Columbus Day is a riddle of an occasion, one that affects people of all races living on Turtle Island. There are all sorts of ways of looking at Columbus' legacy, and the the truth of it is—well, we may never really get to a truth. We're trying to sort out hundreds of years of acclaim as an explorer with somewhat recent condemnations of him as a genocidal maniac. It's pretty hard to defend Columbus these days, but that doesn't mean he ought to be forgotten.
The most important thing to do, perhaps, is to listen. Listen to the people who have something to say about what Columbus means to them, to their nations, and to the world. So here are some videos about Columbus and Columbus Day, about 15th-century imperialism and modern-day ignorance, about the colonialist mentality—and, in the end, something you can dance to.
First up, the self-explanatory "Reconsider Columbus Day," from 2009:
From Columbus Day three years ago to Columbus Day 2012—this is "The Requiremento of 2012" by Savage Media, the same Dartmouth student filmmakers who brought you "A Letter to Urban Outfitters: A Poem by Autumn White Eyes."
And now for some hardcore history: Actor Benjamin Bratt, Quechua, reads the words of Bartolome de las Casas, a historian who described the atrocities committed against the Taino people of the island of Hispaniola. These accounts were included in Howard Zinn's influential People's History of the United States, which was published in 1980 and included seldom-heard perspectives on American history.
British comedian Eddie Izzard's brilliant take on the conqueror/colonizer mentality—summed up by the seemingly-trivial question, "Do you have a flag?"
Buffy Sainte-Marie, Cree, singing "My Country 'Tis Of Thy People You're Dying," from 1966. The lyrics are poignant throughout, but the way she links residential schools to the propagation a Euro-centric history is elegant and chilling:
Now that the longhouses breed superstition
You force us to send our toddlers away
To your schools where they're taught to despise their traditions.
You forbid them their languages, then further say
That American history really began
When Columbus set sail out of Europe, then stress
That the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best.
And yet where in your history books is the tale
Of the genocide basic to this country's birth?
Back, with a vengeance, to the 21st century: The Sopranos. Here TV's most lovable gangsters discuss the news that a Native American group will be protesting their local Columbus Day parade:
Finally, the Native hip hop collective A Tribe Called Red takes that very clip (and others from the show) and works it into a video featuring their own highly original "electric powwow" or "pow wow step" music: