Indigenous Day: a #haibun

Johns Hopkins University observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the first time in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Tom Jefferson Jr.) Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-american-indian/2019/10/11/indigenous-peoples-day-2019/#imxMyo4CXkhzVafF.99

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

unseen tears

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.

rising smoke

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!

raining leaves

all the celebrations this

Indigenous Day

I’m hosting, ahem, Haibun Monday over at dVerse, celebrating all things Indigenous! The Pub is open! Come join us!

Categories: haikai, haiku community

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29 replies »

    • The more things change, the more they stay the same. Then again, if the conscientious become the victors, then stories of conscience will be told. The uptick in Indigenous Day celebrations this year in the US exemplifies this.


      • It’s a sign of great courage and pride in a culture that the Native Americans still feel they exist as a separate entity and a great indictment of America that the indigenous culture has not been integrated into a common American culture. Their values of moderation, sharing and the spiritual have no place in a society that only values profit.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Here in the Pac NW we already celebrate Indigenous People’s Day today; way ahead of the curve I guess. I really dug your double-barreled Haibun, rife with three great Haiku. At 75, this year, I just found out I’m 70% Italian. I found out from my new family, the Pellegrinos, that here in WA state, as well as having Japanese interment camps, they had an Italian one too (secondary to Mussolini).


  2. We never celebrated Columbus Day in my family. Never. The state gave workers the day off to celebrate and my family members took the day, but we took the day off to go down to the coast for a pow-wow and oyster roast. One day maybe it will be universal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Indeed! More communities and states celebrate Indigenous Day this year than ever before. It’s only a matter of time. Americans of Italian descent have other, more honorable historical figures to celebrate.


  3. Your reflective haibun reflects growth. It is embarrassing if not atrocious the disrespect and ignorance promulgated over the years by schools and other organizations as we mis-teach and misappropriate other cultures. We can just keep doing our best to do better I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, D! Throughout my lifetime, American society has incrementally developed a greater awareness and sensitivity to the experience of Indigenous people. More Indigenous Day celebrations occured this year than anytime before. We still have a long way to go, of course, but at least there has been minute progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The (very) simple truth is that it took a lot of courage to sail across the Atlantic in the time of Columbus, so of course the leader of the expedition would deserve recognition. Some would say it was misplaced pride, but, to me, it’s entirely understandable for those who are (essentially) persecuted, as Italians were, to hold dear a holiday recognizing him.
    As for the Boy Scout ceremony, that appropriation was a sign of the times, especially considering the noble character assigned to Native Americans, an irony when contrasted with the treatment they actually received.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Even as a child I knew Columbus didn’t discover America. But I understand wanting to honor your ancestors.
    As we should honor the true native peoples of the land we now claim as our own. Well done. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

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