Today we celebrate Columbus Day! It is really on Oct. 12, but since that was yesterday, Sunday, the official celebration is today.
I am grateful for Christopher Columbus!
Does that surprise you? Well, it shouldn’t. He was a truly remarkable man. He lived at a time when people believed only what they could see, and they could see the edge of the world. Therefore, the world was flat and if you traveled too far, you would fall off, just like off a table! Yet, Columbus was inspired enough to know better, and believed the world to be round. Granted, he did not realize how big that roundness was, as he thought by sailing westward on the Atlantic Ocean he would reach the east side of India. But his out-of-the-box thinking led him to see a very different world than his compatriots saw.
Columbus was a very brave man. He lost his entire fortune, yet persisted in following his dream to prove that his theory of a round world was correct. He may well have had some trepidation about setting out to prove his point, but he was able to overcome any doubts, continue to press onward until he gained the backing he needed, set sail with a group of men who certainly did not all believe as he did but led them to go on in spite of their fears, and succeed in completing the goal he set out to reach. Indeed, as he said, “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”
Columbus was an inspired man. “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” 1 Nephi 13:12. Columbus was not evil, he was a man [human being] and he was led by God, inspired. He went to visit his neighbors! 🙂
Additionally, the Indians of the Americas [Native Americans] had also migrated here, only thousands of years before the Europeans. So, more “indigenous” than we today, but non-indigenous none-the-less. Their forebears were also led by God, inspired. As a matter of fact, as we learn from the Book of Mormon, three separate groups were led here to the promised land long before the Europeans came.
So, let’s dig a little deeper:
- Myth: Columbus brought slavery to the new world. Truth: Slavery had existed in the new world for thousands of years. The Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas all were regional superpowers that enslaved nearby tribes. We also know from American history that Sacajawea was captured as a young girl by the Sioux Indian tribe and made a slave. She was later sold to the French trapper hired by Lewis and Clark to guide them.
- Myth: America was peaceful prior to Columbus. Truth: In addition to the regional superpowers mentioned above, we know that Hiawatha helped found the Iroquois League of Nations circa 1300. Over the next 400 years this League’s aggressive expansion resulted in a wholesale rearrangement of tribal lands in what is now the United States and Canada. For example, the Sioux Indians were at that time residents of Michigan and Illinois prior to being driven west by the Iroquois League. The Sioux were later fortunate to obtain escaped horses from the Spanish, and only became the plains Indians as we think of them circa 1700. (This also puts a dent in their story of the Black Hills being their ancestral homeland since time immemorial.) From the Lewis and Clark journals circa 1804 we know that the Sioux pushed the Shoshone Indians from central Montana to west of the continental divide during the period of Sacajawea’s enslavement. Other major displacements precipitated by the Iroquois were the western migration of the Blackfoot tribe in the US and the Blood tribe in Canada. A similar regional power developed in the southeastern United States with the establishment of the Creek Indian Nation, resulting in the western migration of, among other tribes, the Comanches which pushed the Apache over into Arizona and western New Mexico.
- Myth: The Europeans brought genocide into the Americas. Truth: In the far north, the Inuit conducted complete genocide of the Thule civilization, totally eradicating it from the earth. We also know that in the great basin desert the Goshute, described by Mark Twain as the Digger Indians, were pushed into a near-barren landscape that no one else wanted, where they were dying out (see Mark Twain’s journals of the American West). Doubtless there are many other ones that ceased to exist, including the Maya which were eventually toppled, and the Anasazi which ceased to exist in the 1300s.
- Myth: European culture was the first to alter the landscape of the Americas. Truth: As described in the book 1491, there is extensive evidence that the Indian civilizations in both North and South America managed their landscapes. For example, the woods that greeted the settlers in Indiana and Illinois were not there in 1490, due to slash-and-burn farming. There was also extensive landscape management performed by the much earlier mound-builder civilization. In Central America and much of the Amazonian basin, complex landscape management used slash-and-burn farming where much of today’s rainforests now exist.
- Myth: The Europeans deliberately caused germ warfare. Truth: While it is true that disease brought over by the Europeans caused thousands of the Indian population to die, this was not purposeful, nor was it a one-way street as the Indians also introduced disease to the Europeans. Part of the calamity in this topic is that, with the lack of gene-pool caused by their much smaller numbers, the Indians had a more restricted immune systems than the Europeans had. They also had a more limited spectrum of responses, meaning that their antigens didn’t recognize viruses, nor could their white cells then fight them nearly as well. This “illustrate[s] the importance to a population of having multiple HLA profiles; one person’s HLAs may miss a particular bug, but another person may be equipped to combat it, and the population as a whole survives.” Charles C. Mann, 1491.
Bottom line, without Columbus and others like him, most of us would not be here today. And, “All of God’s children, through their variety, add flavor to the daily stew that is our life. This is regardless of their race, ancestral homeland, creed, or color. Almost everybody has something they can teach us if we but have the sense to learn.” Lloyd Pearson.
Yes, I am grateful for Columbus. 🙂