Columbus Day 2015: Time to Protect Indigenous Peoples: See Amazing Videos.
What are we celebrating? Most of us Euro types wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the heroic journeys (4 of them) that brought him (with Spanish crews and ships) to the Americas. But for Americans already here before Columbus, there isn’t much to celebrate. What can only be called genocide started early on as Columbus and the Spanish began to colonize indigenous peoples of Hispanola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and other islands. Here are excerpts from the late (great) Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States based on historical documents.
- “They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. Columbus later wrote: ‘Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.’ “
- “Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.”
- The remaining Arawaks were…enslaved to work on plantations.. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants were left on the island.”
Forward in Time: In the U.S. colonists and settlers backed by government troops carried out ruthless repression resulting in the displacement and deaths of millions of Native Americans. We needn’t look very hard to find genocide in our own history.
But what about now? The evidence indicates that multi-national corporations–with the backing or and complicity from governments–are trampling indigenous people, their rights and their territories in develop mines, plantations, logging operations, oil and gas, and hydroelectric power for profit–maybe not in the name of “the Holy Trinity” but certainly in the name of economic growth. This is happening all over the world, and especially in the Amazon rain forests of South America.
Videos tell the story: To get an idea of the struggles of indigenous peoples in the Amazon region, we invite you to take a look these videos.
The Awa of Brazil: Survival International’s successful International’s efforts to save “The Earth’s Most Threatened Tribe” from illegal logging.
Indigenous peoples stake on Big Oil. See video from Amazon Watch.
Chevron and its Secret Videos: A whistle blower provided NGOs with a videos that Chevron’s reps took in Ecuador. There mission was to find evidence showing the place was clean and safe. They didn’t have much luck, hence the kept them in the closet. See it here. In one sequence a poor farmer says that his children were exposed to oil and died.
Good News on the Legal Front (Bad for Chevron). The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that 30,000 poor Ecuadoran farmers can sue Chevron on trial in Toronto, in an effort to seize $9.5 billion from its Canadian subsidiary for damages from the pollution the company’s drilling caused in vast stretches of their territory. See news story here.
What you can do on Columbus Day Week. Go to websites of two fabulous groups working on behalf of indigenous tribes: Amazon Watch and Survival International. You will find a wealth of information and additional videos. Then take two steps: Sign critical petitions and donate. Let’s not allow history to repeat.