Contemplate the past and how you got here

I had an hour before class, so I decided to take a short walk in the fall sun in this, the land of the Dakota peoples. On the way I met an older man holding a newspaper, and he stopped in front of me — wearing a mask, of course, and 2 meters away from me. He said, “It’s Columbus Day! They’re tearing down statues in Portland!” He seemed distressed.

I was going to say, “Good. Portland is in many ways a progressive city, and I’m pleased that they’re acting to address injustices. Columbus was a genocidal monster who enslaved and tortured and murdered native people, and we should all be tearing down the statues and the myths of our nation that have so far honored mainly cruelty and oppression.”

Unfortunately, I am unable to say that in Anishinaabemowin, which would be the most appropriate language to use, so I just gave him a thumbs up and walked around him.

A remorseful Indigenous Peoples’ Day to all my fellow colonizers! Take a moment to think about the true history of the land you’re living in!


  1. stroppy says

    “I am unable to say that in Anishinaabemowin”

    I can’t even say ‘Anishinaabemowin’. More’s the pity.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Let me repost what I wrote on FB:

    Indigenous Peoples Day
    To honor the People who were the original residents of the continent Columbus introduced to the people of enjoy. We gave this date of Oct.12 the name of Columbus to restore the honor of the Italian immigrants who were suffering denigration for arriving with little cash. They worked steadily out of their poverty to become productive and useful members of American society.
    In honor of Columbus, we rename this date to honor the Indigenous Peoples who also have been suffering denigration, are working steadfastly to rise out of their poverty, and are productive members of American society.
    Thank you, Columbus, for offering your day of honor, to honor the Indigenous people you discovered for the invade.

    I hope I was able to to not offend the Columbus adherents, getting them to lean toward honoring the people who maintained this land before we got here.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    I am unable to say that in Anishinaabemowin, which would be the most appropriate language to use

    It might be the appropriate language in the north of Minnesota. In your part, it would be Dakota, which is totally unrelated.

  4. says

    Just to note that the idea of Columbus Day and statues of Columbus and all that was promoted by Italian-Americans who wanted a day and an icon to honor their own community. That is actually ridiculous because to begin with Columbus was not even Italian. He was born in what is today part of Italy but Italy did not exists then and he did not speak Italian, he spoke Ligurian. He sailed for Castile and Aragon, and claimed lands on their behalf which is why we ended up with a lot of Spanish colonies in the Americas. He never set foot in North America and didn’t even know that it existed. He also didn’t know that he had “discovered” a new land mass. (If he’d been right, he wouldn’t have been in the “Indies” anyway, he would have been in the Philippines) Also, he was just a lucky fool. All sailors knew in 1492 that the earth was spherical, as the ancient Greeks knew, and they even measured it pretty accurately. The reason nobody sailed west to get to Asia is because they knew it was so far away they would die of hunger and thirst before they got there, and they were right. Columbus was an idiot who misread the books and thought the earth was 2/3 actual size. (He also thought it was pear-shaped for some reason.)

    It’s Italian-Americans and Italian-American organizations that are the main resistance to de-heroizing Columbus and that’s just absurd. They should find a better icon, there are plenty to choose from.

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @5:
    Trevor Noah pointed out last week the reason Columbus Day became a national holiday, which I tried to reference in my @2.
    That Italian immigrants were soundly disparaged as penniless immigrants and lobbied strongly to stop being denigrated, starting local observances of Columbus Day. Their lobby reached national prominence and got it declared a national holiday. This was to explain their report of the Italian community reaction to all the Columbus Statues being torn down insulting the entire Italian heritage, which that clearly isn;t the case. The fact Chris Colombo (sic) was Italian is incidental to wanting his statues taken down. Like saying all Muslims are as bad as Osama Bin Laden, >— my point, or all Germans are like Adolphy.
    Thank you, for reading me rant a bit

  6. says

    I couldn’t give a fuck about the statues that came down last night, however those protesters were out of control. There was significant property damage. I don’t know which group was behind it, but they are making the rest of us look bad.

  7. woozy says

    FWIW the statues that are being torn down are of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Not, as could be implied by reading this post, of Columbus.

    “And last Friday was Leif Erickson Day. So who celebrated that?”

    I didn’t not celebrate it. Some-one read to me “Today is Leif Erickson Day” and I said “That’s nice.” I’d call that celebrating for a very small but non-negative, non-zero value of celebrate.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    cervantes @11: That’s just silly. He was born and raised in a city which is now part of Italy. You might as well say Goethe wasn’t actually German (until the formation of the Confederation, anyway). As for the language he spoke, so what? Standard Italian is a language based on the Tuscan dialect, which would have been incomprehensible to a lot of Columbus’ contemporaries born in the peninsula, or on Sardinia or Sicliy.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    Further to #12: By around 7 BCE, Liguria was certainly included in the Romans’ definition of Italia. Link

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @10

    FWIW the statues that are being torn down are of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Not, as could be implied by reading this post, of Columbus.

    maybe not all the ones being torn down are Columbus. Many Columbus statues ARE being torn down My current hometown of Boston had their Columbus statue beheaded by vandals. City is moving it to a “safe place”; a museum I guess. Boston is not the only city whose Columbus statue has been vandalized this year. Baltimore dumped theirs into the harbor.

  11. John Morales says

    I doubt Cristóbal Colón cares about the statues — been dead for a long time now.

  12. woozy says

    “maybe not all the ones being torn down are Columbus. Many Columbus statues ARE being torn down ”

    Well, I hardly meant to imply that Columbus statues were being spared. That’d be just plain nutty.

    I just meant the statues being referred to be the guy holding the newspaper and saying “They are tearing down statues in Portland” weren’t of Columbus– a reasonable assumption.

  13. siwuloki says

    I have contemplated the past and how I ended up in the Sonoran desertscrub of central Arizona. It’s a long story that I was able to cobble together using historical records. Father’s family fled Wales for America in the 1720’s, lighting in Orange County, Virginia. Mother’s family came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1620’s. One 10th g-grandfather was a governor of that colony, Thomas Dudley. Another in the class of 10th g-grandparents was Rebecca Nurse, hanged at Salem. Another in that class was one of her accusers.
    Father’s side ended up in Bibb County, Alabama, in the antebellum days. Second g-grandfather was one of 16 children, eight of each, born there. He and six of his brothers served in the Confederate Army (the eighth was too young). All survived. Second g-grandfather was a captain in command of Company B of the 3rd Arkansas Infantry, having achieved that position two weeks before Gettysburg, where his regiment endured 35 percent casualties. I celebrate his side’s loss in that terrible war.
    Mother’s side provided US soldiers who fought there, too, though none are direct relatives.
    And on and on and on. So many interesting stories, including this one of a man born into servitude to my family. All built upon land encroached upon after its original inhabitants were in large part felled by epidemic diseases that destroyed whole societies, epidemics much more deadly than the worldwide pandemic that we are now experiencing. “Decimated” is too mild a term. The rest suppressed or killed by other, later of my ancestors. And probably yours.
    And here I sit.

  14. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @18:
    That is a ubiquitous debatable. EG anyone born out of state and raised their entire life in Maine can not be called a Mainer, only born and raised in Maine gives one the status of being a Mainer. SMH
    To most, it where one is raised, rather than their specific birthplace that determines their nationality (er cultural identity).
    Even so, it is how the parents raise you, like 2nd generation immigrants maintaining their parents cultural identity rather than American.
    Which was startling during WWII when children of Japanese immigrants, who were born and raised in LA, were carted off to internment camps as fully Japanese, and they signed up for service as “we’re AMERICANS, dammit”.
    This is going on today with Latino citizens born and raised in, say Texas, being told to “go back to Mexico”, to which they reply “I’m American, my home is here, not Mexico”.
    in short: your question about Edward Said has no firm answer, it’s all a cultural construct.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    Boudica had no idea about ‘England’, quite likely had no love for ‘Britannia’, a Roman creation (she would have identified as Iceni), yet she is an English cultural icon.

    See also Richard the Lionheart, who probably spoke no English, and likely didn’t care much for the country except as a source of revenue.

    Funny old thing, cultural identity.

  16. jack16 says

    I recall Isaac Asimov saying that what Columbus “proved” that it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong if you’re lucky.