Columbus never even landed in the upper 48 states, yet a massive painting of his ‘discovery’ sits in the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
As a young child in school, unaware of the hidden histories of Indigenous cultures, I believed my elementary school teachers that the United States was discovered by a noble explorer who had fared stormy seas and landed in a territory he believed was India.
I discovered this to be a colossal lie. I am grateful for that.
I later learned that a Norse explorer known as Lief Erikson was the one who “discovered” the continent. But historians have adjusted the language since, asserting he was the first European to set foot on the continent half a millennia before Columbus.
Even as a young Native child, I never thought I was allowed to say, “Hey, how can someone discover a place where Indigenous people already lived?”
I say it every chance I can today.
I have learned the history and continue to study it. I have read the horrendous words of Columbus, and have dedicated my life to unveiling the truth.
Indigenous People’s Day or Columbus Day?
As the editor and co-founder of Native Viewpoint, I am confident you must realize what side of the fence on which I sit. I support Indigenous People’s Day as opposed to Columbus Day. But I would also like to add though I hate the man he was, I’d also like to acknowledge the contributions of people of Italian heritage.
I am anti-Columbus, certainly not anti-Italian.
There is a long list of Italian people who have contributed to history. Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, scientist and engineer whose contributions affect the world of science and art today though he died in 1519. Anna Magnani was an Italian actress in the 1900s whose realistic portrayals of characters were celebrated in the industry. There is also the world-renowned Italian actress Sofia Loren. Alessandro Volta invented the electrical battery, thus where we got the electrical unit of measurement ‘volt’ or ‘voltage.’ There was the Italian composer of operas Giuseppe Verdi, celebrated author and poet Luigi Pirandello and so on.
In every society, there are bad people, and Columbus was one of these bad people.
I read the words of Columbus found in his journals and the private letters in which he refuted the initial positive words he wrote regarding Indigenous peoples once they no longer served his purpose in funding his voyages.
And by the way, America, Columbus never even landed in the upper 48 states, yet a massive painting of his ‘discovery’ sits in the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
A crushing blow on my journey as an Indigenous journalist
In 2015, I was elated to have been invited to meet with Senator Heidi Heitkamp as a journalist with Indian Country Today. I was a member of the White House Press Pool and learned my visit with the Senator would involve an interview in her office as well as within the Nation’s Capitol building.
The Senator was called away, and I was given an additional opportunity to talk with her and others as she was whisked away to the Senate floor. I was even allowed to take the infamous “Senate Subway,” the mini subway that takes Senators and staff to the Senate floor.
Amid such an amazing achievement, and as I was being taken to the Senate floor, I looked up at the wall and “BOOM” my eyes laid on a massive painting of Christopher Columbus (it is in the background of my video below.)
Here I was at a high point of my journalistic career, and I am standing face to face with a man celebrated for his discovery. A discovery that is nothing more than a lie intertwined with the genocide of Indigenous people.
I was crestfallen but soldiered on. The importance of bringing awareness to the plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, the legislation being introduced by Heitkamp, was more important than my misgivings toward Columbus.
But Columbus was a horrible person in history. You can watch my video below for details.
This Indigenous journalist will never celebrate Columbus Day
There are countless reasons why I will never celebrate this horrible man.
Columbus and his men did horrible things, such as sexually-assaulting Indigenous girls as young as nine years old, whom Columbus said in his journals “were in high demand” by his men. He would cut off the hands of Indigenous people that did not find the desired amount of gold.
His men fed Indigenous babies to their dogs in front of horrified parents and held contests to cut Indigenous people in half with their swords. They even used Indigenous people as piggyback taxis, forcing them to run from place to place with the men on their backs.
I will never celebrate Columbus, nor Columbus Day.
I wish you all a blessed Indigenous Peoples Day.
Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the founder and editor of Native Viewpoint. With over 16 years of experience as a Native journalist and former member of the White House Press Pool. Follow Vincent on Twitter at @VinceSchilling or on any other of his social media accounts by clicking on any of the icons below.
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