In Brief Protesting Columbus Day October 8, 2007 Waldo Jaquith 21 Comments Miss Representation and Miss Ogyny want you to know that Sacagawea was a badass.
21 thoughts on “Protesting Columbus Day”
The first “Sac-protest” I recall, was in the Vinegar Hill Theatre, during the showing of a locally produced documentary, when a shot of “THE STATUE” was shown, and the entire back row of the theatre, populated by protesters, all women I believe, rose and shouted their defiance.
I don`t recall how long ago this was but guess it must have been at least fifteen years ago. Kind of a lemming thing. I am surprised there have been no protests against the exclusion of York in the atatue, who was also instrumental in the success of the journey.
The Charlottesville Municipal Band`s first practices were held in a nearby building, and drew protests from neighbors, because of their sour notes, so protests of one sort or another are not new to the statue area.
The Daily Progress reported a claim that “Sacagawea was tracking, not cowering.” I dunno. That looks an awful lot like cowering to me.
I’m glad that people are speaking out for Sacagawea. While now society generally recognizes that slavery was wrong, there still very little recogonition that America committed genocide against Native Americans. That went much futher than the Trail of Tears. It also included distributing blankets infected with smallpox and assasinations by the FBI of Native rights organizers.
In fact, while Blacks and other minorities were rewarded equal rights under the law, in some ways Native Americans are still treated like second class citizens. Until the 1970’s they were forced into special schools where they were whipped and beaten for speaking their native languages. In Virginia we had a practice called “paper Genocide” by which we listed all Native Americans as black on their birth certificates to erase their cultural identity. Unlike slavery, this isn’t something that happened inthe 1800’s, but something that living people experienced in my lifetime and for which there has never been any real appology.
It’s also easy to say that that’s something that happened in our parents generation, so we aren’t responsible. Unfortunately, its still happening. As recently as 2005 it was discovered by an independant accounting firm that the bureau of Indian Affairs had cheated Native Americans out of money from mineral rights to the tune of $176 billion. It was so bad that a Judge involved in the case referred to the BIA as “a dinosaur — the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government that should have been buried a century ago, the last pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind.”
So, yes, there are really good reasons to correct this shameful piece of history. It isn’t just about the past, it is about healing our existing relationship with the native people of this land who’ve lived through terrible human rights abuses.
“America committed genocide against Native Americans. … It also included distributing blankets infected with smallpox ….”
Actually, that was the British. In particular, it was Lord Amherst’s (after which Amherst, MA is named and that college, too) bright idea. Here’s a fairly thorough writeup, including imagines of the letters where Amherst encourages whatever methods necessary to exterminate the natives:
Don’t worry, tho, “America” did all sorts of other bad stuff to the indigenous peoples, so you can still properly get your grr on.
Over a century ago English and American settlers were terrible to the indigenous people. Small pox blankets would have been a war crime in the modern day but the story is tainted by Ward Churchill and may not be 100% accurate(I just don’t know). I believe that history is telling a more balanced story then it was telling 20 years ago. It will probably tell a better story as time goes forward.
But what about the fact that small pox has been cured and we live in the modern day. Do whites get any credit for the good as well? Getting rid of Columbus day, OK then what? We can’t give the country back or is that what you want? It’s like the reparations movement. If your half black and half white, do you take money from one pocket and put it in the other.
If anything we should be more vocal in celebrating the superiority of western culture and values that Columbus brought with him to the New World. As a column I read recently noted, multiculturalism means your kid has to sing some wretched African tribal dirge at his school’s “winter festival” ceremony or that your masseuse uses an holistic healing technique borrowed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you love should have to live in an African or Native American society. Get real.
This romantic view of Native Americans is so last century. We now know that the humans native to this contenent are responsible for the extinctions of hundreds of large mammals (megafauna) that preceded them. See . They fought wars with each other and murdered and raped each other’s women and children long before whitey came into the picture.
Sure, much of what has been inflicted on these cultures by Europeans over the last 500 years sucks, but it’s not unique in the history of man.
You totally ignore all the modern things that we’ve done to LIVING native people (and are still doing). My point was that the human rights abuses against Native Americans weren’t confined to some bygone era, and that many are still going on. So, no, it’s very different from reparations for slavery because there are no living people who remember slavery.
There are about 40% of Native American women who used the Indian Health Service who were sterilized by our government in the 1970’s against their will. Let’s put it this way… if it was your wife (or daughter) who was sterilized by the government, would you think you should just get over it? I agree that we can’t really make amends for what was done to people already dead generations ago; however, we certainly can do right by those that are living.
I’m not saying that we should tear down the statue (although I wouldn’t mind if they did…) I do think that the city needs to review the broader perspective of our local history as represented in our monuments. I could come up with any number of analogies to demonstrate how offensive that statue is. All I’d have to do would be to substitute another race cowering at their feet… but somehow statues of cowering natives or worse are part of our culture that we still just “accept”. I’d argue that until we can see a statue like that for the repulsive thing it is, then we will still continue to treat Native People as lesser human beings.
As for Falstaff’s comments, he certainly wouldn’t be the first to proclaim “superiority of western culture and values”. I can’t really take that seriously (If for no other reason than it assumes there actually is one unified Western culture). The only real talent of “Western Culture” has been our ability to misappropriate the science, culture and technology of other cultures and pretend that it’s our own… Of course Falstaff, you’re totally welcome to give up such minor things as Arabic numerals, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, peppers, chocolate, smoked meat, aspirin, and all the other many contributions of “non-western” culture if you really feel they’re really so inferior…
Hmmm. On the one hand smoked meat and chocolate. On the other virtually every major scientific discovery has been made by people of European descent. Oh, and did I mention that the vast, vast majority of these inventors, scientists, authors, explorers, engineers, etc. were men. I’m sure that pisses you off too, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Now why don’t you count to 10 and go have an aspirin.
Which Europeans? Would that be the Greeks, the Arabs, or the Italians?
I’ve seen the statue up close. Can anyone convince me she is cowering. I can’t believe the sculptor intend her to be cowering?
“On the one hand smoked meat and chocolate…”
Wow, Falstaff. That is exactly the type of discredit given to Native Americans by European immigrants and, apparently, folks living in Cville today. Sure, let’s continue to use the accomplishments of white men to belittle and ignore the valuable contributions of others. Wow.
“Actually, that was the British. In particular, it was Lord Amherst’s (after which Amherst, MA is named and that college, too) bright idea.”
Wes, might you be an Eph? I smell longstanding college rivalry…
For those who need their memory jogged, here’s a photo of the statue taken by one Bob Travis:
I’m voting for “cowering,” not “tracking.”
Kelly, re: “longstanding college rivalry…” Nope, but I do think Amherst should change their name. Perhaps choose someone who wasn’t a genocidal maniac. My history on the small pox thing is that I once bet a colleague that it happened. This was at the dawn of the world-wide-web, so it took several hours of research to find “The Truth”. Now I get to trot out the answer as a clever party trick.
Thanks for the photo but I can’t tell from the shadows what’s going on. It might just be my monitor
Sac`s on her cel.
I took a good look at the statue today. I don’t think Sacagawea is cowering, but it would be odd to claim she’s tracking. She’s obviously looking at something, the way she’s holding her braid back out of her face. If she were more purposefully crouched on her heels, rather than elegantly sitting on one hip, it would be easier to claim she’s tracking.
What it really looks like is an imitation of Helen Keller speaking to Anne Sullivan.
Of course she’s not cowering, Jocelyn, didn’t you read the banner?
SACAJAWEA WOULD NEVER COWER!!!
Those fancy-dressed protestors know.
I thought the Sacajawea-as-trail-blazer was a myth. Granted I read them over 15 years ago, but I recall from the journals — in which she’s mentioned perhaps half a dozen times — that she was an interpreter. En route she gave birth and encountered her long lost brother. In my book anyone who walks across two thirds of the continent is definitely not a cowerer…
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but doesn’t one “track” by being in the front of one’s party? Seems to me that if I was tracking for L & C and the guys, I wouldn’t be hiding behind them…
people are bored nowadays, they need to get better hobbies.
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