Here are a couple of things about Christopher Columbus that may surprise you. Firstly, Columbus did not discover America. He discovered Hispaniola, the island that is now Haiti and the Dominica Republic.. He thought it was India and dubbed the island group of which Hispaniola was a part "the Indies." Although he was profoundly mistaken, that group of islands in the Caribbean is still called the West Indies.
Secondly, Christopher Columbus was a part of the culture of 15th century Spain. This culture was warlike at the same time that it was deeply Roman Catholic. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's troops drove the Moors out of Spain, beginning in 1492, when they captured Granada. The Muslim and Jewish populations remaining in Spain after 1525 either had to leave the country or convert to Roman Catholicism. Tomas de Torquemada, whose grandmother was reportedly a converted Jew, was the Castilian Inquisition's harshest persecutor. His name still is notorious because of his cruel excesses in ridding the land of "infidels."
Columbus' actions were congruent with his culture. He and his brothers, Bartholomew and Diego, whom he put in charge of Hispaniola after the first expedition, found an idyllic island of about 2 million peaceful Taino. But by 1550, enslavement, starvation and disease had made the Taino nearly extinct.
Thirdly, Columbus was a prosperous slaver. According to Thom Hartmann's Newsletter, Columbus on his second expedition took 1,600 Taino back to Spain to be sold as slaves. Further, he let the garrisoned troops remaining on Hispaniola know that they could do anything they wished with the indigenous population. Michele da Cuneo, a member of Columbus' second expedition, wrote in his diary that he selected a Taina teenager for his mistress. When she resisted, he beat and raped her. This was considered appropriate for the correction of misbehaving slaves.
In 1493, Columbus wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella: "It is possible, with the name of the Holy Trinity, to sell all the slaves which it is possible to sell. Although they are living things, they are as good as gold." In 1500 he wrote, "A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand."
American settlers of the 17th century were hewn from the same cultural tree. In 1636, a pious Puritan colonist, William Bradford, described the first "Indian War" on American soil. It was the "Battle of Pequod," during which the Puritan colonists surrounded the largest Pequod village and burned it to the ground. They shot and killed everyone who tried to escape. Bradford wrote in his diary, "It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they [the Puritan colonists] gave praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully. ... "
Thus began a most shameful series of chapters in American history. We know less of this story than we should. It is the story of the attempted slaughter and subsequent betrayal of all of the indigenous natives who had lived in these lands for millennia, before the Europeans came. Like the Spanish in Hispaniola, they were murderous bullies, taking what they wished.
Notice that in both cases, in Hispaniola and in North America, with apparent sincerity, a fundamentalist, inerrant God is invoked as having given these pious men the right to enact these atrocities. And note that our present president has stated that God wished him to be president, and that he, too, is crusading for the control not only of the Middle East's oil but also of the infidel Muslims who are the inhabitants of that land.
As to the continuation of the practice of slavery in the colonies that became the United States, we are all far more aware than we used to be, thanks to hugely successful works such as Alex Haley's "Roots," of our ancestors' part in accepting slavery for a solid century and more here before finally choosing to end this practice in 1865.
I want to thank Thom Hartmann for bringing these facts to my attention and I recommend his newsletter highly. You can subscribe to his free newsletter on his site. The material in Thom Hartmann's Newsletter which I have quoted is taken from Hartmann's excellent book, "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It's Too Late."
This brings me to my point: We Americans traditionally celebrate Columbus Day on Oct. 12. It was on Oct. 12, 1492, that Columbus first landed on Hispaniola. Columbus Day was first celebrated in this country in New York City in 1792. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison made the date a national holiday. Except for bankers and government workers, no one gets off work, and so the day rolls by unnoticed. But that it exists at all, given the mistreatment of the Taino following Columbus' arrival on Hispaniola, is a scandal.
It would be easy to suggest abolishing the day entirely, but the bankers and government workers of the United States would rise up and smite us! My suggestion is to rename the day and set a new intention for it instead.
I would suggest the day be renamed "Remembrance and Reconciliation Day." And I would suggest that all Caucasian Americans take the day to express their personal sorrow for the sins of their ancestors. For our attempts at the genocide of Native Americans, our complete lack of disregard for treaties made with Indian nations and the use of slaves are all grievous sins.
If all white American citizens gave a dollar apiece each year to a fund for the education of people of color, that might begin to make a difference. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, three out of four Americans are Caucasian in race — over 211 million. With the donation of only a dollar apiece we could set up a fund for education that would pack a real punch. From preschool onward, the schools with a high percentage of people of color get short shrift. We could change that completely.
If all white citizens gathered to remember the past, to ask forgiveness for our race's past actions and to pray for a new heart and a new way in America, our group consciousness would begin to heal from the scars of its grimy past.
Let us confess our sins. Let us face our sins. And let us lead ourselves toward a reconciliation that makes us again "one nation under God."
I have had this discussion before, on other occasions. And people have said to me, with some resentment, that they never had slaves. They never killed an Indian. And this is so. Yet we belong to a racial group which has. And that is a group karma that I would love to see this nation acknowledge.
Whoopi Goldberg, when asked if she preferred the term "Negro," "black" or "African-American," replied: "I prefer the term 'American.' I am from Brooklyn." She said that it was time for the nation to put the past behind us and move on. And I would agree wholeheartedly. Yet until we, as a nation-state, create some vehicle for asking forgiveness for the sins of our fathers, they will fester in our national psyche.
My extraterrestrial source, Q’uo, is talking these days about seeking a new paradigm for living, one that takes into account the unity of all beings. And perhaps I am wrong-headed in paying attention to these karmic loose ends of slavery and slaughter. Perhaps we should drop all thoughts of the past and simply start afresh. Yet I wonder if we fully can until we have become truly penitent, as a nation, for the grievous errors of our forefathers.
I open my arms and embrace your spirit. May we remember those who have suffered in America's race to conquer. And may we bow our heads in penitence and pray, "We are truly sorry and we humbly repent."