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Monday, October 8, 2012

Indigenous People Day 2012

Today we celebrate Columbus Day in the United States. Banks are closed, government offices are closed, postal stations are closed.

But yet we seem to still celebrate historical inaccuracies.

Yes, Columbus in 1492 sailed the ocean blues. But was he the first to "discover" America?

No he was not.

The Vikings ( Not the Minnesota NFL team) were know to have settled in the New World some 400 years prior to Christopher Columbus arriving in the Bahamas.

But honestly, how do you "discover" a place where people already live in?

This to me, is still a puzzling notion. So puzzling that the best way to address it is through stand up comedy brought you by Eddie Griffin.

Furthermore,  the idea to not give Indigenous people the "credit" to even exist before Columbus arrived seems ridiculous to me. That way of thinking, that indigenous people needed "saving", that in the eyes of religion they were considered not human, is still a notion that perpetuates today. 
If you don't believe me, take a look at what happened in Bagua, Peru in 2009. Indigenous people of Bagua and their leaders decided to create a blockade after the Peruvian goverment passed legislation that "granted" access foreign investors to natural resources found in the amazon, found in Indigenous lands. 
The government of Peru, led by then President Alan Garcia, decided that the best way to address this was to send armed forces and the outcome was 39 dead, 202 wounded with many still missing. Below, you will find a short documentary about the massacres at Bagua.
Remembering Bagua (2011) from Anna Luisa D. & Bronwen M. on Vimeo.

You might ask yourself, so why is land so important to the indigenous people?

Well, because taking land away from indigenous people is taking their existence. Because land is sacred to the indigenous. Its not just a physical space, it is also a spiritual space, a cultural space that they call their own. Peruvian Indigenous leader, Santiago Manuin said it best "The indigenous exists because of their territory".

And it's because of acts like the one that happened in Bagua, that its important that we acknowledge the historical inaccuracies around Christopher Columbus. Should we really be celebrating a man, who enslaved, murdered indigenous people all in the name of religion and prestige? 

All around the world, countries are opting to celebrate Indigenous People Day, instead of Christopher Columbus Day. The question is why aren't we?

I like to leave you with a poem i wrote last year titled "Indigenous People Day". I hope the poem inspires you to question why we still celebrate Columbus Day. Because i can't find any reasons why we still do.


Indigenous People Day Poem

by Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria

Today 518 years ago a man got lost
And found a ticket to fame
se persigno con la santa maria, la niƱa y la pinta
and left with god
traveled oceans
crossed timeline
towards the end of his world

lost years of human life
All to discover nothing.

landed on occupied land
and stole it
appropriated it
raped it
and called it HIS PA NIO LA

All in the name of the holy 1st world
he placed the blade on each side of their shoulders
anointed the soldiers metal
and declare holy war
treated natives as cattle
slaughtered butchered, conquered
it doesn't matter what noun you use
massacre still has the same effect.

and he continued on...

in the name of precious metal and spices
Enslaved thousands
to give them diseases
inject them with greed and rabies
expose them to a religion that
calls them
not human

and he continued on...

erased their way of life by force
enforced their ways
brick by brick
layer by layer
until their buildings replaced ours
hoping we forget

but we havent..
518 years and counting..
we have been speaking
you never chose to listen..
u gave us second class citizenship
yet you never chose to listen
you called our meeting a cultural exchange
but you never chose to listen
you gave us names because you couldnt pronounce ours
and you are still not listening

so we keep speaking
we keep asking...

Why do we build statues,
name avenues,
throw parades
for a man who got lost and discovered nothing?


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