Opinion | Op-eds

Not a man to celebrate

The Columbia University Native American Council objects to the views expressed in the recently published article, “Two different celebrations mark Columbus Day.”

The original and current position of the Native American Council is to raise awareness about the negative implications of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas—the decimation and systematic enslavement and oppression of the Native populations of North and South America (estimated between 90 and 112 million before contact by the historian Henry Dobyns and reduced to 230,000 in the 1900 United States Census), and the proliferation of the slave trade (which enslaved 10-15 million Africans from 1500-1888). Furthermore, the Native American Council takes the stance that the true nature of this history should be acknowledged by an Indigenous People’s Holiday (Indigenous Peoples Day) on the second Monday of October, which would replace Columbus Day.

As Native Americans, we are an inherently political group. We are not governed by party lines but by an everyday awareness of over 500 years of oppression that began with Columbus and that is perpetuated by the ignorance and complacency of men and women who call our ancient territories “home,” yet fail to acknowledge the sacrifice and suffering of the original guardians of this land and their African brethren upon which this nation was built. It is for this reason that the Native American Council has decided to respond to the opinions expressed by the Columbia University College Republicans.

CUCR members claimed that Columbus played “an integral role in what our country is today,” and that his discoveries marked “the birth of America.” Yet beyond his accidental discovery of the Americas—which was the result of miscalculation, luck, and significant funding from the king of Spain—Columbus had very little to do with the birth of our country. In any balanced account, Columbus was an agent of colonialism and the old autocratic system in Europe. These ideas and systems were rejected by our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and they continue to stand at odds with the American values of democracy, liberty, and equal opportunity. Why any person intent on celebrating America—a country whose history is filled with citizens who have made meaningful contributions to mankind through brilliance rather than miscalculation—would want to embrace such a man with a holiday is confusing.

Officers quoted from CUCR have gone as far as to say that Native Americans “wouldn’t be able to protest these things if Columbus didn’t come to begin with,” calling our push for a wholesome understanding of Columbus and his legacy “ridiculous.” To this, we must concede that CUCR is absolutely correct in stating that Native Americans would not be protesting the history of ethnic cleansing and slavery had Columbus not arrived and made these into our reality. However, we hope that our classmates in CUCR would, as Columbia students and compassionate human beings, demonstrate a more complete and nuanced understanding of their history.

The Native American Council wants Columbus’ actions to be remembered, but these actions go beyond the discovery of America and should include the depopulation and extermination of Native Americans, enslavement of Africans, and perpetuation of the colonial and post-colonial economic systems that are the sources of injustice throughout the world today. We are not telling people that they shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day—we just want them to be aware of the choice they are making when they have a barbecue in his name.

The Native American Council urges members of the Columbia community and beyond who recognize the injustice of Columbus to stand with us in solidarity against ignorance.

The author is a Columbia College first-year and is a member of the Columbia University Native American Council.

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Anonymous posted on

Was the individual who destroyed a person's private property at the homecoming game a member of the Native American Council?

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Anonymous posted on

You're seriously going to try and act like the victim here? When the 'headdress' that that person was wearing was not only offensive in and of itself but that very person couldn't have cared less that he was offending his fellow classmates and he and his friends went so far as to purposefully offend their fellow students. If you can't respect the fact that the 'headdress' was offensive, stereotypical, and just downright rude then why should someone else respect the fact that you're 'being patriotic' by wearing it? Two wrongs may not make a right but an eye for a eye, my friend. And sure, the 'headdress' probably shouldn't have been destroyed but you're basically bringing this up just because you want NAC to get some backlash considering all the backlash that you're getting--you're not honestly that pissed off that you're precious little poorly constructed 'headdress' was destroyed. Seriously, get a life. Stop being racist and just own up to the fact that what this person did was most definitely not in good taste.

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Anonymous posted on

It wasn't my head dress, so I'm not going to "act like the victim" since it wasn't my property which was stolen and destroyed. You are free to cast whatever judgments you like upon the individual wearing the headdress (although I will disagree vigorously.) Someone else doesn't need to "respect" that they meant it as a patriotic action; however, generally it is true people need to "respect" the laws of this country, even when that means people are being offended. The entire point of the protectionsof free speech is to allow controversial speech-- if it wasn't controversial, it wouldn't need to be defended. This is analogous situation. It doesn't matter if someone is wearing a Nazi uniform with swastikas all over it-- you can decry their "racist" viewpoint, ask them to stop, etc, but you cannot rip the uniform off them and burn it. That is theft, by the law of the state and union. In a similar fashion, ripping a headdress of someone's head and destroying it, then placing the feathers in your own hair is theft. A crime. Regardless of what it is that you stole ("little poorly constructed" is a bit of a reach; I'd say it would be the same as any halloween costume. I'm not claiming that it was worth thousands of dollars, but this is a crime, no two ways about it.)

"I" am not getting any backlash, because I witnessed and did not participate in these events. The NAC, if its members were the perpetrators of this theft and destruction of property (which is what I was wondering), should be involved in a rigorous debate about free speech right now. And the individuals responsible should be disciplined by the university as a student would for any matter of theft.

As for the headdress being "in and of itself offensive" - who are you to speak for every Native American tribe?

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Anonymous posted on

But seriously, the CUCR were talking at a barbecue with a tape recorder in their faces, they weren't presenting their most eloquent beliefs about why Columbus Day is good. If you're upset by Columbus day, maybe start freaking out about "Columbia" a bit more?

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Anonymous posted on

This is actually a really pertinent point - why are we named after this guy in the first place?

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Anonymous posted on

I'd actually argue that we aren't. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... Columbia is the poetic form of America. So Columbia University isn't named after Columbus as a person, but Columbia as the country that is named for him because he discovered it. Maybe that's a little intense, but it makes even more sense when you consider that before the Revolutionary War it was named King's College. Naming it Columbia was a way of 'reclaiming' it, taking it from a name that was very symbolic of colonialism and British rule to one symbolic of America, the new country.

Does this make sense? Am I crazy?

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Anonymous posted on

That is obviously the train of thought; you aren't crazy, except for thinking that it wasn't obvious. However, the root source is still Christopher Columbus. If it was called "Columbia Day" in celebration of the country that is named for Columbus, do you really think it would be that different?

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Anonymous posted on

i'm pretty sure "pc" wasn't a thing back in the 1700s...

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Anonymous posted on

Yeah, maybe we shouldn't celebrate Christmas either because, you know, Catholicism did some pretty bad things back in the time of Inquisition. 

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Anonymous posted on

Someone obviously doesn't know what Christmas is about...

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bellatrix318 posted on

LMAO

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Anonymous posted on

Would we endorse a holiday celebrating the company's leading slave trader? the architect of Japanese-American internment?

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Anonymous posted on

Listen. There is absolutely nothing to argue about. ALL people who currently occupy north America. Whom are not native of this land. Are on stolen land. And that is a fact. You cannot just take away a people's home, culture and languages. And just think. Oh well. You may say. I'm not the one who took away their land or killed anyone. But by your defense of. And agreement with the us (broken treaty, murdering) government. You are absolutely no different than the ones who did. Native Americans do not seem to do very well in this us government system. And its because its not designed to include them. Oh. Don't get me wrong. If your willing to forget your people and your culture. And just live the way this European government says you should live. Then you might just be OK. But not living as a true Native American. And to Julian Noisecat. You are absolutely correct in what you say about Columbus. But PLEASE. Never call the Europeans who took our land and kill our ancestors. "Our founding father's" They are not our father's. Please do not let these European designed schools brainwash you. And to the non native people (European descendants ). Do not try and escape the responsibility that your forefathers have left on your heads.

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Anonymous posted on

well written article, concisely debunks the CUCR members who naively and without any regard to the genocidal history of this country stated that they (Native Americans) "wouldn't be able to protest these things if Columbus didn't come to begin with." 

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Anonymous posted on

The Native Americans were conquered and forced to move from their native lands.

That's the way the world works, the strong rule and the weak struggle to get by.

Survival of the fittest...deal with it

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Anonymous posted on

The meek will inherit the Earth

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bellatrix318 posted on

Yeah, it works when they don't play fair. But, let me tell you something my ancestors fought until the very end, what can you say about yours??

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Anonymous posted on

You said a mouth full there. ''That's the way the world works"" It really does, but you got some of your words wrong. It's not "the strong rule""--it's the law breakers and self centered people that take and take and steal from the people that are caring and try to treat all people with kindness. This does not make the people you see as the weak, to be the weaker, it makes them the stronger and better person.

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Anonymous posted on

The so-called "Native Americans" came over the land bridge from Asia 20,000 years ago. So your ancestors are actually Chinese :-P.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Julian, Elouise Cobell would have been proud of you today. I know I am.

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Anonymous posted on

Well you know, I am very proud that these europeans settled in America and brought the values of WESTERN civilization - yes, that which you are supposedly incorporating with the Core. And you know what, because so far this the only civilization that truly has allowed for the emancipation and FREEDOM of the individual, I will be so glad that we keep promoting it elsewhere. Are you sure Native Americans want to live the way they live? Do you have any idea how it is to live in a society that drenched in tradition, where there is no such thing as social mobility, gender or sexual freedom, or just pure freedom of thought? Get the fuck out of your PC world and realize that so-called "traditional" societies are just incompatible with the humanistic conception of man. You know, if people who defend Native American were actual traditionalists who believe in such things as gender-roles, at least it would be somewhat coherent. But when you realize that the people who defend this bullshit are actually also the people who defend gender equality, sexual freedom and social CHANGE it all turns into an unbelievable PC loophole. 

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Anonymous posted on

Contrary to your belief my dear friend, your idea of WESTERN civilization as you so candidly put it, is not what brought the so-called mass of emancipation and freedoms to which we all claim our dear country adheres. Take the argument back to its core and realize the contradictions in your rebuttal. Columbus did not bring emancipation and he did nto bring freedom to the people whose lands he decided to capture. He brought enslavement, bribery for foolish objects and denial of self. Because of your beloved WESTERN civilization - millions of people have died and suffered so that EUROPEANS could claim their civilization objectives. YES BECAUSE CIVILIZATION = MASS INCARCERATION DEPRIVATION OF WELL-BEING AND GENOCIDE AND MASS MURDER IN OTHER CONTEXTS.
 
I am quite certain that the native americans did not want to be deprived of their lands or did they want to be forced to change their way of life NOR did Africans want to be dragged from their homelands for the sake of slavery (from which they benefited so abundantly). OR MAYBE THIS IS THE MEANING OF THE EMANCIPATION OF WHICH YOU SPEAK.
 
Ok. so i now understand the wonderful life of which you speak- so graciously it benefited you and ancestors YES THE EUROPEANS GOT A KICK OUT OF THIS WESTERN CIVILIZATION. yet Native Americans continue to be stratified in a society that once belonged to them and African Americans continue to be discriminated against be EUROPEANS BROUGHT THEM INTO SLAVERY FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE GREAT WESTERN CIVILIZATION.
 
Please, ALLOW ME TO THANK YOU AND YOUR ANCESTORS FOR DEPRECATING MY CIRCUMSTANCES AND THAT OF ***MY FOREFATHERS***.
 
OH HOW WONDERFUL THE STATE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

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Anonymous posted on

Oh, and you certainly don't have to be an actual ethnic descendant of any of these european settlers. We all are (or at least should be) heirs of classical culture, which certainly doesn't mean my grandmother was greek. 

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Anonymous posted on

Oh. I see. Your glad that Europeans brought their western culture to America? Which part of their culture do you mean exactly? The murder of a nation of people. Or the enslavement of Africans? Are maybe their sickness and dirty diseases. So the native Americans lived in north America for thousands of years. With the unselfish belief that one should only take what is absolutely necessary for survival and everything had meaning and should be respected. And they managed to live in harmony with the earth. Now keep in mind this was for thousands of years. Now in just 400 years the great all knowing European culture has all but destroyed this once perfect and beautiful land. The water is toxic and air polluted. If you really believe that western civilization brought freedom. Then don't work or earn any money and see what happens to your life. You are a slave whether you known it or not. And with this European land tax . It all but guarantees that you will be indebted to and own by this government for the rest of your life.

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Anonymous posted on

To to person who said "the natives were conquered . That's life deal with it" . You make sure to write a letter to George Bush senior. Explaining that to him. Because in1990 when he ordered troops into kuwait because the Iraqis were CONQUERING the Kuwaiti oil. I don't think that he understood that concept. Why did he stop the concurring? And the next time your walking down the street and someone sticks a gun in your face robs and beats the hell out of you. Dont bother calling on the police for help. Cuz remember. Its like you said. "survival of the fittest."

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Mark Roddy posted on

NoiseCat Rulez!

Anyone who thinks different has several continents inhabited by multiple families and tribes to deal with. But seriously, not getting why Colombus Day is a rather COMPLICATED celebration, is just being remarkably thick. 

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Anonymous posted on

Doesn't anyone read history? To whom did the founding fathers model their form of government from? Perhaps the Haudenosaunee Confederacy the strongest military power and nation inhabiting the new world pre revolution.  What were colonist fleeing I wonder from their homeland.  Did you know that a majority of tribes in the new world held women as equals.  The Haudenosaunee Confederacy for one is matrilineal.  So just what did the West bring? I believe the West brought is own values Imperialism, Colonialism, and Ecocide.  To the West the earth is just a thing to be devoured, what creature does this sound like? perhaps a virus. To the argument survival of the fittest "Why are we still here then?" (remember we still exist as a individual nations) answer me that one. Without native allies the new world would have destroyed the colonists the first winter. Without native allies the British flag would fly over government buildings. Without natives your America would not exist. Did you know that Native Americans hold the highest per capita record of service of all the ethnic groups in America.  The smallest minority set the bar for enlistment voluntary I might add. So before you think to write us off as Hollywood fiction or listen to those that have no knowledge of who we are.  Research in depth from both native and non native authors.  Indigenous People Day

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Anonymous posted on

Well put and we also exist north of the Border under a different agreement

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Anonymous posted on

Saw this linked from Indian Country Today Media Network. Thoughtful & brave (showing histories differently than the current dominant/popular narrative is always brave!) writing, thanks Julian!

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Anonymous posted on

Same! Very well written piece.

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Anonymous posted on

Articulate, poignant and compelling...thank you for sharing this work.

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