In the photo, both signs said "171 Acres Available" until someone wrote "NATIVE AMERICA" over the sign on the right. The rock painted blood-like was a few yards to the east. These acts tell a truer story about what Columbus Day represents than the story I was taught in grade school. The most important part of the lesson being that colonization isn't an event that ended in the past but a process that is still in motion: We are participating in the full blown occupation of indigenous people's homeland in the present.
Every year, I'm appalled that Columbus Day is still on the calendar. It's embarrassing that we would honor any European for "discovering" America. Aside from the fact that giving this credit to Columbus is historically inaccurate, it's cognitive dissonance that allowed our teachers to say "Columbus discovered America in 1492" in one breath and then to teach us about "Native Americans" in another. It should have been obvious that a man can't discover a place where people already live. This same cognitive dissonance pervades our American identity, way of thinking and lifestyle in every single way.
Colonization is not some distant sin committed by our forebears that we've been absolved of taking responsibility for by virtue of the passage of time. We who are alive now are settler occupiers too. While we enjoy the privilege created by our American ancestors, we are living on occupied lands. The poor and downtrodden among us are living on occupied lands. The descendants of African slaves are living on occupied lands. Churches are built on occupied lands. Our homes, on occupied land. Our hospitals, schools, shops, dams, cemeteries, mines, pipelines, highways, Wall Street and everything in between- all function on occupied lands. Your land is not really your land, even if you "own" it. That ownership is legitimate in compliance with the occupation only but in reality, the ownership is false and you are just a present day settler.
It's helpful to shift our thinking about the truth of our place in America, the popular phrase "Decolonize Your Mind" is succinctly accurate. (Read: Decolonizing Our Hears and Minds by Tlalli Yaotl) I don't claim to know how to end our occupation and I don't believe that we can ever go back to the way it was before colonization started. The meager least we can do is stop lying to ourselves about simple things. Change "Columbus Day" to "Indigenous Peoples Day" or "Colonization Awareness Day" or something of the like, to serve as a reminder of how we came to be here. AND to stop the mistake of misunderstanding our roles and responsibilities in the present as settlers benefitting from this occupation.
My intent here is not a call to guilt but a call to shatter false myths and a call to atonement. It's not my fault that I was born of European descent in the United States of America, but I'm still an occupier. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents are/were occupiers. It may be hard to face but unless your ancestors are indigenous to the Americas, you are an occupier too. Let's do better than our American ancestors and move forward in the spirit of reparation- reparation for the soil, water and air, and to the indigenous lives who still belong to this land.
DONATE TODAY! Below are a few links where we can contribute to our indigenous sisters and brothers. Or, reach out to nonprofit organizations built on the land where you yourself live.