Indigenous Women: Nations, Cultures, Voices

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Columbus's (Ugly) Hidden History

b2ap3_thumbnail_Alighieri_Giotto_y_Coln_-_Baslica_de_San_Francisco_Buenos_Aires.jpgShould the history behind publicly displayed statues be made readily available for viewers? How is the history of Columbus Day taught to American children and to kids around the globe? These are important questions to contemplate, and take action on, every October when Columbus Day arrives once again in America. More and more, though, "Columbus Day" is becoming "Indigenous People's Day" in the cities of the United States.

Before Christopher Columbus made his infamous voyage in 1492 from Spain to arrive in what is now called the Caribbean Islands (landing on Guanahani Island to be exact), there were legal statutes and religious doctrines set in place that shaped the outcomes of his voyage--and of history. Unknown to most Americans, those doctrines are still in place and annually contested by Native American nations.

In 1452 Pope Nicholas V issued to the King of Portugal the bull Romanus Pontifex, which is a legal and religious statute that declared war on all non-Christians around the world. At the time, all non-Christians were declared enemies of the Catholic church. In this statute, Pope Nicholas (who had considerable national and international power over his king and queen as popes used to have), directed the monarchs in power to:

..."capture, vanquish, and subdue the saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ...put them in perpetual slavery...take all their possessions and property."

b2ap3_thumbnail_78px-Paseo_colon.jpgAbout one hundred years earlier (in 1391), Spain had begun pogroms for Jews demanding they convert to Christianity. In 1492, a more insistent edict was sent out across the lands of Spain that all Jews were to "convert by sundown or die", meaning, they were to become Christians instantly. This was the Alhambra Decree. To save their lives, many Jews threw their prayer books down, tore their prayer shawls, and converted on the spot. For those Jews who did not instantly convert and become "conversos", they were killed or imprisoned, and their possessions, homes, and all monies confiscated by the government. Guess who was given the money? Yes, Christopher Columbus's voyage was partially funded by the confiscated property of Jewish people who refused to convert to Christianity and who did not get out of Spain fast enough to avoid being murdered. Unto today some Jewish people are familiar with the old saying "A curse on Columbus" for the fated voyage that encouraged the Spaniards to find resources for their global conquests of human beings, land, and natural resources.

b2ap3_thumbnail_90px-Estatua_Coln_Valparaso.jpgWhen Columbus landed on the Caribbean Island, home of the Taino Indigenous nation, he performed a ceremony on behalf of the Spanish monarchy and the pope taking complete possession of the land, people, and all its natural resources. He owned them, by Papal right and international law. By 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued another papal bull called the Inter Cetera that declared all people "discovered" by Columbus and other conquesters...

"be subjugated and brought to the faith itself" the "Christian Empire" would be propagated throughout the world.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Statue_of_Christopher_Columbus_in_Hamburg_Germany.JPGAt the time, Pope Alexander had to deal with two rivalry nations, Spain and Portugal, that were both heavily engaged in the African slave trade and conquering any lands and people they found during this reign of international terror on our globe. To placate them, the Pope gave each country their own half of the globe upon which they could perpetuate genocide and confiscate whatever they wished, all under the so-called moral sanction of their god.

There are over thirty statues of Christopher Columbus around the world, and a 350-foot statute was put in place in Puerto Rico in June of this year. The Puerto Rican statue is 45-feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, and many cities in the contiguous United States refused to accept its display in their city. Below is an image of a Christopher Columbus statue in the Bahamas.

Genocide, slavery, and the beginning of colonization of Indigenous peoples that continues to today with devastating effects are not what a civilized people who truthfully take account of their own history commemorate. b2ap3_thumbnail_CHRISTOPER_COLUMBUS.jpg




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Dr. Mays is a professional writer with a doctoral degree in Native American Studies who has taught at the college level for nearly two decades. She is committed to educating about Indigenous cultures, especially about practices that specifically relate to women, in order to raise awareness about current issues in Indian Country, dissolve stereotypes, and create healing among all communities.


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