Indigenous Peoples’ Day

THREE+FIRE+CONFEDERACY%E2%80%94The+three+fires+represented+in+this+painting+by+Native+American+Studies+Assistant+Professor++Jud+Sojourn+Ph.D.%2C+are+icons+of+the+Council+of+Three+Fires+also+known+as+the+Three+Fire+Confederacy+which+include+the+Ojibwe%2C+Ottawa+and+Potawatomi+tribes.+%0A

THREE FIRE CONFEDERACY—The three fires represented in this painting by Native American Studies Assistant Professor Jud Sojourn Ph.D., are icons of the Council of Three Fires also known as the Three Fire Confederacy which include the Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes.

Remembrance Balanced with Celebration.

By Jud Sojourn Ph.D., assistant professor

Aaniin. “I respect your intrinsic value, I see your light.” This is one Anishinaabe greeting, there are others. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a remembrance of the countless lost at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, and those hurt and disappeared by church and government residential and boarding schools. Indigenous Peoples’ Day balances this memory with a celebration of resilience, resurgence and renewal. To have survived—that by itself is a reason for celebration. 

The NMU Board of Trustees (BOT) has again failed to approve Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The reason given at this time was that doing so would exclude Christopher Columbus. The BOT has proposed a committee to discuss further, delaying the decision for yet another year. What will be the reason to delay given next year? The previous delay was caused by the BOT saying it was not their decision to make after ASNMU and faculty senate, president and provost all voted in favor. 

Part of the intention of the day is to displace a symbol which communicates to children and youth a negative message. Columbus in his own journals wrote openly about trafficking slaves. In 1552, Dominican Friar Bartolomé de las Casas revealed in his “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” that  Columbus’ policies and those of Spanish colonials resulted in the near extinction of the peaceful Taino people. Columbus wanted gold and there was little, and so they were tortured, murdered. Every year in Genoa, Italy—Columbus’ birthplace—Italians gather to protest him becoming a symbol of Italian identity. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day mourns for the world which should exist today which does not. So celebration on a day of remembrance becomes a survivor’s celebration—one where individuals renew and recommit to the thought that communities might one day again govern themselves through youth, elders, two-spirited people, women and healers. Voice is evenly assured to the shy, even to the voiceless; the earth is respected before and after all else and human beings understand themselves not as separate and apart, but as one and the same with the wonder of the cosmos. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about celebrating human beings as just one of many nations who share the soul of the earth and the expanse. “Kina indinawemaaganiminaan,” or “all of our relations” is a phrase heard in ceremony. It means that what happens to one also happens to another.

Rewriting Faded Ancestral History

By Bazile Panek, Native American Student Association president

Walking into your morning lecture, you notice the whiteboard in the front of the room has remnants of the past classes’ writing. It looks like beautiful writing done in many diverse languages, there are characters drawn that you can’t make out. The curiosity in you grows the longer you study the whiteboard and your sense of wanting to know what was written builds inside of you. But, the door opens suddenly and loudly, your professor walks in, ready to begin class.

The professor begins by writing his new writing, on top of the remnants. You understand his writing right away, and you almost forget about trying to read what was written before. The professor doesn’t forget though, his writing is interrupted by these remnants, these remnants are staining his writing. He first uses some whiteboard cleaner to scrub away the remnants, but the marks linger. The professor applies more force, scrubbing harder and harder, faster and faster, but they just won’t fade away. He is getting angrier and angrier, and he grabs his red marker and draws all over these remnants, trying to hide what was left. Eventually, he covers the whole board in red marker, and by the time he is done, class is already over, and everyone leaves the room.

You’re now left alone in the quiet and empty classroom. You erase the red marker with care, making sure to not erase the remnants that were still left underneath. Slowly, you begin to rewrite those remnants. As you are rewriting the remnants, more students start to file in. One student is Maori, one student Anishinaabe, another Wixáritari, Tuvan and Mupache. All of them are smiling, happy to join in to rewrite our languages, our cultures, our traditions, our histories.

We all begin to celebrate together, speak together in our indigenous languages, dance traditional dances and sing our traditional songs. We are celebrating our diversity.

There have been many attempts to erase these remnants and to remove any sign of what was written before, but, my ancestors and indigenous peoples are resilient, and they made sure that our cultures would survive no matter how much force is used.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to honor those ancestors who ensured the survival of our cultures and a day to continue to rewrite our faded histories. We, as indigenous youth, are rewriting and celebrating our cultures, languages and histories. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to rewrite and celebrate our diverse Indigenous cultures, languages and histories. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to make our writing visible again. It is a day to celebrate our indigeneity.

 In Defense of Christopher Columbus

By Brian J. Murray, Senior Political Science Major

Christopher Columbus has been morally slandered due to false accusations of genocide and misleading propaganda written by his chief political adversary.

Columbus did not in any way commit genocide against the Native Americans. The 90% drop in native population was caused by disease, namely smallpox which was inadvertently brought to America by European explorers. The deaths of the native population due to disease was a tragedy, however care must be taken before assigning blame to the Europeans who had no knowledge of how such zoonotic diseases were spread. With no domesticated animals to share diseases with and build their immune systems, native people were extremely vulnerable to the introduction of new pathogens. 

Columbus himself did not abuse the native populations. Certainly abuses occurred, but in reality Columbus acted as a moderating force on his men. Interestingly enough, he was removed from his position as governor of the West Indies for cutting off the hands of Spanish settlers who raped or abused the natives. He was arrested for this and brought back to Spain, where he wrote a letter to the nurse of Prince John lamenting the abuse of the natives by some Spanish settlers.

Most concerning about the accusations levied on Columbus are their origins. They stem from two main sources. From Columbus’s chief political rival and the man who would replace him as governor, Francisco de Bobadilla, and from an English conspiracy to smear Spain. Bobadilla had strong political reasons for making Columbus appear as grotesque as possible, and due to the lack of corroborating historical evidence to support his claims, they must be rejected and treated like propaganda rather than fact. Black Legend was an anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic propaganda campaign started in the late 1500s to paint the Spanish as evil. This was achieved by defaming prominent Spanish figures, especially Columbus.

Very few people have had as profound an effect on the world as Columbus. From the explorers he inspired to the charities, cities and nations that bear his name, the impact of Columbus is unquestionable and he deserves to be celebrated. The push for the erasure of Columbus Day is misguided and ill conceived. Columbus should be remembered for his bravery and contributions to the age of exploration. The propaganda that defamed him should be discarded and relegated to the waste bin of history.