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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Columbus Day deserves continued celebration


Monday marked the celebration of a man whose historical impact is exceeded by few. As we all know, Christopher Columbus captained the first ship to reach the Caribbean and spread news of the new continents to the rest of the world. This fundamentally altered the course of human history, and led to the settlement of colonies in the Americas by European countries. This colonization laid the groundwork that modern Western civilization is built upon.

However, the past few years have seen growing opposition to the federal holiday. Many may remember that last year, a petition circulated to denounce Columbus Day and instead hold Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) in lieu. This petition eventually made its way to the Board of Trustees, although they refused to vote on it. Despite the obstacles, the groups in favor of IPD
continue to forge onward, hoping to one day replace Columbus Day

Even though their hearts are in the right place, it is a mistake to pursue this goal. Before I delve into the reasoning, I want to be clear about my stance on the newly proposed holiday. It is worthy to have a holiday to commemorate the Native American tribes that lived here before European colonization. Cultural contributions from the tribes are unbelievably beautiful, and unfortunately ignored. Michigan is home to 11 federally-recognized tribal governments, and the degree to which we preserve the culture of these groups is an indicator of how well we manage our cultural fabric. Nations that neglect cultural preservation in favor of progress ignore the universal truth that cultural bonding create strong nations. In a country with such diverse populations inhabiting it, celebrating each other’s culture is the only way to both preserve it and strengthen the community.

The qualm I have with the advocacy then lies not with the introduction of a new holiday, but the eradication of the former one. Some claim that Columbus practiced unspeakable horrors on the natives he encountered, bringing with him war and slavery. A certain version of history has been driven forward by social justice and white-guilt folks within the last few years that casts Europeans as barbaric invaders that interrupted and destroyed an otherwise peaceful world. This is, in the very least, moral refereeing led astray, and at most, an intentional fictionalization of history.

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The truth is, Europeans didn’t invent slavery or conquest, nor were they the sole beneficiaries of it or immune to being enslaved or discriminated against themselves. Early accounts indicate slavery was a central structure in society since the beginning of human civilization, and was most prominent
early on in Egypt with the enslavement of the Jewish people. In every region of Earth, slavery was commonplace, including pre-Columbian America. Yes, Native Americans enslaved each other. As far as the conquering and exploitation of other nations, this is obviously something that has existed since the beginning of human society. Europe has a long history of violent war, as does Asia, as does Africa, as do the Americas. The idea that Native Americans sustained a peaceful and morally pure society is simply not true. For instance, the word “cannibal” comes from Columbus encountering the Caribs, the tribe of natives that ate other people. According to accounts, this tribe had locked cages of enemy tribe’s boys who were purposefully fattened up and slaughtered for food. Female captives were used primarily for producing babies, which were also consumed. While we’re speaking of Central America, the Aztecs made habit of capturing and sacrificing tens of thousands of people to their gods every year. They would bring them to the top of their pyramid-like temples, where their beating hearts were torn from their chest, their limbs ripped or cut off and their carcass rolled down the steps.

The purpose of bringing this to attention isn’t to perpetrate whataboutism or point fingers. The Aztecs were living in a completely different time, as was Columbus, as was everybody in history. If we’re going to begin pointing fingers and calling Columbus “genocidal,” or casting Europeans as “land stealers,” we must also condemn the natives who committed the same crimes. When highlighting moral transgressions, we cannot do it selectively. We ought to understand moral relativism in context, denounce the evil acts of past times and still be able to celebrate the great achievements of profound men and women. Happy Columbus Day.

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