Mike Kueber's Blog

October 9, 2015

Columbus Day

During yoga practice today, our teacher mentioned that there would be a modified schedule next Monday for the holiday. I had no idea which holiday occurred in mid-October, so afterwards I asked my yogi and she said Columbus Day. As an aside, she mentioned that Columbus Day was being replaced in Oklahoma by Native Americans Day.

As we discussed our rudimentary knowledge of Columbus, my yogi and I were joined by a mutual friend who had recently emigrated from Mexico, and I asked him how Mexicans felt about Columbus. Initially he said their feelings were mixed, but when he elaborated I quickly learned that “mixed” was a softer way of saying that Columbus was an unmitigated villain. He was less a great explorer and more a genocidal imperialist. My friend said he had once asked his American wife what American kids were taught about Columbus and she reported that they were taught that Columbus discovered America, but were taught nothing about atrocities. That certainly conforms to my recollection, too.

When I got home from class I attempted to confirm the Oklahoma switch from Columbus Day to Native Americans Day and learned that that was an exaggeration. Several cities in OK and elsewhere had made the switch, but no state in America had. And Columbus Day remains a federal holiday.

But as I delved further, I learned that the movement for Native American Day a/k/a Indigenous Peoples Day had found its way to San Antonio. According to the San Antonio Current, Bexar County has just passed a resolution naming October 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day.  Also, the San Antonio City Council was considering a similar move.

The Current reports that the movement in San Antonio is being led almost single-handedly by Antonio Diaz:

  • For at least a decade, Antonio Diaz has been on a mission: to convince county and city government to declare October 12 — the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere, leading to mass murder, slavery and the near-extinction of Native Americans in North America — as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Diaz makes a three-pronged argument in support of his cause:

  1. The World Heritage status of San Antonio’s missions is based significantly on their connection to indigenous people.
  2. Bexar Country recently came down heavily against the symbols of the evil Confederacy and acting similarly against Columbus would be consistent.
  3. The growing BlackLivesMatter movement symbolizes the rejection of mistreatment of the black and brown communities, which need to present a unified front against ongoing racism.

A few days ago I blogged about the Spurs and Gregg Popovich honoring John Carlos for his medal-ceremony protest, and wondered why he deserved to be honored. The same thought occurred to me when I read about honoring the Indigenous People instead of Columbus. Columbus may have been an evil colonizer, but he did lead Western Civilization to America. What about the Indigenous People? Fortunately, the article in the Current addressed my question head-on:

  • The least local government can do is acknowledge Native American contributions to the city.  “I feel like we’ve lacked [that], fallen short,” [Diaz] said. “We have a rich history that starts with the American Indians in founding San Antonio and to contributions being made today.”

Huh? If the indigenous people who preceded us in America made any lasting honor-deserving contributions to our current civilization, I don’t know what those are. This attack on Columbus reminds me of the ongoing movement in the Democratic Party to remove Jefferson and Jackson from their pantheon of heroes because their politics no longer conform to modern Democratic values.

I prefer leaving in place the honors that we have bestowed to our heroes and icons and legends without too much relitigation of their lives. I don’t need to know truly whether Davy Crockett went down swinging.

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