12 October 2009

October 12: A strange triple holiday

Today is Columbus Day in the U.S. As I've written before, I will not be celebrating Columbus Day. Christopher Columbus is overrated, and the legends that we have learned about him tend to stretch the truth, at best.

Columbus did not really originate the theory that the earth is round. Such had been known since ancient times.

Columbus did not really discover America. Other Europeans had reached North America hundreds of years before Columbus wandered into the West Indies.

And, once Columbus got here, he enslaved the Native Americans and forced them to convert to Christianity, while helping himself to the new world's gold and other precious resources.

And that brings me to the other two holidays that some are celebrating today: Canadian Thanksgiving and Indigenous People's Day. I find it all very ironic.

Just as the later European "settlers" followed in Columbus's footsteps with their Native American genocide in what is now the United States, the indigenous tribes of Canada suffered a similar fate. As in the U.S., many Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to Eurocentric boarding schools, where they were forced to assimilate into the new European-style culture. Some scholars believe that Canada can be tried in international court for genocide for their treatment of the native peoples.

So what do they have to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day? About the same thing the American "Indians" of the U.S. will have to be grateful for on November 26: Not much.

Way to go, white man.

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