My brain is being controlled, for I am told that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. A sweet little rhyme to describe the way that America was “discovered”. Well, I hate to dismay my 3rd grade history teacher who taught me this, but this sugar coated explanation of the colonization and destruction of the Americans is not as simple, or as pleasant.
Christopher Columbus did NOT discover the Americas. In fact, he did not discover America. When the lost white boy from Spain set foot on “American” (Bahamian) soil in 1492, it was the beginning of the end. His presence on sacred soil was the beginning of colonization, mass genocide, erasure of culture, and dehumanization of the indigenous inhabitants of the land. He wanted to spread his beloved Catholicism through whatever means necessary, this meant the murder of millions.
Columbus first encountered the Taínos on the island of Guanahani, part of what is the modern day Bahamas. The Taínos lived and flourished many parts of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and many other smaller islands. If you have ever said the words: canoe, hammock, barbecue, tobacco, hurricane, or Cuba, you have the Taínos to thank. While Taíno language was never documented, their culture was vibrant and beautiful. Taíno pottery was highly advanced, and other detailed crafts such as woven belts and carved shell and stone, were also important objects in Taíno culture. The Taíno people where one of generosity and love, their culture revolved around being kind to others They welcomed Columbus and his gang of rapists with open arms and hearts, they did not know what was yet to come. The Taíno people were murdered by Spanish colonizers. They were prevented from planting crops that they had been eating for generations. Their women were raped by colonizers. Their people developed smallpox, measles, and whole other slew of diseases. TheTaínos were murdered, and while there may not be many artifacts or remnants left of them, it is important that Americans, textbooks, and the world, keep in mind that they were killed because of Christopher Columbus.
We must also remember that they were just the first of hundreds of tribes to be viciously murdered. We will never know the names of their tribes, of their leaders, of their cultural practices, we will never know them. While we may never know their culture, pretending as if they didn’t exist furthers their erasure. When someone says that Christopher Columbus discovered the America’s, white supremacy is reaffirmed, erasure of indigenous people is reaffirmed; the colonizers win, yet again.
The blood is on the hands of you and me, and our world, if we continue to act as though genocide of indigenous people did not happen. We must teach our children about those horribly murdered, why it happened, and the people that still live today. Indigenous people, particularly in the United States, are still treated as less than citizens, and often as less than human. Their stories, their culture, and their brutal history deserve to be heard. Be on the right side of history, stand with indigenous people, stand with what is right.