are thankful because now they know where they live?” quipped Garduño. “If somebody is going to celebrate genocide, I have every right to push back by celebrating humanity on the same day. For me, this is a human rights issue and a social justice issue.”
The three dissenting votes were cast by Republican council members Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis and Don Harris.
“I’m opposed to, not just this particular proclamation, but to all feel-good but don’t-do-anything political statements,” Jones, who conceded that Columbus Day is “a rather foolish holiday,” told the Journal. “I believe it’s misguided and a misuse of a proclamation to make a political statement.”
Melanie Yazzie, a co-founder of Red Nation, the coalition that started the initiative, told the Journal that observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an acknowledgement of the “resistance and resilience of native peoples, and sends the clear message that it’s not OK to celebrate genocide.”
Red Nation is organizing an Abolish Columbus Day! Indigenous Peoples’ Day march and rally in downtown Albuquerque on Monday.
Columbus Day remains an officially recognized federal holiday in the rest of New Mexico.
Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, joins a growing number of American cities which have passed resolutions or ordinances recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day. These include: San Antonio; Seattle; Portland; Minneapolis; St. Paul; Berkeley, California; Santa Cruz, California; Lawrence, Kansas; Olympia, Washington; Anadarko, Oklahoma, Alpena, Michigan and Traverse City, Michigan.
“This not only represents that we have been here for 10,000 years or longer… more importantly it recognizes that we are still here and that we are alive,” Arlene Kashata, a Traverse City resident and member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle after her city passed its Indigenous Peoples Day resolution in February. “That we are a culture that is giving and contributing to this community.”
From the earliest days of his voyage to the ‘New World,’ Columbus was clear about his intentions and his plans for the continent’s indigenous inhabitants.
“[The natives] brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things,” Columbus wrote in his diary shortly after his arrival. “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 would make fine servants…. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
Obsessively driven to capture gold and slaves for his Spanish patrons, Columbus and his men imprisoned 1,500 Awawak men, women, and children and shipped what they considered to be the finest specimens to Spain. Two hundred died during the harrowing transatlantic journey; the survivors were sold into slavery in Spain. Columbus later wrote: “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”
Extreme violence, often of a sexual nature, and the devastating spread of deadly disease characterized Columbus’ conquest of the lands he and his men ‘discovered.’
“I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the Lord Admiral (Columbus) gave to me,” wrote Michele da Cuneo, one of Columbus’ men. “When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked—as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But—to cut a long story short—I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.”
Facing extermination, indigenous peoples fought back against the genocidal conquistadors, but they were little match for Spanish arms, armor and horses. Many Arawaks killed themselves and their families rather than submit to Spanish slavery and barbarism. In two years, half of the 250,000 Indians on Hispañola were dead, either through murder, mutilation or suicide. By 1550, only 500 natives remained. A century later, no trace of the Arawaks remained.