I (Galina) recently learned from one of my students that there is a push in some circles to rename Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This apparently (and unbeknownst to me) began in Geneva, Switzerland  in 1977 at a UN conference on exploitation and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americans. I’m very grateful to my student for alerting me to this. A name change is a start. Granted, it’s nowhere near enough. It’s not enough to pay lip service to the idea of indigenous rights. There must, in some way, be apology and reparation. Moreover, the continued oppression of indigeny must be stopped.

The story of the ‘discovery’ of America is a story of greed, religious fanaticism, and conquest. This type of conquest began with the destruction of European indigenous traditions. First, monotheism in the form of Christianity spread from the Mediterranean into Europe. It fostered the forced eradication of indigenous religions and spiritual traditions. It brutally changed the cultural paradigm and destroyed and then replaced the dominant operating “filter.” Then, having succumbed and in some cases learned to collaborate in the destruction of their own ways, Europeans, in some weird cultural Stockholm syndrome, came across the ocean and did exactly the same thing to the Native nations here. Like any cycle of abuse, it just kept on going.

It’s about time we as a people and a nation take a good long look at where that cycle has brought us, because we can change it and it begins with little steps, sometimes seemingly insignificant ones. It begins with examining our own filters and being willing to admit our privilege. That’s no small thing but it is an essential starting point.

This is one of the reasons that ancestor work, honoring our dead, is such a vital step right now. They can help. We all have ancestors who lived through these times of conquest. We all have ancestors who lived organically those traditions that were destroyed. Even those ancestors who knew only monotheism can help us, for often with death and contact with elder kin, greater understanding and awareness is gained. They can help us all remove the destructive filter that has become our baseline operating system. We need only honor them and ask. There is a Lithuanian proverb: “the souls of the dead are the guardians of the living” and that is so very, very true. Especially here. Especially now. We cannot afford to forget that. The tremendous lack of balance in our world is going to take both sides living and dead working in tandem to correct. The souls of the dead truly are the guardians of the living. Honor them.

In the meantime, think about what you can do to honor your own indigenous roots, to honor the Native cultures of this land, and to begin to enter into this fight, which is, as a colleague of mine recently called it, a fight for the soul of this nation. It doesn’t matter how small the action. Something is always better than nothing and we all have to start somewhere. Here are a few simple ideas:

Nine things that you can do instead of celebrating Criminal Columbus Day:

1.       Hold a ritual honoring the land, Turtle Island, her spirit, and the ancestors of this place. Pour or lay out offerings.

2.       This one is just for the DC40 folks, who are horrified by the idea of Goddesses who hold the title “The Queen of Heaven.” Hold a ritual honoring one of those Goddesses. Set up a small shrine and maintain a regular devotional practice. (More on the current attack on the “Queen of Heaven” in a day or so. It is going hand in hand with these predators’ attack on religious freedom, human intelligence, and Turtle Island) and it’s a part of many ancient traditions, a part that was early, often, and vociferously attacked. Let’s take it back.

3.       This was another suggestion that I got from my student: several states (New Mexico, South Dakota, Alabama and Hawaii) have renamed Columbus Day. Do some research and find out if there has been any movement to do so in your state. If not, start one.

4.       Go visit a local Native American museum (like the Museum of the American Indian in NYC). Educate yourself about First Nations’ peoples and cultures. If you have children, take them along.

5.       Push for and/or organize a presentation in your local school touching on indigenous cultures and the real story of Columbus. Bring in Native presenters (because their story is not anyone else’s narrative to tell).

6.       Take this a step further and (again a suggestion from my student) push to find out what children are learning about in school about Columbus and the Conquest of the Americas. This book can provide useful resources: http://www.amazon.com/Rethinking-Columbus-Next-500-Years/dp/094296120X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318217963&sr=8-1

7.       Have a movie night and discussion with friends and acquaintances. Choose something like “Rabbit Proof Fence,” (not American, but a story of horrors perpetrated against Australian aborigine tribes. They got the idea from the Americas).  “Incident at Oglala,” “Columbus Day Legacy,” or, if you want to talk about the destruction of European traditions, ‘Agora.” There are many good and pointed films on the market, these were just a few that came immediately to mind that might prove somewhat salient on the topic of destruction of indigeny.

8.       If you haven’t begun honoring your ancestors regularly, now is a good time and excuse to begin. There are several good articles here: Http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog/html under the tag ‘ancestors’ that can get you started.

9.       Donate to Cultural Survival at http://www.culturalsurvival.org. This organization’s specific goal is the protection, preservation, and growth of indigenous cultures as well as fighting for their rights.

  A big thank you to C.A. for some of the above suggestions and many blessings to you all.

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