hello everybody, i found this in the book "Dear Christoper" and i thought i
would share it with you because i really do think you will like it, and for
those that need to do a report about him this will be perfect for you!
500 years after the arrival of christopher columbus in the new world. the
indians are everywhere in america the porrest of the poor and the least of
the power of all the groups. future generations however may look back at the
20th century as the turning point in the struggle for indiaan autonomy and
powers in the americas.
perhaps no figure in the history in the world been surrounded by more
carefully cultivated myths than christopher columbus. the following is
intended as a handy guide for debunking key elements of this mythology among
students grades 1-12. unfortunately it may be equally applicable for
educational use at the college level. in offices inhabited by the staff of
national endowment foy the humanities and other "intellectually mature"
fiction- columbus was from the city of genoa, and was therefore italian.
fact- there is no conclusive evidence of this.
fiction- columbus was actually spanish.
fact- a group of 20th century spanish "scholars" forged supposedly "proving"
columbus' spanish origins. the hoax has been exposed.
fiction- columbus was secretly a jew who had converted to christianity.
fact- there is no solid proof of this either. in reality, no one knows who
columbus was. hence, no nation or ethnicity can advance a bona fide "claim"
fiction- columbus died a wealthy hero of spain.
fact- columbus died a discredited pauper who was considered a criminal by
his former employer, the crown of spain.
fiction- columbus "discovered" america in 1492.
fact- america has been continuously occupied for at least 40,000 years.
there were as many as 120 million people already living in this hemisphere
when he arrived. it is impossible to discover a place with is already
fiction- columbus was, as samuel eliot morrison put it, "one of historys
fact- when he landed in espanola, columbus believed he had reached the
islands of the asian subcontinent, halfway around the world. one cant be
more lost then that!
fiction- as a consequence of his navigational error, columbus "mistakenly"
described new world natives as indians
fact- columbus was looking for a new route to what was then called
hindustan. hindustan was not renamed "india"--by the british, not the
spanish--for another century and a half. the term "indian", as columbus
applied it to the new world population, is from the italian "indios",
meaning "people of god". the description was no mistake.
fiction- columbus was concerned with the spice trade and was therefore
seeking a short route to asia in order to make imports of nutmeg, cinnamon
and tea more efficient and profitable.
fact- columbus was a slave trader along the west coast of africa prior to
his 1492 voyage. the first "resource" he brought back from espanola was a
group of indians to be sold as slaves in spain.
fiction- columbus didn't really participate in the vast atrocities which
followed his landing on espanola.
fact- columbus returned to the island as it's governor in 1492-3, a position
he held for nearly a decade. by the time of his departure, he had
implemented policies of slavery and extermination which led to reduction of
the indigenous taino people from as many as 8 million in 1492 to about
24,000 in 1524. his regime thus served as a model for all the horrors
perpetrated by the spanish in the centuries ahead.
fiction- whatever his motivations and defects, columbus introduced
civilization to the new world.
fact- civilzation means "to live in citys". the great citys of the aztecs,
mayas, and incas equalled, and in some ways surpassed, anything created by
the europeans of columbus day. in north america, the single city of cahokia
has long since attained a population of about 40,000. the european
immigrants are also credited with carving out "civilition", as roads and
town sites, from a "wilderness", when the fact of the matter is that these
"boat people" built on top of already existing indigenous road ways, some of
them grand highways, and villages or pueblos, even city-state empires. as in
illustration, the sight of washington dc is often cited as a pioneer
example, as the nations capitol, when it was actually built on an indian
village after the native people had been massacred by the colonists.
fiction- columbus brought concepts of enlightened government to the new
fact- at the point of the columbian "discovery" new world peoples such as
the iroquois and creel confederacies were practicing highly sophisticated
forms of democracy. europe by the contrast was governed--and would continue
to be for two centuries and more--by a system of feudal monarchy. american
indians enlightened european concepts of governance. not the other way
fiction- if not governance, then the columbian forays ushered in notions of
fact- native american exhibited no appreciable criminal behaviour such as
theft, assault, rape or murder during per-columbian times. on the rare
occasions when such behaviour was manifested, it was handled without
recourse to institutionalized courts or jails and prisons. europefor it's
part, relied upon such refined "juridical methods" such as the "trial by
fire" (a suspect was deliberately burned. if he or she blistered as a
result, he or she was pronounced guilty and executed by such delicate
methods as beheading or burning at the stake)
fiction- when columbus first encountered them, the indigenous in habitants
on the new world were in a state of savagery marked by primitive
superstition and cannibalism.
fact- although columbus wrote in his journal of hearing that peoples such as
the caribs were cannibals, neither he nor anyone else seems ever to have
found proof of this. indeed, there is no hard evidence that Any native
american people Ever practiced cannibalism. columbus' own christian
tradition, on the other hand, practiced (and still does) ritual cannibalism
as a matter of course. this occurs during what is called "communion" when
participants eat little wafers symbolizing christ's flesh and drink wine
symbolizing christ's blood.
fiction- columbus' expedition brought agriculture to the "hunter-gatherer"
peoples of the new world.
fact- abouut two-thrids of all the vegetal foodstuffs commonly consumed by
the people around the world today were under cultivation in america--and
nowhere else--at the point of columbus' arrival. this included corn,
potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, most beans, squash. The Europeans of Columbus
Day were much more dependent for survival upon gathering fish from the sea,
etc., than were American Indians. Put another way, the peoples of the New
World were far more advanced agriculturally than were the hunter-gatherers
of 15th century Spain. France and England.
fiction- There were no real concepts of science or mathematics in America
before Columbus came.
fact- actually, the mesoamerican civilizations had a knowledge of astronomy
far more refined than did europeans. the Aztec calendar was projected five
centuries into the future with seven decimal points greater degree of
accuracy than europes julian calendar. the mayas invented the concept of
zero, and were manipulating nine digit numbers by 1400. european mathematics
did not begin to equal indigenous american systems for nearly four centuries
after columbus, and in some ways has yet to catch up.
fiction- columbus at least brought along advanced concepts of medicine which
were of benefit to american indians.
fact- native people in america had perfected the worlds most sophisticated
system of pharmacology long before columbus arrived. the incas, among
others, were practicing succesful brain and eye surgery, and had invented
syringes and other surgical tools for such purposes. by comparing, european
doctors were still involved with applying leeches to patients in order to
draw of the "bad blood" imagined to cause their illnesses.
fiction- columbus and his men introduced concepts of hygeine and sanitation
to the "dirty" indians.
fact- unlike their american indian counterparts across the atlantic,
denizens of european cities habitually dumped their sewage and other refuse
into the streets. the "black death" and other epidemic diseases which
reduced europes population by millions in the decades prior to columbus'
voyages were brought on primarily by the filth and squaler sin which most
europeans lived. in most european societies of columbus' day--and for a long
time thereafter--the simple act of bathing was considered a criminal offense
(queen elizabeth #1 of england, for example is reputed never to have
bathed). one native superstition european explorers found most offensive was
a tendency to bathe daily.
fiction- columbus, or his society, introduced beneficial ideas and processes
like the wheel and metallurgy to indians,
fact- the wheel had been known in the new world for centuries before
columbus, as is evidenced by and abundance of wheeled toys among the incas,
mayas, aztecs and others. the spaniards learned high altitude metallurgical
procedures from the incas.
fiction- whatever else may be said, columbus and his friends did introduce
some things to the new world which yielded a significant impact.
fact- this is actualy true. the "things" in question include diseases like
measles, mumps, the common cold, influenza, diptheria, typhoid, whooping
cough, the plague, typhus, and various veneral diseases, as well as
substances like distilled spirits and concepts such as "the divine right of
kings" and wars of annihalation.
fiction- it is, as historian william axtell claims, "unfair and misleading"
to compare columbus and the columbian legacy to nazis and nazism.
fact- this is probably also true. after all, nazism was rather short-lived,
while the enterprise launched by columbus has lasted centuries and is
ongoing. again, the nazis were able to exterminate about 75% of all jews and
gypsies within their reach (as well as a few million slaves, poles and other
"undesireables") while the columbian legacy yielded an approximate 98%
liquidation of native americans by 1890. the nazis may ultimately have been
responsible for the deaths of 40 million people. columbus and his heirs have
tallied several hundred million over the years and are still counting. thus,
bad as nazism was (and it was absolutely, unequivocally horrible) the
process associated with columbus name has been--documentably and
quantifiably--far, far worse.
ultimately, there is much to be gained in realizing, as the historian jack
weatherford already has, the simple truth that, "the indian civilizations
crumbled in the face of the old world not because of any intellectual or
cultural inferiority. they simply succumbed in the face of disease and brute
strength. while the american indians had spent a millenia becoming the
worlds greatest farmers and pharmacologists, the people of the old world
spent a similar period amassing the worlds greatest arsenal of weapons. the
strongest, but not necessarily the most creative or the intelligent, won the
day." the brief recasting of data which appears above - offered not in a
spirit of achieving "political correctitude" (whatever that is), but in
recognition of our mutual and elemental need for accuracy in understanding
our collective past - should provide an informational basis from which
anyone can begin the necessary process of rethinking the meaning of columbus
and the resulting nature of the society in which we now live.
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