Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston

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Monday, October 14, 2019

HAPPY INDIGINOUS PEOPLE'S DAY



COLUMBUS DAY PARADE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD, THE NORTH END OF BOSTON

The North End held a its biennial Columbus Day parade (we switch-off with East Boston every other year). We also have A Christopher Columbus Park. 

As a first generation daughter of Sicilian-born parents, I can understand why Italians, especially southern Italians and Sicilians, grabbed onto Columbus as a hero so that they could attach to themselves pride in a huge contribution to the founding of America. Italians, especially those from the south and Sicily were considered non-white and treated as shamefully as African-Americans were treated.

When I was a child in school, we learned Columbus "discovered" America. But of course, we now know he never set foot on the North American continent, and he was responsible for the genocide of indiginous people, the Arawaks, for example. Here's Columbus in his own words from his diary: 

 In his journal, Columbus didn’t mince words about his intentions after meeting the Arawak natives in the Bahamas in 1492. He described the encounter thusly: “They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things ... 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 have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. ... They would make fine servants. ... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Columbus would add: “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.” 

Too bad it takes a lifetime to learn the truth and leave the myths behind. Also, as a schoolchild, I did NOT learn how the early Pilgrims, Puritans, and colonial Americans treated the indigenous peoples in North America, or how they treated the Africans they brought to America to slave for them, or how they treated the Americans who were descendants of those Africans -- they were born here and treated like chattel, tortured, and murdered. I had to learn for myself the shameful history of how Europeans enslaved and slaughtered indigenous people and people they took from their native lands. 

I think eventually, Columbus Day will become Indigenous People's Day all over the country and that Italians will look with pride to all the Italian-Americans who've made enormous contributions to this country and its culture, and that Columbus will be an agent for our understanding of how humans debase themselves when they devalue, degrade and even kill people they do not understand.

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