shelby fleig

If you are an alert and functioning human being, you know that today is Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, the day that remembers and honors Christopher Columbus and his large crew of Spaniards “discovering” the Americas, in which generations and generations of indigenous people had already lived and thrived.

If you are a more alert and higher-functioning human being, you know the fact that our country has a holiday to commemorate the genocide, slavery, disease, rape and hate that is Christopher Columbus is total bullshit.

Fast facts to make up for our flawed public school system:

1. Christopher “Bad Daddy” Columbus arrived on Oct. 12, 1492, to a civilization close to 14,000 years old. He insisted that he had reached small islands off the coast of China, and even made his crew pledge an agreement with him. Columbus died maintaining he had reached Asia. What an embarrassing mess this dude is already.

2. Upon reaching the islands, the Spanish explorers were met by the native Arawaks living in the Bahamas, who swam out to greet the ships, offering help and willing to trade the explorers for anything they needed. Columbus endorsed the Arawaks himself: “(The Arawaks) are so naïve and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they share with anyone.” He continues, “They are the best people in the world and above all the gentlest.”

3. To return the favor, Columbus kidnapped 500 Arawaks, shipped them to Spain and sold them into slavery. The transatlantic slave trade was now a thriving business. An actual quote ‘Topher had the balls to write: “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

4. On consequent journeys back to the Americas, Columbus had Natives’ ears, noses and hands cut off when they didn’t comply with his directions. Girls were forced to have sex with his men. Most worked in Columbus’ gold mines. The Arawaks started committing mass suicides. Half of the original population was dead within two years. Twenty years after Columbus arrived in America, 10 percent of the Native population remained. Not long after, not a single Arawak was left.

5. Columbus never stepped foot in the territory that is the United States today, but his genocide of peaceful Natives to the American islands is a sure preview to what he would’ve done to who we know as Native Americans. Perhaps with a bit of learning from one of history’s worst people named Chris (Criss Angel? Chris Christie? Chris Brown?), the U.S. government was able to pull off something pretty similar.

It’s easy to dismiss this holiday in solidarity with those it offends. “History is a crock of shit,” I say. “Columbus isn’t my favorite explorer,” I scream. But the frequency of my screaming deems it irrelevant, and we still have a national holiday celebrating a guy who single-handedly orchestrated the transatlantic slave trade. It’s disrespectful on a multitude of gooey layers to Native Americans and to all people who aren’t into the killing of innocent people by the hundreds of thousands.

So if we really cared about Native Americans on this day, we would know a few of the things they struggle with on a daily basis in modern American society. To say we recognize a string of white men’s injustices toward them is one thing, but meaningful connections can be made if we try to understand their world today.

The capital of their country — the land they’ve lived on for thousands of generations — calls their pro-football team the Redskins. “Scalp ‘em, swamp ‘um! We will take ‘um big score!” Nothing like the smell of Manifest Destiny on game day. (It smells like Busch Light.)

The government shutdown brings struggles exclusively to Indian Country and reservations. Many nations rely heavily on federal money, so a government shutdown means intense cuts on nutrition programs, foster care payments, residential care and aid for low-income Natives. The same thing happened with the sequester, forcing Native schools to immediately make huge cuts not felt by most American public schools.

Alcoholism is estimated to affect eight of every 10 Native youth. And suicide rates on reservations are 1.5 times the national average. A multitude of issues such as rehabilitation program funding, alcohol legislation and a lack of quality mental health care are blamed, but regardless, it’s a sad and realistic burden.

Many other challenges face Native Americans today, like enrollment issues for Freedmen (former slaves of Natives) and those with low blood percentage. And like combating rising high school dropout rates. And like your day-to-day, run of the mill racism. Fun fact for you: The revitalization of the KKK is taking refuge in Henryetta, Okla. — in the heart of the Creek Nation.

But past all these issues, and the reason Native Americans are thriving as leaders in their own education systems, governments and communities, is the resilience of an impassioned group of people connected by a tragic history.

Today, instead of complaining about our government’s choice to celebrate a mass murderer and the first threat to Native Americans’ livelihood, educate yourself on what matters now, and how you can make yourself useful in the issue.

Happy Columbus Day! Can’t wait for next year!

Shelby Fleig is always on point. Contact her at arts@dailynebraskan.com