I stood before the candidates during the opening ceremonies of the Boy Scouts of America’s Order of the Arrow Ordeal weekend. Dressed at an Iroquois chief, I performed the script for the role I played: Nutiket, guardian of the circle. Other members of the ceremony complemented my performance as a “kick-add Nutiket!”
I had no idea what appropriation meant them.
a Native American’s
How could I? A child coming of age in the early 1980s, we thought we honored Native American culture with respectful representations. But as the Irish-Italian son of the son-and-grandaughter of immigrants, I celebrated Columbus Day.
How could we not? My father still faced anti-Italian bias when he sought to open a restaurant in Westchester County, New York. Our neighborhood Association of mostly Paisanos could not imagine not commemorating the Italian explorer that “discovered” American. We all learned about the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria; we knew our rhyme:
In the year 1492
Columbus sailed the ocean blue…
We didn’t learn about the fate of the Native-San Salvadorans then.
Not to mention the history of European setters inadvertantly, and then intentionally, spreading smallpox to Native American villages along the Atlantic coasts. Or the co-opting of loyalties during the French-and-Indian and Revolutionary wars. Or The Trail of Tears, the violated treaties as Americans settled ever Westward. Or the Indian Wars, The massacres like Wounded Knee, the Dawes and Homestead Acts.
so much blood-drenched
Indigenous Americans lived in the land Columbus claims to have discovered. They fought their battles with each other, but they acknowledge the importance of family, harmony with the earth and in leaving a legacy for their children. Their heritage of caring for the environment is one descendents of Euro-Americans still need to learn.
I acknowledge the value that Columbus had for Italian immigrants struggling for acceptance in wider American society then. Indigenous Americans deserve no less. It’s time that their day enjoy the same acknowledgement–by everyone!
all the celebrations this
I’m hosting, ahem, Haibun Monday over at dVerse, celebrating all things Indigenous! The Pub is open! Come join us!