I grew up reading the romantic accounts La Niña, La Pinta, and the Santa María crossing the ocean blue in good old fourteen hundred and ninety-two. As such, I looked forward to Columbus Day more than just as a day off from school, but as a day to glory in America and its history.
The older I get, however, the less Columbus Day seems to be about the man and his journey. For me, at least, this day became more about my connection to the indigenous peoples already living in the Americas upon the discoverer’s arrival.
My family has always been proud of our American Indian heritage. My ancestor Massasoit was instrumental in the survival of the Plymouth Colony. When one of my ancestors, a French Gypsy, was kicked out of New Amsterdam he was taken in by one of the surrounding Indian tribes.
My great-grandfather, a cattle rancher in Canada, had a wonderful relationship with and a deep reverence for the Blackfoot and Sioux tribes which he recorded in his journals. Due to his many kindnesses shown to them he was given the honorary title “Chief Tu-cu-sa”. Years after he relocated to Southern California, they would make the effort to come down and visit him.
While the percentage of Indian blood flowing through my veins might not make me eligible for academic scholarships, mineral royalties, or let me run a casino, it is a part of my identity. I’m offended when I fill out a form that asks for my race and then does so in terms of an “exclusive or”. As if I can only be either Caucasian or Native American (or any other combination of racial backgrounds). Why can’t I be both if that’s how I identify myself?
What are your thoughts with regards to Columbus Day? Do you have Native American heritage? If so, what tribe(s)? Sound off in the comments below.
All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.