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.

Alex Hamer

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.

Christopher Columbus Replica Ships Confronted By Iroquois Canoeists

The Niña and Pinta ships -- officiated by a private organization known as the Columbus Foundation -- are replicas of what Christopher Columbus sailed on

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.

Christopher Columbus’ replica sailing vessels, the Niña and Pinta, arrived at the Albany Yacht Club in Rensselaer, New York, on July 15th.

Alex Hamer

Christopher Columbus’ replica sailing vessels, the Niña and Pinta, arrived at the Albany Yacht Club in Rensselaer, New York, on July 15th.

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.”

Hickory Edwards, Onondaga and Jeremiah Point, Mohawk waiting on the Captain of the ships.

Alex Hamer

Hickory Edwards, Onondaga and Jeremiah Point, Mohawk waiting on the Captain of the ships.

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.

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Chief Jake Edwards of Onondaga Nation told Sanger, “What we’re after is for you to acknowledge the Doctrine of Discovery and talk about the terrible actions that had happened.”

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.

Tensions flared between the Haudenosaunee and the crew of the Christopher Columbus replica sailing vessels.

Alex Hamer

Tensions flared between the Haudenosaunee and the crew of the Christopher Columbus replica sailing vessels.

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.”

Comments
  • Constance W.

    “Unbelievable!” – that this partial depiction of history should be taking place at this period of accelerated (one would think) awareness of North American history. There obviously is a huge investment by Captain Sanger in this project that required everything of him. This would make a person already full, with little room for dissenting information, and vulnerable to anything less than gaping admiration. One might say he is today’s heir to Columbus-consciousness – not quite as primitive but carrying a hunger to ‘conquer’ the attention and awe of the people. This would necessitate selective history-telling. And how could indigenous people not be aroused in anger? nearly impossible – my own blood boils at the reading. Yet it must stop here. This is but ignorance, all of it. I can envision another mission for these two exquisite ships, one that would re-member the dis-membered past, allow hearts to break openly on all sides, and to mend. It is not our Natives who need acknowledgement and apologies, it is we who need to make them in the names of our fore-fathers whose own ignorance committed the crimes. Thank you for this story.

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Christopher Columbus Replica Ships Confronted By Iroquois Canoeists

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