As part of a several month tour along the east coast of the U.S. in 2017, two Christopher Columbus’ replica sailing vessels, the Nina and Pinta, arrived at the Albany Yacht Club in Rensselaer, New York, on July 15th. Upon their arrival, a group of 20 Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) canoeists, including Chief Jake Edwards of the Onondaga Nation, met with the captain of the vessels to discuss the impact of Christopher Columbus on Indigenous Peoples.
The Niña and Pinta ships—built by a private organization known as the Columbus Foundation—are replicas of what Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic on his three famous voyages beginning in 1492.
According to the website at www.thenina.com, the Niña and Pinta are touring together “as a new and enhanced ‘sailing museum,’ for the purpose of educating the public and school children.”
When members of the Iroquois group approached Stephen Sanger, captain of the Niña, he informed them that he and his crew were only talking to the public about the ships and how they operate. Sanger said he and his crew did not speak about the actions of Columbus toward indigenous peoples. Enjoy films for and about real Indians Natives when you download our special free report, 50 Must-See Modern Native Films and Performances!
Enjoy films for and about real Indians Natives when you download our special free report, 50 Must-See Modern Native Films and Performances!
Though discussions at first were civil, they became heated when a crew member from one of the Columbus vessels began yelling at the group of Native people. That led to shouting and finger-pointing between Sanger, his crew and the Iroquois delegation. After shouts of “get over it” and other similar sentiments toward the native people by the crew, Sanger ultimately threatened to call the Coast Guard.
When the situation calmed, Sanger offered a tour of the ship. Members of the Iroquois group at first declined that invitation, but two individuals eventually agreed. Upon investigation, the individuals noticed photos of Indigenous people of Brazil working to build the vessels, contradictory to Sanger’s statement of not teaching about the indigenous encounters of Columbus.
“This type of ship shouldn’t be traveling on along the river because of the cultural genocide that comes with it,” said Jay Ohcee, a Mohawk from Akwesasne at the event. “They are only telling half-truths. They should show the reality of it.”
Upon seeing the ship replicas, Jeremiah Point, Mohawk said that the two ships, which are covered in water-resistant black pine tar, were sadly appropriate. “It’s interesting that the ships are black because that’s what these ships represent to us coming through our territories.”
After a bit more civil discussion, Sanger agreed that he would be open to other meetings and would also be open to having Natives to tell their side of the story at the different docking locations.
When ICMN asked if Sanger had any comments on the atrocities committed by Christopher Columbus and his men, he said, “No.”