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Another Year, Another Columbus Day

Robert Franklin

Posted on October 6, 2018 23:02

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On Monday, Columbus Day, as a federal holiday, will be observed for the 84th time.

Last year, I commemorated Columbus Day at work by printing out a picture of the man, taping it to the computer monitors on the counter, and writing the phrase "psychopath" in big, red letters underneath. For the most part, it was a largely-ignored gesture, but there were a few people throughout the day who commented on it. A couple of people laughed and talked about it. A few others grumbled or found it offensive.

While the workplace may not be the best place to make such a statement, I did believe it to be one worth making. Though there are efforts to create distance between ourselves and the myth of Christopher Columbus (much of what we learn about him is a half-truth or bald-faced lie), the fact remains that Columbus Day is still a federally-recognized holiday observed on the second Monday in October.

Every. Single. Year.

But my small-time effort to confront the general public with this didn't stem solely from the misinformation surrounding Christopher Columbus. It's largely a point on the current state of affairs between the United States government and the remaining indigenous population in the United States.

The U.S. Government bears the responsibility of managing the affairs of the country's indigenous population, and in the one-hundred and eighty-plus years since Chief Justice John Marshall referred to the relationship between indigenous peoples and the U.S. government as that of "a ward to his guardian," Washington has been a largely neglectful, and at times abusive, one.

If you travel out west, particularly in New Mexico, that relationship is unapologetically on display. Reservations are full of disillusionment, substance abuse, and destitution, with poverty rates more than double the national rate and extreme poverty rates at around six times the national rate. Employment opportunities are rare, if they exist at all. Schooling and education is either wholly inadequate, treated with extreme skepticism, or simply doesn't exist. These factors are what prompted sociologist Gary Sandefur to call reservations the nation's "first underclass areas."

Resources that could be utilized to bring some relief to the stymied economies on reservation lands are tied up in confusing, twisted Federal bureaucracies while the U.S. government, simultaneously, tramples on indigenous culture in its own economic pursuits (such as the ongoing dispute between the Sioux and Washington over the Black Hills).

So on Monday, let's take a moment to reflect on what we are actually observing. This is an observation of a pivot-point in North American history, where a central figure with mythological status turned a navigation error into five centuries of subjugation, genocide, concentration, apartheid, poverty, and pestilence.

Robert Franklin

Posted on October 6, 2018 23:02

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Source: KOB.com

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