Whose Land Is It, Anyway? Part 3

Baalbek,_Holy_Land,_ca._1895.jpg  wikimedia org
wikimedia.org

[A continuing exploration of the painful situation in Israel/Palestine; see two earlier posts, “Whose Land Is It Anyway? and “Whose Land Is It, Anyway? Part 2]

Land, for many, if not for most, people can be a loaded term. In one sense, it is ground beneath our feet, the ground on which our home stands or the ground on which we raise a garden, or the ground on which our town or city stands, or the ground of our state or nation–a physical “thing” of soil and rocks and sand and muck.

In another sense, however, it is something less tangible and more emotional–and thus very powerful. Land is for many not only about where we stand or sit, but where our heart, our soul, feels at rest and even at peace (while guns may be firing all around us). Land is home, that is, a particular piece of land, a particular patch of ground, is home, is where we belong.

Private_Road_Dead_End_Landowners_Only_Sign_large.jpg  salagraphics com
salagraphics.com

And because we belong there, it is easy to begin to believe, to know, that that ground, that land, belongs to us, belongs to me and the people with whom I identify and among and by whom my identity is forged and maintained. Of course, land in the tangible sense is finite, there is only so much land on the globe, and it cannot expand. Thus, it often comes to pass that we, or some others, say, out of what seems like necessity (because there is not enough room for everyone), “if this is our land, then it cannot also be their land.”

As I wrote in Part 2 of this series (see link above), this became the situation in the United States as regards the conflict between European settlers and their offspring on the one side and the native peoples already here on the other.

There is another story about land and conflict that is well-known, and powerfully formative, for many of us, namely the mission of the ancient Hebrews to take possession of the land they were promised by their God. It is a story that begins with Abram who becomes Abraham as he follows God’s direction and whose son and his sons and beyond them get the people to Egypt where, alas, they become slaves. And then their God, the God whose true name is not to be said by humans, called Y H W H (Hebrew has no vowels, but often pronounced YahWay, more or less, and often written today as Yahweh), best translated from the ancient Hebrew as “I AM WHO I AM” (see Exodus 3:14-15), seeing their oppression and distress, told them to leave Egypt and go to a new land, a land of milk and honey. This is the Exodus, as inspiring a story as any people could want, the story on which other oppressed peoples have grounded their own struggles and journeys for liberation ever since.

Exodus route a possible way lds org
One idea of the route of the Exodus lds.org

The Hebrews wander for 40 years and many die. Many also are born. It is this people, those who were slaves in Egypt and their offspring, who, without the leader who brought them out of Egypt, enter the new land, their land, the land promised by their God.

There was a problem however. People were already living there. So, according to biblical texts, the Hebrews were told, by God, to drive them out, to make room for the keeping of the divine promise. These peoples, maybe native to the land or maybe they too came from somewhere else and claimed the land, were often called Canaanites (and there were other peoples as well).

According to the Book of Joshua, the Hebrews under his leadership bested the Canaanites, killing many of them and driving out the rest to settle in other locales. This is the same Joshua who led the destruction of the walls of Jericho and the slaughter of all its people.

archaeological dig alluae ae
alluae.ae

However, much of this story is now in doubt. Archaeologists have dug extensively throughout the region and there is good reason to doubt the historicity of much of the conquest. It is even possible that those we call Hebrews who came into the land were people already living in Canaan. And it seems clear that many of these Canaanites were incorporated into Israel (seemingly totally “melted” into that pot without retaining any part of their previous identity).

Of course, facts discovered by later scholars do not eliminate the power of the narrative to shape history. Most of us read biblical stories without intellectual and historical companions at hand. And we have to remember that land is more than ground, that it also is the emotional, filial and familial, and national, bonds buried deep in the ground–and that history is more than facts.

Robert Allen Warrior pbs org
Dr. Robert Allen Warrior pbs.org

In view of the persistent power of the narrative, some Native American liberation theologians, most notably Robert Allen Warrior, have raised issue with using the Exodus story as a master narrative, or template, for the liberation of oppressed peoples. He writes,

…the narrative tells us that the Canaanites have status only as the people Yahweh removes from the land in order to bring the chosen people in. They are not to be trusted, nor are they to be allowed to enter into social relationships with the people of Israel. They are wicked, and their religion is to be avoided at all costs. –from Warrior’s essay, “A Native American Perspective: Canaanites, Cowboys and Indians”

canaanite_tribes soniclight com
soniclight.com

Why is this so important to Warrior and other native writers? As people descended from those living on, thriving in, this land when Europeans arrived and began their push to own all that land, they see themselves as Canaanites. Thus they see not only liberation but also conquest, with themselves as the conquered.

As we go forward on this journey of wrestling with the contemporary question of Israel/Palestine, “whose land is it, anyway?” all the layers of that ancient story (and the subsequent historical archaeology discoveries)–and the interplay of liberation and conquest–must echo in, and touch, our thoughts.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Whose Land Is It, Anyway? Part 2

My focus in this series, Whose Land Is It, Anyway, is Israel and Palestine. However, I do not come to this concern as a blank slate. I have history, we all have history, some of which does not directly involve this holy and sacred land in the Middle East.

For me, there is other holy land, too–as a citizen of the United States, there is the land comprising the 50 states.  For people in other nations, they may well consider the land of their nation holy.

In fact, all land is holy, part of the divine Creation of which each of us is a part. Without the land of the earth to stand on we would not be.

Massasoit commons wikipedia org
Massasoit commons.wikipedia.org

The native people European explorers and settlers encountered in the Americas knew this truth in a deep and powerful way; it was a core belief on which they all lived. In fact, they rejected the idea than anyone could own land to the exclusion of others. The land belongs to all.

“What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth, for the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs only to him?” -Massasoit (leader of the Wampanoag in what is now Rhode Island; despite this quotation, he did sell land to the settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony to keep the peace)

Against this vision of common wealth, resources shared for the good of all, immigrants from other places arrived, many of them wanting to create a new life very different from their former ones, including the real possibility that they could finally own land on which to live and even work. No longer would only a few rich, often titled, persons own land, but everyone, or at least many, could own land, too.

westward expansions of US solpass org
solpass.org

There were inevitable clashes, the newcomers wanting what the natives already had, namely land, and the natives sensing a threat to their ability to continue to live in traditional ways. And as the numbers of immigrants swelled, so did the demand for the land.

What began on the east seaboard became inevitably a push all the way to the west coast, from Atlantic to Pacific. In between were many battles, even real wars, between the increasingly dominant power of the U.S. Government and a land-voracious society on the one side and increasingly desperate native tribes and leaders on the other.

American Exceptionalism 1872 painting by John Gust (after Thomas Hart Benton) cnn com
“Manifest Destiny” painting by in 1872 by John Gust (after Thomas Hart Benton) cnn.com

Manifest Destiny, the belief that not only could the United States conquer the entirety of land between the coasts but also was called to do so by divine Providence, became the rallying cry. This nation was understood to be ordained to take possession of all it could see between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Land became the commodity and the native people who sat on it became the victims of an overwhelming power, forced to retreat on to reservations where they were told they could keep their native customs (of course, it is not easy to be a hunting and gathering people without large expanses of land).  Most of the time, the promises made to the natives were not kept, certainly when those promises got in the way of settlers claiming the land they wanted.

Today, Native Americans struggle to retain their identity, some still living on reservations and others integrating more into the wider society.

American Indian and Alaska Native Lands in the US one of many feathers com
oneofmanyfeathers.com

And the land? It is still here, more polluted in many cases, and much of it far more densely populated (as well as much still open space) and all of it is “owned” by someone–according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Report in 2007, about 60 percent of the land in the United States is privately owned. The Federal Government owns 29 percent of the land base, mostly in the West. State and local governments own nearly 9 percent, and Indian trust land accounts for about 2 percent.

The natives never claimed to own it, but they did claim to live on it and from it. Many no longer live on reservations and are part of the majority society (even as many of them retain identities as native peoples). But the part on which they can live in community more as their ancient teachings guide them is very small.

Whose land is it, then?

The answer seems simple: those who control access to the land own the land.

And yet rarely, if ever, was a full and fair price paid to the natives. They may not have wanted to sell, but perhaps we could claim some moral high ground if we finally paid what we said it was worth.

I leave this very simple version of the story at this point, inviting the reader to reflect on the value of land and people, and how we are called to live in peace with all.

How can we find peace standing on holy, yet so often bloodied, ground?

 

 

 

 

 

A Pilgrimage Home

These wintry days in the northern hemisphere mean layers of clothes even inside and more darkness, too.

winter darkness
flickr.com

As someone who likes to wear as little as possible as often as possible–barefoot is always my desire, and nakedness often a delight–this is not good news.

And yet the darkness can be a joy. I appreciate slowing down as dusk descends, preparing for dinner and an evening of quiet at home. Also, I most definitely enjoy morning darkness in which to meditate before dawn, and even to go walking in the winter grayness, seeing the tree limbs arched gracefully against the sky.

But more in these days of angry talk about people from other places and locking up more of our own citizens–usually people whose skin is darker than mine–I am cherishing even more darkness. I mean the darkness that actually expands our awareness of life, the beauty of cultures and lands and people and beliefs that have their own integrity, and challenge and enrich my own.

light shines in the darkness John 1-5
pinterest.com

It seems no accident that in a nation built from the ground up on the architecture of white supremacy there is little valorizing of darkness. Of course, this is in line with so much Christian theologizing that turns to light to overcome darkness. I have not done sufficient research to determine the intertwining history of all this, but clearly neo-platonic dualisms, Euro-American colonialism, manifest destiny, theological paeans for light over dark, all help produce an ideology of dark/black/native as less worthy than its “opposites,” and even downright bad or evil.

A key element in the work of those of us not dark–by whatever definition–to heal our nation is to begin to celebrate what is dark. It is right to oppose the targeting of immigrants and the mass incarceration of black men, and many other policies and attitudes built on negative views of darkness, because we believe in justice and equality, but we must go further: we must valorize, we must celebrate that which we have ignored, belittled, and oppressed and tried to kill. Even more, we must let darkness change us.

We must claim our own darkness.

Stanton MI map
simonhoyt.com

I have written elsewhere about how my mother and my aunt repeated many times to me that my grandmother was “the first white child born in Stanton, Michigan.” (map left) Somehow that was seen as a mark of distinction for her, for us, a heritage of which I was to be proud.

As a child, I suppose I did see it that way. But along the way I began to think about all the babies born there before her, and after, who did not, do not, meet the definition of “white.” There were, are, beautiful babies, too.

africa-flag-map
potentash.com

And more to the point, our ancient heritage, black, white, native, brown, is rooted in Africa. We are all, at base, African.

Perhaps it is time go home, not as missionaries, to change people there, but as pilgrims on a spiritual journey to be changed, to come into our own deep, dark selves.

And absent the opportunity for that, we can open our borders, our minds, our hearts, to those who have much to teach us right here, right now.

Gratitude or Grief? It’s Both

thanksgiving-day-spread-700x340
hdlatestimages.com

Most of us are soon to celebrate the national holiday called Thanksgiving. It is probably as close to an official religious moment as we have–just about everyone gets into the act, generally by overeating. It is a feasting day when people gather for a sacred meal (even if they do not have religious or spiritual feelings). It is a day of gratitude for what we, as a nation, have received.

But is it celebrated by all? No.

Homeless people may be left out, despite the efforts of many good people to make sure there are public feedings. And like other days when the majority of people gather with family and friends, there are people whose solitary lives are made more painful by their being alone on Thanksgiving Day.

Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajaje
Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajaje

There is one other group that may not be celebrating, or if they do, may see the holiday differently. They may even name it Thanksgrieving (my old friend and mentor, Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé of the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley CA, introduced this term to me many years ago).

Painting of the first Puritan Thanksgiving by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1914) wikipedia.org
Painting by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1914)
wikipedia.org

In our national mythic lore, the Pilgrims at Plymouth celebrated the first Thanksgiving. And they invited the local natives to join them. Of course, without the aid of the natives there would have been no thanksgiving meal. So it was right to invite them.

But I also know this: over time, native peoples, those who lived in and on this land before any Europeans arrived, became victims rather than invited guests–in their own land. In colonial days, it was often local skirmishes and animosity between a community of European settlers and the local tribe that led to attacks and killing on both sides. And even when there was no physical violence, the settlers often violated the natives by seeking to impose their culture and religion on those they viewed as “heathen” or “savages.”

Native peoples forced to leave the Southeast for Oklahoma historymyths.wordpress.com
Native peoples forced to leave the Southeast for Oklahoma historymyths.wordpress.com

But as the United States–the nation created by and for immigrants from other places–grew and prospered, large campaigns of relocation and terror began. Native people were killed, slaughtered, in large numbers, through blood shed in battles, and through starvation and disease. Some of the latter loss was not intentional, created by the strains of disease brought to this land that the natives were unable to resist. But there were also deliberate poisonings, too.

Native American and Army battles in the West through Wounded Knee in 1890 education.nationalgeographic.com
Native American and Army battles in the West through Wounded Knee in 1890
education.nationalgeographic.com

Scholars have struggled for decades to figure out how many millions of native peoples were lost. Many use the term genocide, or holocaust, to describe what happened. Estimates of the original native population vary widely, as do estimates of those who died. In 2014, the US Census Bureau said the population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race was 5.4 million, about 2 percent of the total population. Estimates of the original population range from 10 million to 50 million. Clearly, whatever number you accept, the population has been decimated.

Even so, as the national history is commonly told, and observed and celebrated, this day is a happy one.

But it brings terrorizing memories to native victims. This is the most painful part of the holiday for me. As we gather around the festive table, laden with all sorts of good food, I can hear screams of dying Cherokee, Ojibway, Nez Pearce, Cheyenne, Sioux, Powhatan, Monacan, Algonquin, Ottawa, Kiowa women, children, and men. . . . and hundreds of other tribal nations.

wikipedia.com
wikipedia.com

And as a vegetarian, I also hear the screams of turkeys (so many call it “Turkey Day”), and pigs, and cattle, all slaughtered so we can celebrate what we have been given. We also are thus again, as in the case of the native peoples, celebrating what we have taken, namely the lives of others.

Thanks. Grieving. Indeed.

Let us face the horror of what has been done, let us feel the pain in our hearts and souls, and then let us ask forgiveness . . . before and as we give thanks.

St. Mary’s Wilderness Journal #1

St. Mary's Wilderness sign
wanderingVirginia.com

It was a mostly wet couple of days with the trees, rhododendrons, and creatures of St. Mary’s Wilderness in the George Washington National Forest in western Virginia. But of course God, or Great Spirit as our native teachers in this land might say, is present no matter the weather. So I learned some important lessons–and I am grateful I went, despite, or  perhaps because of, some real challenges. Over the next few weeks, I will share some of the challenges and lessons, or medicine, as Native people might say, I received. Here is the first installment.

I drove from Maryland into Virginia on Tuesday, September 29–after talking to the good folks at REI (Recreation Equipment Inc.), my gurus about outdoor life, about how to put up my tent in a downpour–only to discover when I arrived that torrential rains, almost blinding sheets of moisture at times, made it impossible to hike in and get a camp set up that day. So I spent an uneventful first night at a motel in Waynesboro.

Lesson: Sometimes with nature it is best to lie low, recognizing that the forces of the universe are greater than me.

2015-09-30 09.08.01
author photo

Wednesday dawned dryer–meaning not raining–so I headed off to the wilderness, and found my way to the Bald Mountain Overlook at Mile 22 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There I parked my car, loaded the pack on my back (did it really weigh sixty pounds?), and walked up Forest Service Road 162 for about a mile until locating the Bald Mountain Trail. Down that trail for most of a mile–pretty steep at times, hard on my right knee, but still a usable trail–across a creek twice until I came to a lovely small clearing in the woods very near the creek. Due to the rain, the creek was running strong and I knew I could use it as a water source (with filtering, of course).

2015-09-30 09.08.57Setting up camp took several hours. I had not done this entirely on my own before, so it took awhile. Several hours later, however, I had a tent erected, sleeping bag unfolded, a tarp in an adjacent area as a place to sit near the creek, and a bag of food hanging in a tree.

St. Mary's Wilderness Pilgrimage 085
author photo

Lesson: in putting up the tarp and the food bag, I realized I needed to have asked more questions to the good folks at REI. Where to put the tarp would have been a good start!  As to the food bag, I realized I had just nodded to the nice man at REI when he told me to toss a rope line over the limb of a tree where the bag could hang. I knew why to do it–keep the black bears and racoons from ravaging your food–but I was not sure how.

After a little thought, I realized I needed something heavy on the end of the line to toss over the limb. And I needed to find enough of an opening in the dense forest growth where I could toss the line without becoming all tangled in the wrong place. Finding a good spot (and it did work, ultimately, very well), I tied my Swiss Army Knife to the end of the line. That went over the limb just fine but given the force of my toss it just kept wrapping around the limb! I could not reach the end now. Ouch. And what about my knife? I was going to need that again!

I don’t know the physics of this (I don’t know the physics of anything really), but I was able, standing on the ground, to loosen the looped line on the limb enough to get it to unwind and come down. I untied the knife and put it in my pocket, and realized, somehow with my limited capacity for things mechanical, I needed something bigger and heavier than the knife for the end of the line. I tied a small, zipped bag of useful items  (whistle, compass, lighter, etc.) to the line and did another toss. Perfect. Whew!

St_edited-1
rhododendron, author photo

There is more about this line and the bag for a future post, but for now I will conclude by patting myself on the back for getting things set up. And I decided that since the rains had not yet returned (but they were coming, to be sure), it was time for a small hike sans pack.  How good it would feel to explore without that weight!

Lesson: Take a break and enjoy the beauty around you (rhododendron everywhere). .

More to come, as this pilgrim’s progress continues . . . . (maybe even a poem).

Jerusalem Journal #3: Letting Go of Who Did What to Whom and Who Did It First

Jerusalem YMCA
YMCA, headquarters for the IAPSP Conference (author photo)

[Note: In October, 2014, I accompanied Jonathan on a trip to Jerusalem. He was going to the annual meeting of the International Association for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology (IAPSP). He spent much time in meetings while I was free to travel, visiting sites within Jerusalem and beyond. I have posted two times already about this trip; you can see those postings by clicking on these dates: October 31, 2014 and January 5, 2015. I also posted on a related topic, namely an important book, The Lemon Tree. Click on the title to see that post.]

I had intended to write much more about my impressions from last October’s trip to Jerusalem, as well as to continue reflecting on this bedeviled conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Partly, preparations for moving, and the move, from Richmond, VA to Greenbelt, MD got in the way.

12184_565702306776905_1535647524_n
nikkikubanminton.com

But more, I think, was my growing realization at how I despair over two things that must happen: that Israel will shift its mindset and strategy and the Palestinians will respond productively. Someone has to change, significantly, if this perpetual, and seemingly self-perpetuating, crisis is to shift from a deadening into a life-giving mode. I believe it is incumbent on Israel to engage in a major shift. I say that because it is my belief that it is usually, if not always, the more powerful party in any dispute–certainly one in which both parties have legitimate concerns and interests, as is true here–that has to move the most.

Just as disempowering as my despair was my fear that many of my Jewish friends in the United States–not to mention those Israeli (and other) Jews I met at the conference whom I admire greatly–would become angry at me, perhaps even cutting off our friendship, if they understood that and other points I feel compelled to make (I will reflect another time on my continuing struggle to stop being governed by my fears of what others will, or do, think).

Faults
hrringleader.com

But let me be clear. This is not a one-sided conflict. Both parties, all parties (certainly including the government of my country, and thus me), bear responsibility for the mess that now exists. There is more than enough blame to go around. Somehow, we have to get beyond the blame game.

This was brought home to me with great power during one part of the international conference. Prior to the formal sessions, I joined Jonathan and other conferees and spouses on a trip to Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city, situated 15 Kilometers southeast of Tel-Aviv, near Ben-Gurion International Airport. According to the conference organizers, Lud, “despite the enormous potential of this ancient-contemporary city . . . has been plagued by a poor image for decades: its population of 75,000 people is constantly struggling with social, economical, multi-cultural and ethnic problems that make the city an example of the painful term – ‘social periphery.'” 

NY Times
NY Times

Indeed, the session was billed as “Self Psychology and Weakened Populations: A Tour of Lod.”  Weakened populations, as I understand the organizers, are places where all of us, not just the subject peoples, bear responsibility for deterioration. They are communities where empathy is required, but empathy that helps create concrete action for change. This action involves more than just the weakened group; it must include those who have been party to the weakening. To my way of thinking, this is the situation in the United States among white people, as we need to make concrete changes to lift our social boot off the backs of the still-weakened African American, and Native American, populations.

It is appropriate that IAPSP is involved in this new understanding, because at the heart of self psychology is empathy. The IAPSP tour organizers wanted us to see what will become the new headquarters of the Israel Association for self Psychology and the Study of Subjectivity (the Israeli affiliate organization which hosted the conference), and they also wanted us to hear from a diverse group of local people about the efforts to build a new society in Lod.

Houses in Lod www.haaretz.com
Houses in Lod http://www.haaretz.com

Included in the local people were the leader of a local program to teach agriculture to students, both Palestinian and Israeli, and a teacher in the program. Part of the goal is to teach the students how to share the land, how to treasure it together for the benefit of all.

Both educators were amazing in their ability to convey, despite language difficulties, a deep desire to create a truly multi-cultural community in Lod, and to help this ancient area recover from serious decline over the past several decades. The teacher, a woman, was the most articulate. During question time, I asked her, a Palestinian whose family lived for generations in that area, how she felt about the participation of Jewish people in this work, given that her family had been displaced by the Israelis more than once. She said, “We will never move forward until we choose to let go of who did what to whom and who did it first.”

I cry right now as I write about that moment–empathy at work in her, breathtaking in its simplicity and power.

seeing with the eyes of another
quotesgram.com

So often, people who speak in or about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict pronounce from one box or the other, talking past the people in the other box. Wisdom comes in refusing to be put in one box and learning what to believe and say from your own space (which contains parts of many boxes), and at the same time hear the other, with empathy and a desire to understand.

But it is not enough to speak and listen with care, vital though that is. That we must act on what we know seems clear, even as our actions must be laced with empathy and a desire to understand others.

My training, and engagement, in Christian liberation theologies, feminism, and political theory, as well as my understanding of Judaism, lead me to act based not only on ethical perspectives but also to engage in power analysis to aid in promoting productive action. In future posts, I shall explore more of this trip, as well as reflect on new learnings, with the goal of contributing to a dialogue for peaceful, life-enhancing change in the haunted land of Israel and Palestine.

For now, let us remember empathy, indeed, let us be empathic.

Time to Confess Crimes Against Indigenous Peoples

In response to my urging white people to publicly share the slogan, “Black Lives Matter,” my friend Julie challenged me to also focus on the wrongs done to native, or indigenous, people in this country.

Trail of Tears Map

I have some awareness already, but she urged me to learn more about some tribes with whom she is familiar, including her own, the Cherokee Nation and in particular the Cherokee tribe in North Carolina. The Cherokees were the victims of the Trail of Tears initiated by President Andrew Jackson to move the native people out of the way for white settlers and gold seekers in the 1830s (from North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama). This was massive relocation of an entire people. Many, of course, died. Nor was this the first, nor last, campaign to end the existence of people who inhabited what became the United States for generations, and more, long, long before the first Europeans arrived. You can learn much more here (I encourage you to be sure to read the soldier’s account).

Just after my dialogue with Julie on Facebook, I heard from another Facebook friend about a 2014 decision by the City Council of Seattle to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. More recently, the St. Paul, Minnesota Council did the same.

1492, Christopher Columbus (1446 - 1506) lands on Watling Island and meets the natives, while three of his shipmates erect a cross. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1492, Christopher Columbus (1446 – 1506) lands on Watling Island and meets the natives, while three of his shipmates erect a cross. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I admit I do not understand Columbus Day. He was not the first to “discover” the New World (those terms of course already get us on the wrong course–the assumption is that something is only valid when people of European descent say it is so) nor did he stick around to help resolve conflicts between the newcomers and the natives. Further, a place already inhabited by human beings does not need to be “discovered–and certainly it is not new!

The main reason this old traditional day seems to have become a federal holiday was to please Italian-Americans. Columbus was Italian, although of course his expedition was paid for by Spain. Many Italian-Americans are upset at the changes in Seattle and elsewhere as an affront to the history and dignity of their people.

Italian-Americans have contributed greatly to our nation–as have Hungarian-Americans, Czech-Americans, French-Americans, Anglo-Americans, Spanish-Americans, German-Americans, Austrian-Americans, Norwegian-Americans, Swedish-Americans, Danish-Americans, among many other European peoples as well. Does each deserve a national day devoted to their most prominent historical figure in the Americas?

And what of African Americans? Perhaps we need a federal holiday commemorating the name of the first slave imported (read dragged against his or her will) here.

But what really is at issue is whether or not we will continue to celebrate a man who not only did no good for the indigenous people he encountered but actually did harm. Many historians say that Columbus engaged in harmful practices, including the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity, and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas. Some basic history can be found here.

Seattle just voted for Indigenous Peoples DayIt is clear that in the history of our nation, Native lives, Native bodies, do not matter. I do not wish to dilute the Black Lives Matter campaign given our shameful heritage and continuing harm to African people in our midst, but we can do something to begin to acknowledge other blood on the collective hands of the United States: we can stop celebrating a man who was a key figure in that bloody history by ending a holiday honoring him. And then we can do the next right thing: we can rename that holiday to honor our indigenous ancestors in this land, acknowledging that we stole their land and drove them to reservations (the ones who survived).

When we have got that right, or perhaps even before, we can re-examine our national actions and decide how we want to provide reparations for our actions that led to the annihilation of so many.

To those who say, “I did not steal their land; my family didn’t either,” I say this: if the land where your family settled when they arrived here was anywhere in what is the continental United States then it is likely they, and thus you, benefit from the removal of indigenous people from their tribal lands. I know I do (more about this at a later date).

There is a lot of blood in the ground upon which we stand. It is time to confess the shame of this heritage by ending the celebration of one of its main actors.