Columbus Day: Dominant Culture Jamming

Columbus Day: Dominant Culture Jamming

Jonathan Gillis

8 October 2012

Updated 10,11 October 2012


Those that ignore and dismiss authentic history are dissociated from the present and neglect the future. The refusal to listen, deafens.

"[O]ne society [the United States]––the world's most ferocious destroyers and yet the most fanatic preservers of wilderness parks and endangered species."[1]

"America produces the world's most devoted protectors of wildlife, its greatest leaders in conservation, its most romantic wilderness literature, the first national parks, and the angriest opponents of the soiling of air and water…and it produces an ecological holocaust, the raping of a whole continent of forests and rich soils by uncomprehending destroyers, wrapped in patriotism, humanism, progress, and other slogans in which they profoundly believe."[2]

"The trouble with the eagerness to make a world is that, being already made, what is there must first be destroyed."[3]

"White, European-American, Western peoples are separated by many generations from decisions by councils of the whole, small-group nomadic life with few possessions, highly developed initiation ceremonies, natural history as everyman's vocation, a total surround of non-man-made (or 'wild') otherness with spiritual significance, and the 'natural' way of mother and infant. All these are strange to us because we no longer live them––although that competence is potentially in each of us."[4]


"The modern West selectively perpetuates [multiple] psychopathic elements. In the captivity and enslavement of plants and animals and the humanization of the landscape itself is the diminishment of the Other, against which men must define themselves, a diminishment of schizoid confusion in self-identity. From the epoch of Judeo-Christian emergence is an abiding hostility to the natural world, characteristically fearful and paranoid. The sixteenth-century fixation on the impurity of the body and the comparative tidiness of the machine are strongly obsessive-compulsive. These all persist and interact in a tapestry of chronic madness in the industrial present, countered by dreams of absolute control and infinite possession."[5]


"We all know the name of the man who came here from Europe, but none of us knows the names of the people who were here first––and there were…millions, of them."[6]


"Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts."[7]


Columbus wrote of the Arawaks: "They willingly traded everything they owned…. They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…. They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."'[8]


"These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus."[9]


The Arawaks "wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears." Columbus took some Arawaks by force and "insisted they guide him to the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic)…On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had ran aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store gold. He took more Indian prisoners…got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die."[10]


"Because of Columbus's exaggerated report and promises [to the Court in Madrid], his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indian captives. But as word spread of the Europeans' intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor."[11]


"In the year 1495, [the Europeans] went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were" sold into slavery. Columbus acted in the name of the "Holy Trinity." "In the province of Cicao on Haiti…all persons fourteen years or older [were ordered] to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death."[12]


"The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed."[13]


"Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead."[14]


"By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the Island."[15]


"Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass."[16]


"[O]ther nations rushed to emulate Columbus. In 1501 the Portuguese began to depopulate Labrador, transporting the now extinct Beothuk Indians to Europe and Cape Verde as slaves. After the British established beachheads on the Atlantic coast of North America, they encouraged coastal Indian tribes to capture and sell members of more distant tribes. Charleston, South Carolina, became a major port for exporting Indian slaves. The Pilgrims and Puritans sold the survivors of the Pequot War into slavery in Bermuda in 1637. The French shipped virtually the entire Natchez nation in chains to the West Indies in 1731."[17]


By the time of the American Civil War, "Congress controlled interstate commerce and, with their dominance in the House of Representatives, northern business elites controlled Congress. As long as the South remained in the Union, businessmen of the North largely controlled the flow of southern commerce as well. To those who backed Lincoln's war effort politically and financially, the Union was not an abstract ideal to be valued in itself. It was, and had always been, a speculative enterprise serving those with the economic capital and political influence to control raw materials, production, markets, and labor." "Resources", whether in the south or west, were coveted to fuel the fledgling money-making machine of empire. The American Civil War pitted Native peoples against each other, against Confederates, and against Federals alike; outlined in detail in David Williams' A People's History of the Civil War.[18]


"[I]n those vast stretches of the West where there was no Confederate threat, Federal forces used [the Civil War] as an excuse to quicken the pace of killing Native Americans and driving the survivors from their homelands. In the eyes of most whites, those lands hardly belonged to the Indians in any case. Lincoln expressed typical imperialist assumptions when he noted that 'the natural resources…are unexhausted, and, as we believe, inexhaustible.' Western resources belonged to the nation––Lincoln's nation, not the Indians'––and Lincoln wanted those resources for his war effort. Businessmen wanted them for the profits they could bring. If Indians stood in the way, they were by definition threats to national security and obstacles to 'progress.' As such, they were subject to extermination."[19]


"Heathen" as well as Christian Indians were slaughtered "for God, for country, or whatever small plunder [might be taken]. Gold and Silver strikes in California, Colorado, Nevada, and the Pacific Northwest drove much…killing. So did the desire for timber, minerals, and transportation routes for mail carriers, stage lines and a proposed transcontinental railroad. Some tribes expressed a willingness to share their lands, realizing only too late that sharing was the last thing whites had in mind. What followed would be but the latest chapter in an old story of indigenous peoples struggling to survive the ravages of an aggressively expansive American empire. Remnants of Indian nations remaining east of the Mississippi River had long and bitter experience with white expansion. Most had been forced off their lands well before the Civil War era."[20]


"In 1862, after years of losing lands, being cheated by government agents, and suffering near starvation, the Santee Sioux of Minnesota rose in rebellion." Colonel Henry Sibley, with over sixteen hundred volunteers under his command, was tasked with putting down the Santee rebellion. "'It is my purpose,' Sibley's commander, General John Pope, wrote him, 'utterly to exterminate the Sioux if I have the power to do so and even if it requires a campaign lasting the whole of next year….They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromises can be made.' Pope's policy, with which Sibley fully agreed, ignored the fact that their own government's failure to meet treaty obligations had led to the violence."[21]


"On December 26, 1862, Rda-in-yank-ka and thirty-seven other Sioux braves were publicly hanged in Mankato…A release order for one of the executed Sioux, pardoned for saving a white woman's life, arrived in Mankato a day after the hangings. A short time later, authorities discovered that three other men had been hanged by mistake through a confusion of names." Essentially, all of the men hanged were prisoners of war who were tried and convicted by a military tribunal in sham trials. This December 26 will be the 150th anniversary of "the largest mass execution in American history."[22]


"Most newspaper editors encouraged the ethnic cleansing, calling repeatedly for the Indians––all Indians––to be utterly wiped out. Few offered any criticism, direct or implied, of the ongoing slaughter. One brave soul who did was twenty-three-year-old Bret Harte, editor of the Northern Californian in Union (later renamed Arcata). In February 1860, Harte ran a story entitled 'Indiscriminate Massacre of Indians––Women and Children Butchered.' It told how a village of sixty friendly Indians on Humboldt Bay had been hacked to death with axes and hatchets. Soon after, the residents of Union threatened Harte's life and ran him out of town."[23]


"On the morning of January 29 [1863], the village of nearly five hundred Shoshoni men, women, and children [in Southern Idaho] became a free-fire zone [for Colonel Patrick Connor and his men]. Leaving their horses in the rear, Connor's troopers surrounded the Indians and began shooting into their camp. Confusion and terror reigned among the Indians. Warriors rushed out to face their attackers. Women and children took shelter in Beaver Creek, a ravine that flowed through the camp. The overwhelmed warriors too were soon forced back to the ravine as soldiers swept through the camp destroying lodges and food supplies. When they reached the ravine, it quickly became a death trap. 'The carnage presented in the ravine was horrible,' wrote a reporter who accompanied the troops. 'Warrior piled on warrior, horses mangled and wounded in every conceivable form, with here and there a squaw and papoose, who had been accidentally killed.' In fact, the killing of women and children was not accidental. It was indiscriminate. The soldiers did not care who they killed as long as the victim was an Indian." Some 250, or upwards of 400 Shoshoni men, women, and children were killed in the Bear River Massacre.[24]


The Confederates were no less genocidal than the Federals when it came to savagery against Indians. In 1861, Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor was deemed territorial governor of the region "stretching from Texas to California."[25]


"[T]he region's Apaches and Navajos were on the warpath" already, so Baylor's regime of domination meant virtually nothing positive to them. "Hunger forced many to turn violent after Federal posts shut down, cutting off annuity payments for land they had been forced to give up." "Baylor responded with a declaration of extermination against all Indians, friendly or hostile. In an act of chemical warfare, Baylor had a sack of flour poisoned and distributed to local Indians during peace talks. Sixty died an agonizing death after accepting Baylor's gift. When he got word in March 1862 that a band of Apaches had approached the Confederate garrison at Tucson to talk peace, Baylor sent a message to the post commander" indicating how a nonexistent law of Indian extermination enacted by the Congress of the Confederate States was to be enforced. "[Y]ou will use all means to persuade the Apaches or any tribe to come in for the purpose of making peace, and when you get them together, kill all the grown Indians and take the children prisoners and sell them [as slaves] to defray the expense of killing the Indians."[26] Apparently, notwithstanding  a strong consensus in Richmond that it was preferable to kill all adult Indians, and enslave the children for the purpose of "civilizing" them through the "method" of slavery, Baylor's initiative was too extreme; not in substance and execution, but rather because of the fact that his policy of genocide was not official Confederate policy––he was soon thereafter removed from office by Jefferson Davis. The savagery against the Indians was assured when the Federals "pushed the Rebels out of New Mexico for good."[27] Under General James H. Carleton, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher 'Kit' Carson and his 1st New Mexico Regiment "occupied Fort Stanton and began sending out patrols. One detachment led by Captain James 'Paddy' Graydon came across a party of Mescaleros heading for Santa Fe. When one of the chiefs raised his open palm in a sign of peace, Graydon ordered his men to open fire. Twelve Mescaleros fell dead, including two chiefs and at least one woman. As the rest tried to flee, they were ridden down by Graydon's soldiers, who killed five more and wounded several others before the remaining survivors got away."[28] Among Carleton's, and the United States' many other crimes, he was responsible for the deaths of three thousand Navajos when they were forced to march some 400 miles "during the freezing winter of 1863-64" during what is known as "The Long Walk".[29]


"Leaving aside the obvious points which could be raised…by Blacks and Chicanos and Asian immigrants right here in North America––not to mention the Mexicans, the Nicaraguans, the Guatemalans, the Puerto Ricans, the Hawaiians, the Filipinos, the Samoans, the Tamarros of Guam, the Marshall Islanders, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Cubans, the Dominicans, the Grenadans, the Libyans, the Panamanians, the Iraqis, and a few dozen other peoples out there who've suffered American invasions and occupations first hand––there's a little matter of genocide that's got to be taken into account right here at home. I'm talking about the genocide which has been perpetrated against American Indians, a genocide that began the instant the first of Europe's boat people washed up on the beach of Turtle Island, a genocide that's continuing right now, at this moment. Against Indians, there's not a law the United States hasn't broken, not a Crime Against Humanity it hasn't committed, and it's still going on."[30]


In her Seminal 1994 work, My Name is Chellis & I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization, psychologist Chellis Glendinning expresses that "In 1492, an estimated fifteen million native people, many of them hunter-gatherers, inhabited the territory that is now the United States. Through slaughter, slavery, relocation, disease, and the demise of the buffalo, the total had diminished to 237,000 by 1900; today it is 1.9 million. In Africa the hunter-gatherer !Kung are being overrun by technological encroachment, private property, corporate development, and government projects. Deforestation in Borneo is destroying the habitat of the nomadic Penan. Ninety of Brazil's original 270 tribes have disappeared in the wake of economic development and the demise of the rainforest, while more than two-thirds of the remaining groups have populations of less than one thousand people each. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study by linguist Ken Hale estimates that of the world's six thousand native languages, only three hundred have a secure future."[31]


In a Little Matter of Genocide, Ward Churchill articulates that "During the four centuries spanning the time between 1492, when Christopher Columbus first set foot on the 'New World' of a Caribbean beach, and 1892, when the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that there were fewer than a quarter-million indigenous people surviving within the country's clai

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