Autumn's American Holidays
October 12th ---
but Monday, October 8th in 2012:
Columbus' Farewell to Isabella and Ferdinand in Spain
Tuesday, 10 October 2006 --
I have studied Navajo, Apache, and other Native American sacred traditions for many years. Thus, every October 12th I cringe as the "hero" Columbus is honored in this country. Until this year, I had no desire ever to create a page for this day. But over the past weekend I read a lengthy, compelling article taken from Howard Zinn's 1980 A People's History of the United States and I decided it was time to set things straight.
For years the tagline on all my e-mails has been this African proverb:Only when lions have historians, will hunters cease being heroes.In Zinn, the New World's "lions"have an historian.
Kathleen Jenks. Ph.D.
[Added 10/7/12]: This fine, hard-hitting article, "Rethinking Columbus..." by Bill Bigelow, an author/school teacher in Tuscon, AZ, focuses [like Zinn in the link just below this one] on the dark, racist, intolerant side of the USA's Columbus Day celebrations. Here is how he opens this piece:http://libcom.org/a-peoples-history-of-the-united-states-howard-zinn/1-columbus-the-indians-and-human-progressThis past January, almost exactly 20 years after its publication, Tucson schools banned the book I co-edited with Bob Peterson, Rethinking Columbus. It was one of a number of books adopted by Tucson's celebrated Mexican American Studies program - a program long targeted by conservative Arizona politicians.
The school district sought to crush the Mexican American Studies program; our book itself was not the target, it just got caught in the crushing. Nonetheless, Tucson's - and Arizona's - attack on Mexican American Studies and Rethinking Columbus shares a common root: the attempt to silence stories that unsettle todayís unequal power arrangements....
This is a sobering, eye-opening, gripping, lengthy article by Howard Zinn taken from Zinn's 1980 book, A People's History of the United States. Here are a series of excerpts for those who will not have time to read the entire article:http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_4452086...To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves - unwittingly - to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all) - that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly....Here are 2 more paragraphs from Zinn -- I really respect the way he frames his thoughts:...Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott's army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can "see" history from the standpoint of others.That last paragraph seems especially timely, accurate, and lucidly written. Then there is this one, both poignant & brilliant:
My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.......I don't want to invent victories for people's movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare....Here's a really bizzare, sick piece of European "logic":...When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a "vacuum." The Indians, he said, had not "subdued" the land, and therefore had only a "natural" right to it, but not a "civil right." A "natural right" did not have legal standing....Two more paragraphs near the end:...Was all this bloodshed and deceit - from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans - a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made - as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants forAnd finally, here is Zinn's humane and wise conclusion:
industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?
That quick disposal might be acceptable ("Unfortunate, yes, but it had to be done") to the middle and upper classes of the conquering and "advanced" countries. But is it acceptable to the poor of Asia, Africa, Latin America, or to the prisoners in Soviet labor camps, or the blacks in urban ghettos, or the Indians on reservations-to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world? Was it acceptable (or just inescapable?) to the miners and railroaders of America, the factory hands, the men and women who died by the hundreds of thousands from accidents or sickness, where they worked or where they lived-casualties of progress? And even the privileged minority-must it not reconsider, with that practicality which even privilege cannot abolish, the value of its privileges, when they become threatened by the anger of the sacrificed, whether in organized rebellion, unorganized riot, or simply those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law and the state?.......So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.If you can make the time, truly the whole article is well worth reading. Note: if the link is ever broken, see:
They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe's, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.
John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: "Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace."
Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that "myth." Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.
[Old link: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/100906B.shtml: updated 10/7/12]: http://archive.truthout.org/article/mary-annette-pember-columbus-day-no-reason-celebrate
This is from the October 6, 2006 issue of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Columbus Day no reason to celebrate" by Mary Annette Pember, a Red Cliff Ojibwe, and past president of the Native American Journalists Association. She currently lives and works as an independent journalist in Cincinnati. She writes:In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue on a mission of plunder for Spain. When he arrived here, he commenced the virtual annihilation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.[Note: if the link is ever broken, see: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/100906B.shtml]
A culture and nation founded on the murderous, exploitive philosophy of this act has two choices: apologize and make reparations, or cunningly twist the facts and make it an opportunity for celebration.
The United States has chosen the latter....
...At the time of European "discovery" in the 15th century, there were more than 10 million native peoples in North America. But by the beginning of the 20th century, our numbers had dwindled to less the 230,000.
So we're pretty ambivalent about the whole celebration idea surrounding our near-demise. The Columbus attitude has justified U.S-Indian policy all the way from stolen lands and broken treaties to recent attacks on tribal sovereignty and the failure to make good on Indian trust funds.
Currently, mainstream America has a "just get over it" attitude to native peoples, dismissing our grievances as political correctness gone awry. But in the recent words of an elder, "If the shoe were on the other foot, Americans would carry laminated copies of their ancestors' treaties until they got their just dues."
Asking the U.S. government to abandon Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day is akin to asking for a sea change in the national psychology. It demands a soul-searching objectivity that is simply too threatening to the mainstream culture and economy.
The European "discovery" of America is a misnomer. This victor's history is still very much at the heart of the American psyche. By ignoring the fact that that the place was already inhabited by millions of indigenous peoples, the celebration of Columbus Day exalts a criminal act.
This philosophy has allowed the current Christopher Columbus reincarnation, George W. Bush, sufficient national support in his efforts to bring democratic light to the darker regions of Iraq.
As a native woman, experienced in the repercussions of American policy-making, I'm waiting for the president's supporters to propose establishing a George W. Bush Day in Iraq, celebrating the civilizing of that country.
I bet few Americans would see the irony.
Map of Columbus' Four Journeys
This is from a tutorial on "The European Voyages of Exploration" from the University of Calgary in Canada. Here is how the section on Columbus opens:http://cleangreengems.com/columbus/page1.htm: [Updated 10/7/12]Prior to 1492 and Christopher Columbus' voyage to the Americas, Spain's only possession of any consequence outside Europe were the Canary Islands. By the mid-sixteenth century, however, Spain would control much of the Caribbean, large portions of the Americas and parts of Africa. This rapid acquisition of overseas possessions was accompanied and aided by the establishment and consolidation of hegemony in Europe through a series of political marriages. Instead of waging battles to spread its power and influence, the prolific Habsburgs preferred to use the bonds of marriage to link their household to others....About the New World people Columbus discovered, according to the ship's recorder:"...They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion. I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure six natives for your Highnesses, that they may learn to speak. I saw no beast of any kind except parrots, on this island."About the significance of these discoveries:...In light of the monumental importance of Columbus' journey, it is worthwhile to pause for a moment and consider Columbus' actions. The fundamental difference between Columbus' voyage in 1492 and those of Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama [to Asia and Africa] is that the Portuguese explorers had knowledge that the areas they were travelling to existed; there was a history of contact, however nebulous and sporadic, between Europe and Africa or Europe and Asia. But when Columbus walked onshore in the Bahamas, he encountered the beginnings of a continent that Europe had no idea existed. There were no nautical folk tales or rumours of a landmass in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, nor was there a history of vague contact between the populations of these two continents. Quite simply, the Americas were not supposed to be there....
This page looks at historical texts connected to the "Landing of the Ships" and includes a fine sunrise painting of Columbus' three ships by John Hagan.http://cleangreengems.com/columbus/page0.htm: [Updated 10/7/12]
© Artist: John Hagan
(See link directly below)
Again from John Hagan comes a very interesting page on the many portraits of Columbus, none of them ever taken from life, for apparently he never sat for a single one of them. Hagan offers his own portrait, based on his own insights as well as upon written descriptions of Columbus:http://www.athenapub.com/coluvoy4.htm[My portrait] shows a man with a long face, cruel eyes and aquine nose. It is my estimation of his character that a certain amount of deception and cruelty was forced upon him if it did not already exist. Of course he needed great force of personality and dedication to do what he did....
From the Athena Review, Vol.2, no.1, comes "The Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus (1502)." The brief page includes a fine map and centuries-old text relating to the journey. Here is how the page opens:http://www.interment.net/column/news/christopher-columbus.htmThe first likely contact between the Spanish and Maya (or their neighbors in Honduras to the east) occurred in the 1502 voyage of Christopher Columbus between Hispaniola and the Darién peninsula of Panama....
Christopher Columbus as a possible Spaniard
© Artist: Mike Benny
(See link directly below)
This is a report entitled "New Television Show Researches the Biography of Christopher Columbus" by Steve Johnson, July 29, 2004:On August 1, 2004, the Discovery Channel will broadcast a new television documentary that studies the genealogy and biography of famed explorer Christopher Columbus.
The show entitled, "Christopher Columbus: Secrets From The Grave", uses scientific examination to answer the mystery surrounding his birth, life and his death. Was he Genoese Italian, or Catalan Spanish? Was he a Sephardic Jew avoiding the Spanish Inquisition?Common belief has its that Christopher Columbus was the son of a Genoese weaver who grew up and discovered America. But the makers of the documentary asked the question, "But what if that story was wrong?" Original records of Columbus' birth and childhood have been destroyed and his writings deliberately obscure the truth, leading historians to theorize that he was hiding something. Now, new scientific evidence is challenging the traditional biography of Columbus -- where he was born, where his remains rest, and the identity of his parents.Unfortunately, the website is a "tease" and we are not told what the findings revealed. :-(
A press release issued by the show's producers says:...Now, using cutting-edge technology, one historian and a team of scientists are mounting a new effort to unmask the admiral's true identity, and the fate of his remains. Historical, lexicographic and anthropological testing may support the theory that Columbus was not from Genoa, Italy, and that he could have been born in Catalonia, Spain. To attempt to answer these intriguing questions, COLUMBUS: SECRETS FROM THE GRAVE travels to Seville, where reporters and citizens descend on the Cathedral to watch as Anunciada Colon, a direct descendent of Columbus, hands over the keys to the chest that is reported to hold his bones.
Columbus' remains, along with those of his brother Diego and son Hernando, are exhumed for a series of complex DNA tests. This first-ever testing of his remains has galvanized the Spanish people, who believe that Christopher Columbus was Spanish, and antagonized some Italians who have for centuries claimed Columbus as their own with great pride.
In this special, Professor Charles Merrill, who has studied Columbus for years, and a group of scientists use different methods to shed some light on Columbus' past. To test his nationality and his level of education, experts analyze Columbus' writings to reveal that he never used Italian, even in casual correspondence, and that he was actually very well rducated. This indicates claims that Columbus was the son of a modest Genoese weaver might have been made from whole cloth.
"Christopher Columbus is depicted here in his only state-sponsored,
albeit non-authenticated, portrait,
painted by Alejo Fernández between 1505 and 1536."
This lengthy page examines both the pros and cons of Columbus' history. About who he was, the website offers this information, also mentioned in other sites (see above):http://www.glencoe.com/sec/socialstudies/btt/columbus/before_the_voyage.shtml
Although most historians believe Columbus's own claims that he was from Genova,
there are others who think that he was hiding his true descent or past. Of those the
one that is most prevalent at present is the theory that he was a converted Jew.
Hate against Jews was high in those days, in fact they were expelled from Spain in
1492, and converted Jews would be suspect as well.
About whether he was a hero or a villain:Much criticism focuses on the continuing positive Columbus myths and celebrations (such as Columbus Day) and their effects on American thought towards present-day Native Americans. Official celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage in 1992 were muted, and demonstrators protested marking the anniversary at all. It was in this spirit that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez signed, in October, 2002, a decree changing the name of Venezuela's "Columbus Day" to "The Day of Indigenous Resistance" in honor of the nation's indigenous groups. On October 12, 2004, supporters of Chávez destroyed a 100-year old statue of Columbus in Caracas. They did this because they found Columbus guilty of 'imperialist genocide'. They blotted the statue with slogans like 'Columbus=Bush'. (For more, see Columbus Day.) The genocide and atrocious acts committed by the Spanish against the natives (the Tainos in particular) are well documented in terrifying detail in the letters of Bartelome de Las Casas.The page includes a wide variety of links to various aspects of his life and journeys.
This is a McGraw-Hill/Glencoe page giving an historical overview of Columbus. Here is a passage relating to uncertainties about his birth and its location:http://www.answers.com/topic/christopher-columbusHis ancestry aside, historians have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact date or location of Columbusís birth. While prominent biographer Samuel Morison claims that Columbus was born between August and October 1451 in Genoa, other researchers have made very different claims. The suggested dates of his birth have ranged from as early as 1436 to as late as 1455. With these two extremes Columbus would have been setting out on his voyage to America as young as 37 or as old as 56. To imagine that, in a time of plague and poor health, a man could live into his seventies (the later date would place Columbus at seventy years old at his death) is unlikely. Most historians agree with Morisonís choice of a birth date.
The location of Columbusís birth has also caused confusion. Morisonís suggestion of Genoa is widely accepted to be Columbusís birthplace. But one of the most startling pieces of evidence, or lack of evidence, which disputes Morisonís findings is the fact that Columbus neither wrote nor spoke Italian. There is no letter, diary entry, or contract written in Italian and no mention of Columbus speaking Italian at court or on his ships. Furthermore, all of his names for islands and bodies of water in the New World were Spanish in origin. Supporters of Morisonís theory have argued that letters, diaries, and contracts were mostly written in Latin, so the lack of Italian is not surprising. As for the lack of spoken Italian, they argue that in the Spanish court and while on a voyage under the Spanish flag, it is not surprising that Columbus would have used primarily Spanish. To speak Italian in the presence of Spainís king and queen would have been in terribly poor taste....
From Answers.com comes a lengthy and diverse page on Columbus compiled from many sources, and with good illustrations (see above for a portrait of Columbus from this page). Due to the number of sources, I am not singling out any one of them for quotes. Enjoy exploring them on your own <smile>.http://web.archive.org/web/20110514095812/http://www.sailtexas.com/columbusships.html: [10/7/12: now on Web Archive]
This interesting, informative, and well-illustrated site looks at authentic reconstructions of Columbus' three 1492 ships:http://home.fuse.net/pearsonfamily/pear2.htmlThese full size replica's were built by the Spanish Goverment and sailed to 'The New World' on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's Voyage in 1492. The Santa Maria (87ft) had three masts (fore, main, and mizzen), each of which carried one large sail. Foresail and mainsail were square sails, the sail on the mizzen mast (at the stern) was a triangular sail known as a lateen, there was also a small square sail on the bowsprit, and small topsail on the mainmast above the mainsail. The Pinta (74ft) also had three masts, as did the Niña (70ft)....
From what I can tell, this page gives a good historical overview and I have used several images from it. However, the background is so "noisy" with millions of tiny, dark ships that I find it nearly impossible to read the text. If you have a way to filter out the "noise," you may find the page worthwhile. For all othes, I suggest avoiding this one.http://webexhibits.org/vinland/images/middle-voyages-map-2.jpg
Finally, since it is well known that the Vikings actually pre-dated Columbus by many centuries, I am including this map of their route.
Other Autumn Pages:
and the soul-feasts of November:
I have created 2 separate pages for these at:
el dia de los Muertos
(Day of the Dead)
To Current Autumn Greetings & Lore
To Archived Autumn Greetings & Lore (2005)
To Archived Autumn Greetings & Lore (2004)
To Archived Autumn Greetings & Lore (2003)
To Archived Autumn Greetings & Lore (2002)
To Archived Autumn Greetings & Lore (2001)
To Archived Autumn Greetings & Lore (2000)
To Archived Autumn Equinox/Mabon Greetings (1999)
To August's Lammas page
To Current Summer Solstice / Summer Greetings & Lore
To Eastern & Western Europe: Earth-Based Ways (Wicca)
To the Wheel of the Year
To the Crone Papers
To Indigenous Peoples of the American Southwest
To Common Themes: WEATHER-WORKING: Introduction
(An experimental on-going ritual in cyberspace)
To Common Themes: Sacred Foods
To Latin America: The Lore and History of Maize
To Common Themes: The Green Man page
Text and layout © 2006 by Kathleen Jenks,
All rights reserved.
Page created 10-11 October 2006.
Launched 3:20am, 11 October 2006
10/7/12: added new link 10/7/12 & Michaela, my Links-Elf, updated 4 old ones from 2006.