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Oct 04 2012

Exploration Day is slowly gaining momentum

Check out the website! Sign the petitions! Read Maggie Koerth-Baker’s summary! Exploration Day is the cool idea to rename Columbus Day, to strip out the ugly historical implications — we celebrate the genocide of the first inhabitants of the American continents? — and build up new and positive associations. I’m all for it. Now we just need to get people with some clout behind it.

44 comments

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  1. 1
    cervantes

    Latinos call it Dia de la Raza — a celebration of the indigenous cultures and the new cultures that arose from the interaction of Eurasia and the Americas.

  2. 2
    cervantes

    BTW, since this appears to be a slow thread, I note that according to the literally true divinely inspired word of God, pi = 3. Yep, it’s right there in 1 Kings 7, describing the “sea” (actually a big swimming pool) in Solomon’s Temple:

    23 He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

    So there you go.

  3. 3
    Zeno

    I don’t care what they call it, I just want an October holiday. The tenth month is the middle of the long unholidayed period between Labor Day and Veterans Day, and a break would be nice.

  4. 4
    Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    You have no holiday in October? May I suggest Thanksgiving? You Americans, with all your backward holidays.

    There, I believe I’ve solved this problem. Get on it. Thanksgiving, in October, like it ought to be and no more praise for killing multitudes of aboriginals and a discovery that wasn’t.

  5. 5
    lordshipmayhem

    Ah, yes, Thanksgiving works for me. That way, you yanquis get several more weeks of Commercialmas shopping, just like us Canucks.

  6. 6
    cervantes

    Dia de la Raza is the traditional day for planting garlic in the North American temperate zone. So we need it for that purpose.

  7. 7
    rturpin

    Oh, well. Instead of celebrating just Columbus, you’re celebrating all the explorers. Because it wasn’t the colonization of the New World by European powers that destroyed the indigent civilizations, and its thousands of explorers from Cortez to Hudson. But Columbus.

    When people explore and run into other peoples, there almost always are some ugly results, from simple war, to conquest and genocide. While European discovery of the New World highlights that, it was hardly the first time exploration led to conflict. What happened to those already there, when the ancient Greeks colonized Sicily? How many waves of people settled Japan, Crete, and the British isles? Or go further back. We may all have a bit of Neandertal DNA. But does anyone really believe that the meetings between modern man and Neandertal were entirely peaceful, when the former moved into the latter’s areas? And now, they’re gone.

    The problem is that we want to celebrate exploration, which appeals to all sorts of desire and excitement. While somehow setting aside the conflicts that were the historical results of that. So we put them on poor Columbus’s head. I don’t know that Columbus was particular evil, as far as explorers go. If we want to celebrate exploration, then let’s own up to its downfalls, also. In which case we might as well let Columbus’s name stand for the celebration.

  8. 8
    markhodgen

    In an effort to make the term more descriptive of the process, I suggest it be changed – not to “Exploration Day”, but rather to “Exploitation Day”

  9. 9
    Alverant

    Don’t you mean the SECOND group of inhabitants of American continents? I understand that there were already people living in the American continents when today’s native American tribes came over. These first – first people were wiped out by disease and warfare. (History repeats itself, but that’s not a justification.) Unfortnately proof of these original inhabitants are sparse since archeological evidence is still legally considered Native American property and kept from being scientifically analyzed.

    Explorer’s Day is a better idea anyway. Maybe change it to Trader’s Day because trade is what drove exploration. But that’s too close to Traitor’s Day in pronounciation.

  10. 10
    Ze Madmax

    rturpin @ #7

    Columbus was a very shitty explorer. If you’re going to celebrate exploration by exalting an Eurocentric historical perspective that simply assumes that colonialism is ultimately a good thing, you could at least name somebody who was a good explorer. Not somebody who ignored established estimates on the size of the Earth in favor of his own and only survived an ocean voyage because there was a huge-ass continent between him and his target destination.

    That’s not even considering the fact that naming the day after Columbus celebrates the worst of European colonialism, including slavery (which Columbus was all for, although he suggested using native peoples rather than importing African slaves).

    Furthermore, “exploration” doesn’t have to be solely the process of mapping the Earth’s surface. Science is exploration, and it can be celebrated. The idea of exploring the universe by learning how it works is a far better thing to celebrate than a genocidal sailor who got lucky.

  11. 11
    chigau (違う)

    Don’t you mean the SECOND group of inhabitants of American continents? I understand that there were already people living in the American continents when today’s native American tribes came over.

    What?

  12. 12
    rturpin

    Ze Madmax:

    ..you could at least name somebody who was a good explorer. Not somebody who ignored established estimates on the size of the Earth in favor of his own and only survived an ocean voyage because there was a huge-ass continent between him and his target destination.

    You don’t believe in serendipity? I guarantee you most of those explorers did. Even the ones who didn’t enjoy it.

  13. 13
    Nick Gotts

    Unfortnately proof of these original inhabitants are sparseis nonexistent – alverant

    FIFY.

  14. 14
    rturpin

    Nick, the thing about pre-history is that it just keeps getting richer and more complex:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/new-evidence-suggests-stone-age-hunters-from-europe-discovered-america-7447152.html

  15. 15
    CJO

    European powers that destroyed the indigent civilizations

    Austerity measures have a long history I guess.

    (the word you want is “indigenous”.)

  16. 16
    nullifidian

    I’m not sure I agree with this.

    For one thing, it simply expands the scope of the problem from Christopher Columbus to Hernán Cortés to Francisco Pizarro to the white settlement of the Middle and Western U.S., subjugating the Native peoples on their way (and often founding slave states and territories). Anyone who has ever read Bartolomé de las Casas’ A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indes (the full text is included here as an appendix) can confirm that there was region-wide exploitation and massacres for which Columbus was only partially responsible.

    Also, I’m not sure that it is our right to build up new and positive associations when the effects of this exploitation and genocide are still with us. There are few if any countries in North and South America that can honestly claim to healed the rifts and established equality between European-descended and Native-descended peoples. The remaining Mayans were/are persecuted in Guatemala and Chiapas, the misery of the remaining Incas in Peru was responsible for the persistence of Sendero Luminoso, especially in the mountainous areas, poverty, alcoholism, and early death are endemic on U.S. reservations and a history of broken treaties is everywhere (e.g. the status of the Black Hills), and Canada may well have even worse relations now with its indigenous populations than the U.S. does. This is a continent-wide problem that is not even close to being satisfactorily addressed.

  17. 17
    rturpin

    Yes, indigenous. Doh! It’s funny how the brain sometimes thinks one thing, and the hand types another.

  18. 18
    Menyambal

    I highly recommend “Columbus in the Americas (Turning Points in History)” by William Least Heat-Moon. It is a well-written and entertaining book, and makes a good case that Columbus’s problems (lost, crazy, mean and greedy) affected how he acted in the New World, and how that set the pattern for “explorers” and exploiters who came after him.

  19. 19
    chigau (違う)

    The “Solutrean hypothesis” is not widely accepted.
    (to put it mildly)

  20. 20
    cervantes

    There are believed to have been 3 waves of pre-Columbian migration to the Americas, counting the arctic folks, but they all came from Siberia.

  21. 21
    rturpin

    chigau, I realize that. I’m just pointing out that there is some evidence. I have no idea how it will turn out. What I do know is this: the pattern is that we keep finding a greater and richer pre-history, rather than just what we have so far figured out.

  22. 22
    rturpin

    There are believed to have been 3 waves of pre-Columbian migration to the Americas…

    Now, does anyone believe the second and third wave always interacted peacefully with the people already here?

  23. 23
    whheydt

    Shrug. I prefer to celebrate 3 days *before* “Columbus Day”…on Leif Eriksson Day.

  24. 24
    Menyambal

    Now, does anyone believe the second and third wave always interacted peacefully with the people already here?

    Does anybody even believe that the people in the third wave always interacted peacefully with the other people in the third wave? Read the bottom half of http://www.cracked.com/article_19492_the-5-most-badass-tales-wartime-survival_p2.html for an interesting instance.

    Heck, us fourth-wave people had a pretty big war with each other in the 1860s.

    It isn’t simply that exploration and arrival lead to genocide. It helps, yes, and often happens.

    I’m just trying to say that making blanket assumptions about people isn’t always going to work. As I said above, Europeans arriving in America were influenced by Columbus … and also by their own culture, of course.

  25. 25
    Alverant
    Unfortnately proof of these original inhabitants are sparseis nonexistent – alverant

    FIFY.

    Don’t you mean Got It Wrong For You?

    It doesn’t matter where they came from, the fact is still there is evidence that today’s Native Americans aren’t the first people who settled the American continants. To say there is no evidence is flat out incorrect.

  26. 26
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Why not call it, Decimated By Disease Day. Because that is what happened when the explorers came to an already inhabited land. Enough natives were killed that all of these land grubbing explorers could tell themselves that the lands were empty and there for the taking.

    I think calling it Exploration Day is a terrible idea.

  27. 27
    cervantes

    “Now, does anyone believe the second and third wave always interacted peacefully with the people already here?”

    No, definitely not. Or rather, the arctic people haven’t interacted much with others, and they aren’t warlike, but further south there was plenty of carnage.

  28. 28
    cervantes

    Here is a discussion of current thinking, including the “Solutrean hypothesis.” Money quote:

    “To be clear, the opinion of most archaeologists is that the first humans in the Americas came from Asia over the Beringia land bridge and then along the coast of the New World, perhaps by boat, in several waves of immigration starting around roughly 18,000 BCE. The preponderance of evidence, even genetic and linguistic, supports this theory, broadly. There is no evidence at all, for example, that the Solutreans had boats. Although similar in some respects, in detail, the Clovis point technology is found nowhere else in the world, and yet it is commonly found throughout the Americas after about 13,000 years ago. It is most likely that the Americans who developed this highly efficient hunting technology displaced or merged with their antecedents whoever they were.”

    So, we don’t know for sure.

  29. 29
    Rey Fox

    Guns, Germs, And Steel Day.

  30. 30
    Menyambal

    For what little it’s worth, I was watching a Russian-made film, one time, that was set in Siberia. At some point the camera went into a hut, and showed the local people in their colorful ethnicity. They were so like Navajo “Indians”, complete with turquoise and silver jewelry, that it was surreal.

    Also, on my one visit to rural Mexico, there was a discussion about what to call the “Indians”. IIRC, there was a word meaning “indigenous” people that was pronounced much like “indeyhenous” and another that meant “with God” that was like “en Dios”. Some said that Columbus originally thought he’d landed at the Garden of Eden and the people were the children of God (because they were so nice and all). Either word sounded much like “Indians” and seemed better to me.

  31. 31
    cardinalsmurf

    Oh Blast! So….we’re *not* going with Subjugation Day then? What am I to do with all these calendars now?

  32. 32
    deniseroyer

    I have native roots, can’t say I’ve ever given much thought to Columbus Day. I do know people who have a day of mourning on Thanksgiving. Always thought of C.D. as a nod to Italian immigrants in the way that St. Patrick’s is Irish and Cinco de Mayo is Mexican. IDK, I’ll have to give it some thought and see if I care.

  33. 33
    kreativekaos

    Now we just need to get people with some clout behind it. -PZ Myers

    Unfortunately, like universal health care, shrinkage of religion extremism to the point you can ‘drown it in the bathtub’ and other beneficial socially progressive things,…. that also ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.
    (Looking behind me… ‘Sorry, is my pessimism showing?)

  34. 34
    sundoga

    I like the name as is. We just need to remember everything it commemorates – a truly amazing voyage of discovery, the destruction or set-up for destruction of a whole bunch of cultures and peoples, a technically proficient governor and administrator, and a rather poor student of geography.

  35. 35
    Jafafa Hots

    Exploration Day?
    That’s almost as offensive.

    Let’s make the date of the Iraq invasion a holiday and call it “Freedom Day.” Or maybe “Fossil Fuel Day.”

    Exploration Day? No.

    How about Exploitation Day? Extirpation Day?
    They sound similar plus have the benefit of being accurate.

    Changing the day so that it no longer celebrates one point man for a rapacious culture’s theft and genocide and instead celebrates MANY point men for a rapacious culture’s theft and genocide is not an improvement.

  36. 36
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    I have heard Australia Day called ‘Invasion Day’ ever since I arrived in 2005 and the latter seems to be gaining in popularity over the former, especially among the more socially aware young adults I’ve met; but that might just be the kinds of people my sons associate with.

  37. 37
    mnb0

    Then don’t celebrate Columbus Day. Suriname doesn’t either. It has Abolition Day for instance.

  38. 38
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    I don’t really see the point. Changing the name to something that doesn’t even reflect reality is – dishonest at best. No, I don’t think anyone should be celebrating any such thing.

    Columbus and most other voyagers weren’t actually exploring at all. Finding something you didn’t expect (and then misidentifying it) isn’t exploration.

    Exploitation Day would be more like it.

  39. 39
    pipenta

    I get why it is offensive, if you pay attention to it. But who does? Columbus Day isn’t particularly celebrated. Well, a few parades in places where there is a high population of Italian Americans. But there is no special meal or family tradition. It’s just a three day weekend.

    You want to mess with something serious? Thanksgiving is the ickiest holiday: the creepy cultish pilgrims surviving off the locals until they could take over and then things went the way things always do when religious extremists do their thing. It’s a celebration of patriarchy from top to bottom. It’s the American holy day of obligation when you are supposed to be with your family. And in 9 out of 10 homes, the women cook all day while the men watch football. Then we have black Friday and everyone runs out to shop shop shop. It is repellent. Not that it will continue much longer, this ridiculous excessive shopping. Thanksgiving offers up a full cornucopia of exhausting vulgarity. And all those Martha Stewart efforts to make it meaningful with the addition of handcrafted grapevine wreathes and heirloom persimmons? Yeah. The less said, the better.

    I’ll dump Thanksgiving in a heartbeat, skip the turkey and the pumpkin pie (or frozen persimmon mousse, oh you know who you are!). I will, however, hang on to my father’s famous recipe for sours: whisky (he used Chivas back in the day) FRESH SQUEEZED LEMON JUICE and honey (Golden Blossom was his choice). Mix in an antique blender, none of your fancy modern jobs. Adjust seasoning to taste, serve on the rocks in smallish stemmed glasses. Everyone will want more, so keep the portions small.

    Very delicious, but potent. Serve these sours to any puritans on your guest list and you will need to hire an exorcist. But the correct dosage might make dealing with the religious relatives bearable at least for one day.

  40. 40
    fly44d

    I signed both petitions and made the following comment on FB: “Celebrating the past is stagnation. We need to “Dare Mighty Things” to grow and prosper and re-dedicating Columbus day to Exploration Day is forward thinking and celebrates current exploration. New exploration. A future.”

  41. 41
    rturpin

    F writes:

    Finding something you didn’t expect (and then misidentifying it) isn’t exploration.

    Shit, there goes tens of thousands of Ph.D. dissertations!

    DeniseRoyer:

    …the way that St. Patrick’s is Irish.

    The irony is that St. Patrick isn’t Irish. Celebrating St. Patrick is a nod to the Irish in the same way that celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe is a nod to the Nahuatl. Though those living descendants, in both cases, would affirm that.

    We’re all assimilated. Into cultural invasions of which most of us are ignorant. Into some that history does not well record. Human history is the continual conquest of one people by another, with all its attendant consequences.

  42. 42
    lpetrich

    Reminds me of something I once posted: Crazy, Racist British Woman on the “Tram” – Secular Café
    -
    So she wants people other than Real Britons to go back to where they came from? Let’s see what some of her ancestors might have said.
    -
    1066 CE: Those Normans should go back to where they came from!
    800 CE: Those Danes should go back to where they came from!
    450 CE: Those Angles and Saxons and Jutes should go back to where they came from!
    43 CE: Those Romans should go back to where they came from!
    500 BCE: Those Celts should go back to where they came from!
    2700 BCE: Those Beaker people should go back to where they came from!
    4000 BCE: Those farmers should go back to where they came from!

  43. 43
    Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    sundoga @ #34

    a truly amazing voyage of discovery

    No. It wasn’t truly amazing and it wasn’t a voyage of discovery (it wasn’t even just one voyage). Columbus simply did not discover America, not even contemporaneously, and not least of all because of those Europeans who had reached the continent centuries earlier. Northern Europe was well aware of a vast continent to the West of Iceland. Central Europe was all too aware too. The cod fisheries are proof of this. The only thing Columbus can be said to have done is initiate the Spanish colonisation of the Americas and garner serious European interest in the establishment of permanent colonies in this New World. After all, there were people (though not considered as such) to exploit and land.

  44. 44
    Rutee Katreya

    [quote]Shit, there goes tens of thousands of Ph.D. dissertations![/quote]
    Well, no, because zie didn’t say it was worthless.

    [quote]Into cultural invasions of which most of us are ignorant. Into some that history does not well record.[/quote]
    You’re not one of those dumbasses who seriously thinks, for instance, the Saxon invasion is really comparable to what white people did in the Americas, are you?

    [quote]Human history is the continual conquest of one people by another, with all its attendant consequences.[/quote]
    …You are a jackass. Put down the fiction.

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