Columbus Day: Pass the pizza
Native Americans have a perfect right to make peaceful protests against the celebration of Columbus Day. But Christopher Columbus is not the correct target for their anger. If we had a national holiday called: “White European Settlers Day,” then the protests of the tribal peoples overrun by the French, Spanish, Portuguese and English would make more historical sense.
Bear in mind, virtually everything about the discovery of the so-called New World was a misnomer. None of the actors on either side of the Columbus Day fiasco are correctly named nor are they who they claim to be.
For example, the notion that Christopher Columbus was an Italian is a bit tenuous. He was probably born in Genoa in 1451. But Genoa was an independent city-state and it would be a long time before Italy came into existence.
Last December Wonder Wife and I tried to learn the true nationality of Christopher Columbus. We sailed from Barcelona, where Columbus began his career, stopped in Seville, where Columbus is buried, and then around to Lisbon, where Columbus lived much of his life. Our research was inconclusive because there is evidence that Columbus was a Spanish Catalonian or Portuguese or maybe even Norwegian. But the Norwegian claim requires quite a stretch of the imagination.
Native Americans, however, may not be who they claim to be either. The term Native American implies that they were the first to inhabit this hemisphere. Native Americans claim to have come over a land bridge linking Siberia and Alaska and found no one here. That matter has yet to be settled. There may have been people already here whom our so-called Native Americans then conquered.
Moreover, what most people think of American Indians are not Indians. That name was invented by Columbus who thought he had sailed from Europe to India when in fact he had only reached the Bahamas.
When Wonder Wife was working as a stringer for the Voice of America, she was sent to interview, Russell Means, the head of the American Indian Movement. Mr. Means told her that Native American was “honkie” talk for Indians and that the better practice was to call Indians by their own tribal names. For example, Lakotas want to be Lakotas and Kiowas want to be Kiowas. We try to follow that practice when tribal origins are known.
So, bottom line: We have a protest by Native Americans who may not be the true American aboriginals and who are certainly not Indians aimed at a lousy navigator who is only technically an Italian and who actually discovered some islands in the Bahamas that were given the name America based, initially, on a voyage that Amerigo Vespucci never made.
In 1497, Amerigo Vespucci claimed that he made a voyage to the New World; however, there is no evidence of that and, on his deathbed, Vespucci confessed that he did not sail to the New World in 1497. But it is a fact that Vespucci did sail, in 1499, to the continent that is known by an "americanized" version of his first hame.
Granted Native-Americans, for want of a better term, have many legitimate grievances based on the way they have been treated by the Great White Father in Washington, D.C. Outrages such as The Trail of Tears, the Battle of the Washita, and the forced relocation of tribal peoples onto reservations come all-too-readily to mind.
But let us face the real fact underlying the anti-Columbus Day protests. It is founded on resentment by people of color against the White Europeans who came to this hemisphere and changed it forever. Sometimes, for good. Sometimes, for bad. For sure, the White European settlers did not always treat the peoples they found here with fairness and respect.
But, until those who protest against Columbus Day get their historical act together, this observer will continue to use the holiday as an excuse to sample all that wonderful Italian food.
William Hamilton, is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.