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Stop Saying Columbus 'Discovered' the Americas--It Erases Indigenous History


US Politics & Gov't  (tags: dishonesty, history, education, indigenous rights, usa )

Beverly
- 340 days ago - alternet.org
Referring to tribal lands as "empty" seeks to justify their theft for commercial and military exploitation.



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Beverly M. (85)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 8:30 am
Just over a hundred years ago in Peru, a tall history professor from Yale University left his camp in a valley northwest of Cusco, and walked through cloud forest to a mountain ridge more than 7,500 feet above sea level. There, high above the roaring Urubamba river, he found an ancient stone citadel; sculpted terraces of temples and tombs, granite buildings and polished walls that were covered in centuries of vines and vegetation.

Hiram Bingham had stumbled across the Inca site of Machu Picchu, the site he believed to be the ‘Lost city of the Incas’. ‘Machu Picchu might prove to be the largest and most important ruin discovered in South America since the days of the Spanish conquest,’ he wrote in the 1913 edition of the National Geographic.

But his words were misleading. Bingham hadn’t ‘discovered’ Machu Picchu. Nor was it ‘lost’. He may have alerted it to the western scientific world – for there were no accounts of it in the chronicles of the Spanish invaders – but local tribes must have been aware of its existence. Yet Christopher Heaney, a Fellow at the University of Texas and author of a book on Hiram Bingham, claims the historian was amazed to discover an indigenous family close to the citadel. ‘When he climbed the mountain he was very surprised to find an Indian family at the top of the ridge,’ he said. Why Bingham was surprised is bewildering in itself.

It is unlikely that his terminology had adverse ramifications for the local indigenous peoples, but the language of colonists has long had a tragic part to play in the destruction of tribal peoples across the world. For centuries, tribal lands have been referred to as ‘empty’ in order to justify their theft for commercial, military or conservation reasons. After all, if a region is uninhabited, so the expedient thinking goes, there are by definition no human rights to address. Similarly, racist prejudices – the labeling of tribal peoples as ‘backward’, ‘uncivilized’ or ‘savage’ – have inculcated a popular attitude of disrespect and fear, so underpinning (and even justifying, in the perpetrator’s mind), the appalling treatment to which tribal peoples have been subjected.

When European settlers landed on the shores of Australia, they claimed the land was ‘terra nullius’ – land belonging to no one. It wasn’t. The Aboriginal people had lived there for perhaps 50,000 years yet the concept of ‘terra nullius’ was only properly overthrown in 1992, allowing the lands to be stolen legitimately from the people who had first occupied the continent. Under British colonial law, Aboriginal people had no rights; they were deemed too ‘primitive’ to be owners. In just over 100 years from the first invasion, the Aboriginal population was reduced from an estimated one million to only 60,000.

Similarly, when the trade winds carried Christopher Columbus to the ‘New World’ in 1492, he had in fact arrived in the homelands of peoples who had lived there for millennia: tribes who had their own successful laws, rituals, beliefs, values, ways of life and religions. ‘The whites shout out today, “We discovered the land of Brazil,”’ says Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami spokesman, ‘as if it were empty! As if human beings hadn’t lived in it since the beginning of time!’ a thought echoed by Megaron Txukarramae, a Kayapo Indian when he said, ‘The land that the whites called Brazil belonged to the Indians. You invaded it and took possession of it.’

The reality of course is that South and North America were not ‘new,’ Australia was not ‘empty’ before Europeans arrived and Machu Picchu was not ‘discovered’ in 1911. ‘The phrase ‘discovery’ of America is obviously inaccurate,’ wrote the linguist and philosopher Professor Noam Chomsky. ‘What they discovered was an America that had been discovered thousands of years before by its inhabitants. Thus what took place was the invasion of America – an invasion by a very alien culture.’

These lands were the homes of indigenous peoples. To claim a land was ‘empty’ before the invasion of colonists and ‘discovered’ once they arrived is to rob tribal peoples of their identity, dignity and land rights; it is to deny their very existence.

They are still the homes of indigenous peoples. In the summer of 2013, Peru’s Prime Minister announced that his government has scrapped an official report warning of the dangers a controversial gas project poses to uncontacted tribes, and at least three ministers resigned amidst growing pressure to approve the project. The UN has called for the project’s ‘immediate suspension’. The invasion of their lands continues; their existence and rights overlooked.

 

Ben Oscarsito (338)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 10:10 am
Christopher Columbus discovered The Americas...??? -Now we're talking bullshit!!!
 

Allan Yorkowitz (453)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 10:13 am
The story of Columbus is a curiuos one. He certainly did not discover America. There is also an interesting personal history to his life. In college I learned that more than likely he was hald Jewish on his father's side. The year 1492 is the year the Jews were exiled from Spain. The King and Queen thought Columbus to be expendable: if he finds the new world, great, if he dies, so what.
It is historical fact that most of his crew on all three ships were mostly Jews. It's also interesting to note that Columbus is not honored in Italy, but in Portugal where his remains are. Was he not allowered to be buried in Spain because of his religion?
 

Just Carole (338)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 3:16 pm

Yes, it does.

THANK YOU for posting this, Beverly!

In no way do I honor this genocidal revision of history. (Much the way I feel about Thanksgiving, celebrating the "coming together" of Pilgrims and Native Americans.)

HOGWASH!

 

Just Carole (338)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 3:24 pm

And one more thing . . .

Every single Thanksgiving -- when natives and other who realize the lie propagated by the typical school plays, portraying Natives seated for a meal with the Pilgrims -- several apologists feel the need to explain themselves by stating that they only celebrate because they are thankful for their families and friends.

That would be real cool if the REST of America (especially the school systems, who are molding the minds of young people) acknowledged that.

(But that's not true. And, until it is, I will FAST on that day of lies and revisionist consciences, who refuse to recognize the truth about what happened after, and still.)

 

Mary T. (298)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 6:10 pm
Thanks Beverly for the article - haven't celebrated Columbus Day since I was in the 6th grade, one person can't discover an island already inhibited with people let alone a two continents. Like Berkeley celebrates the rest of the country should be celebrating the Indigenous People's Day instead
 

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil (467)
Monday October 14, 2013, 6:04 pm
"Columbus Day" was instituted to make Italian immigrants "feel good". Just as St. Patrick's Day was instituted to make Irish immigrants "feel good".
Lots of 19th century immigrants were Catholics - and they came from countries where "Saints' Days" were regularly celebrated in the years' Calendar, giving them a chance every so often to "make merry" and have allowable time off from work.
The mainly-Protestant U.S. had nothing like that, naturally.
The immigrant workers, who were of course being exploited, were making murmurs about cutting down working hours, not working on the weekends, and shortening the working day to "only" 10 hours or even less! Well, there was even danger of them ORGANIZING and going on STRIKE and LISTENING to all those LEFTIST Labor Agitators -
It is my understanding, that "Columbus Day" for the Italians {whose immigrants then vastly outnumbered the Spanish or the Portuguese!}, and St. Pat's Day for the Irish, were, in collaboration with the politically-powerful Catholic Church in places like New York and Boston, a bright idea to keep the workers quiet, by giving them "recognition" of their "national heroes"...

Of course, the whole idea of celebrating "Columbus Day" as well as "Thanksgiving" is a total farce... but that is the history in this country...
{Happily, the workers went on strike ANYway, that's how we got Unions and the 8-hour-day - but now, thanks to GOP rules and Union-busting, that's becoming a thing of the past, that will have to be fought for all over again...}
 

Just Carole (338)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 12:27 am

Since WHEN is the correlation of St. Patrick's Day and Columbus Day comparable??

While St. Patrick's Day may have been a gift to Irish immigrants, Columbus Day is an inaccurate direct assault on the Native Americans of this country.

After his glorified "discovery," (historically ignored by the fact that the land was already inhabited, which would make it impossible), the genocide of the residents existent at the time began.

This is a sensitive issue to empathetic non-indigenous citizens . . . and EXTREMELY sensitive to Native Americans, who are still struggling to be historically represented honestly.

It should NOT be minimized.

By so doing, the barbaric consequences of this "discovery," and the resultant greedy behavior of the murderous followers, the truthful history of the victimization of the original inhabitants is disgracefully inaccurate.

SHAME!

 

Dandelion G. (381)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 12:09 pm
If the people fail to understand some basic concepts then how is this Nation ever going to move forward and to begin a true healing.

Columbus Day needs to go, it should of been gone a long time ago, that in the year 2013 it still exists shows how little this Country has come to understand a lot of things and how it impacts the original inhabitants.

History is written by the Victorious I'm told......but that doesn't mean it is accurate history or facts. And when it is proven by historical records that what is being taught is false then a society needs to begin to correct it's writings, otherwise it's a false representation of what took place.

Shame on the educators and the leadership of this Country for continuation of the lies. Both should be stellar examples of people that when the truth is learned the begin the immediate rectifying of this, not drag their feet, turn a blind eye, or worse do nothing and continue to promote the lies upon another generation.
 

S J. (116)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 6:12 pm
I never use the term ' native American' because the indigenous people are not--they are who they are and I have to respect them who they are. They have got names of their tribe, many, you know better than me.

Forget Columbus, recognise and grant the indigenous equal right.

Noted with thanks, Beverly
 

Coral R (5)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 6:38 pm
I have a T-shirt I ordered from Northern Sun-products for progressives.
On it is a picture of 4 Braves with rifles at the ready, and the caption reads "HOMELAND SECURITY Fighting terrorism since 1492"

One of my favs, says it all.
 

A F. (132)
Thursday October 17, 2013, 3:11 am
Thank you, Beverly. :)
 
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