History & Indigenous Rights

columbus DAY 

12 October, 2020

Many countries around the World celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas. On the 12th of October 1492 he first landed in the Bahamas and later claimed to have discovered the “New World“. This date is celebrated as a day of beginning, exploration and great discovery. It is known as “Columbus Day“ in the U.S., “Discovery Day“ in the Bahamas and by other names throughout the Americas. In Spain this day is called “Dia de la Hispanidad“ or “Fiesta National“ and remembered as the “meeting day“ of the European continent and the Americas. It is usually celebrated with a big military parade attended by the Royal Family, the President and other political representatives.

Connecting the present with the past

A great deal of people grow up learning that the American continent was discovered by Christopher Columbus, although millions of people were living there for thousands of years before his arrival. The problem is that the concept of “discovery“ teaches the idea that its indigenous inhabitants and their culture were somehow less than the explorers. The Celebration and the way history has been taught for so many centuries ignores the fact that Columbus’ arrival marked the beginning of a tremendous era of death, genocide and injustice for millions of Native Americans.

Bartolomé de las Casas who observed the region where Columbus was governor described what he saw as driven by insatiable greed. He saw the European “explorers“ killing, terrorizing and torturing the native peoples with the strangest and most varied methods of cruelty. He witnessed how systematic violence was aimed at preventing Natives from daring to think of themselves as human beings and attempting to totally destroy their culture and beliefs.

From Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples

The idea that Columbus was not a hero is something that emerged in the late 60s and early 70s as historians began to reassess the story of great discovery and acknowledged the devastating effects for the Natives. In 1992, Berkley in California became the first city in the U.S. to officially celebrate “Indigenous Peoples Day“ as a protest against the big 500th anniversary celebration plans. Over the years, more cities have been rejecting the federal holiday and instead renaming Columbus Day to Indigenous peoples Day, to honor centuries of indigenous resistance.

We were and are still taught a very Eurocentric and religiously influenced view on the World. This shapes our collective history as humans and will continue to do so if we don’t become aware of it. The “Doctrine of Discovery“ dates back to the 1400s but is a very present ideology. It still has an enormous impact on many peoples lives as it continues to disempower indigenous people and cultures. So today is a day to remember the violent history of land grabbing and genocide that was justified by religion and cultural superiority and for us to recognize that this is not something to celebrate.

Our vision for the future is a positive one. We hope to see indigenous peoples holding titles to their home lands, being part of decision making processes and for us all to work together as one human family in celebration of all cultures, beliefs and the beautiful planet we all share.