Many will argue that Indigenous Peoples Day is not needed because there isn’t even an official Columbus Day in Mankato, or in the state of Minnesota. Why, they ask, is this so important that I should pay attention? Many will say this is ancient history and it is time to move on. Why should we do anything if we have no connection to this? How can these efforts possibly help change anything? Let’s be courageous enough to explore these questions and more together.
We are nearly two decades into the 21st Century and our textbooks are still praising the glory of a brutal European conqueror who is responsible for the deaths of over a million people in his quest for gold. The major question before us is: why do we still use textbooks that propagandize the human butcher, Columbus, as a hero to our children? To understand the answer to this question we need to understand how this came to be.
Between 1450 and about 1520, the Vatican created through nine Papal Bulls, (edicts), a document called the Doctrine of Discovery.
This document defined how Europeans would deal with indigenous, non-Christian peoples in lands discovered beyond Europe. It also divided ownership of any such new lands between Spain and Portugal, and later other European countries were allowed into the land grab. It was under these rules of engagement that the Americas were conquered, and their peoples subjugated and/or murdered.
Sadly, for our Native neighbors, this same doctrine crept into US law by the early 1820’s, with the latest ruling based on it written by Justice Ginsburg, “City of Sherrill versus Oneida Nation,” in March 29, 2005. Native peoples from both North and South America are working hard at putting pressure on the Vatican to rescind the Discovery Doctrine and the Papal Bulls behind it.
This is being done to eliminate the legal precedence created by it. Once this is accomplished legal efforts can begin to remove legislation based on it across the Americas. This will begin to put indigenous peoples on equal, legal footing with their neighbors of European decent who have held legal dominance over them for over five centuries. While “ndigenous Peoples Day won’t change any of these historical facts, it will begin to challenge the lies in the textbooks our children use. It will also help us, and our children, know that we are making every effort to correct the lies we know to be wrong and unjust. It will continue the process of righting the wrong done upon our neighbors and help create a healing environment into which justice may flow. Let’s join with Minnesota cities like Bemidji, Grand Rapids, and Minneapolis by adopting this declaration of support for truth and justice. In our present age of divisiveness, this is a beacon of peace, recognition, and reconciliation. Join us on June 11th at the City Council meeting in Mankato to help right this wrong while increasing community unity.