Recently, a school board member and current candidate for DesPlaines School District 62 Tina Garrett (In Illinois), made this comment:
“”In our district, no way in hell is it going to be called Columbus Day again. Not happening.”
It’s the same old song and dance when it comes to Columbus Day, teaching Columbus, or just simply teaching history at all. The current narrative echoed in the same Daily Herald article is that Columbus’ voyages “led to the exploitation and genocide of the continent’s Indigenous people. Additionally, the Norse people now are believed to have reached the North American mainland centuries before Columbus sailed into the Caribbean.”
What’s astonishing is that while the Daily Herald and this board member believe they have the facts right, neither of them do. They are simply perpetuating a narrative the media has decided to run with due, primarily, to an anti-European bias, anti-Western bias, and the narrative of genocide being committed against Indigenous people due to European colonization. This is the state of teaching in today’s schools…policy dictated by political bias, generated by a tenuous grasp of history told by leftist professors with a political bent. Here’s the real historical truth:
Let us begin with the falsehood now in favor: There is zero evidence…zero…that Leif Erikson landed in North America before anyone. Zero, nada, zilch. There is speculation, but said speculation is little more than conjecture, at best, with most of that conjecture based on a saga told (The Saga of the Greenlanders) but that is all. Think of it as something close to, but not quite the same as the legend of Arthur and the Sword and the Stone. The difference is that Arthur actually existed (as did Erickson), with archaeological proof of his existence in England, whereas there is no proof Erikson was ever in North America.
Some historians “believe” he may have landed in Nova Scotia around 1000 A.D. (I refuse to use the ridiculous C.E), but archaeological expeditions have found nothing to suggest this actually occurred. This fact doesn’t matter as the media was/is more than ready to run with anything that would discredit Columbus.
In that same vein, there is also this ridiculous argument: “How could Christopher Columbus have discovered a place where people already were?”
80% of the world’s population in the 15th century lived in the Eastern Hemisphere. Further, since no one in the Eastern Hemisphere knew of the Western Hemisphere (maybe rumors only), Columbus’ voyage DID discover the New World…for those in the East!
This is not debatable.
Of course lands inhabited are not ‘discovered’ for those living there. This is simply another failure of considering contextual history, the notion of the East being unaware of the West (and vice-versa), cast aside for hyperbole and ridiculous statements.
Finally (and there is much more…but that would be a book), the notion of genocide is also not rooted in reality, but is rooted in, again, anti-Western bias. The definition of genocide is the willful killing of people in an attempt to wipe them out. This was not the case for Columbus or the Spanish colonizers. Conquest? Yes, but to state there was attempted genocide due to viral infections that devastated native populations is simply incorrect.
Was it genocide when the Mongols took over all of Asia and parts of the Middle East and Eastern Europe? Was it genocide when the kingdoms of Songhai and Mali took over West Africa? When the Aztecs conquered central Mexico, enslaving the people around them, and engaging in “Flower Wars” wherein they’d invade, on occasion, and harvest people for human sacrifice? Was it genocide when the Russians expanded East and essentially wiped out the Siberian peoples? What about Muslim expansion and the myriad wars that followed?
This list could go on and on, but I trust you get the idea. Are we to relegate only those events that affect the Western hemisphere, espousing a particular point of view that distinction of genocide, or does the narrative cross all boundaries, races, time periods?
The Columbian Exchange was responsible for bringing diseases to the New World and inadvertently killing the populations there, historical misnomers to the contrary.*. But if that is the case, it must be reconciled with the Black Death which killed a quarter of the European population, the virus (Yersinia Pestis – formerly Pasteurella Pestis) originating in China, brought to Europe via trade ships…and rats. The problem for people like that board member is that they don’t know, or are deliberately ignoring these points. There is no difference in those examples, or any of the myriad sicknesses scattered around the world via contact with different people. We don’t blame Ebola’s spread on West Africans…it is an unfortunate circumstance due to the ease of modern travel, part of the human diaspora.
There is also significant archaeological evidence suggesting plague was bombarding the native peoples well before Columbus’ landing as detailed in the book A Patriot’s Guide to American History, depleting the population of not only North America, but Central and South America as well. This does not include the various wars of conquest that took place in the Americas prior to Columbus’ arrival. If this is so, why is this not mentioned? Because it destroys the narrative of 100 million or more killed by the arrival of the Europeans.**
Finally, yes, Columbus did kill native people, in response to their massacre of his men upon his return to Europe to prove his findings (that was the only way his voyages could continue to be funded…proof of possible profit.) Anyone who’s read Columbus’ diary would know he had great respect and admiration for the peoples he encountered, but according to the dictates of the day (that plays a significant factor…historical context), actions by him, as well as other Europeans—mainly Spaniards in the 16th century—the British, French and Dutch came later—were in keeping with the order of the day. Conquest, whether we like it or not. In this case, conquest following the economics of mercantilism rather than capitalism.
Columbus’ reputation was largely trashed by his chief political rival, Francisco Bobadilla, successfully destroying his reputation and usurping his influence and power in the West Indies. He is the man mostly responsible for those today who dislike and wish to tarnish Columbus’ standing…much like they did “back in the day.” It seems, no matter how much time has passed, Columbus can’t outrun Bobadilla’s still long reach, even through the mists and vicissitudes of history.
But this is not wholly about Columbus. It is the problem of narrative generated and fostered by academics and media who are not telling the entire story of history, only cherry picking events that fit an anti-Western bias, as demonstrated by this current member of a school board clearly uninformed about history…proper history. Rather, this person, and so many others like her are taking the dominant potboiler, written and espoused by those with a distinct political bent, and running with it as though it is accurate history. It is not.
There is a distinct anti-Western bias in both political reportage as well as historical analysis, revisionism not based in historical totality, but small nuggets confirming a particular bias and then being expanded to its logical conclusion, forming a narrative that not only sounds good, but satiates the desire to confirm said bias. It is not history, rather, it is selective history…or…propaganda, the much maligned, and deservedly so 1619 Project is but one example.
History and it’s teaching should be neutral. It should be researched through many sources, and it should be told truthfully, as in the Rankean fashion,**** both good and bad in order to present an honest picture to those learning it and those who created school policy.
*There is one false story, based on a letter, that suggested small pox infected blankets were distributed in order to further the destruction. While that is being taught in schools (I worked with a colleague who espoused that erroneous theory), there is zero evidence that occurred, only a letter suggesting it.
**In fact, those numbers were likely inflated for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was by the explorers themselves. When they went back to Europe, they exaggerated the numbers “conquered” so as to gain greater prestige as conquerors, thereby receiving pensions and praise, and gaining fame not only in the royal courts of Europe, but also in their home country. These exaggerations were written down as fact, giving later historians falsified information.
***Leopold von Ranke – a 19th century historian whose school of history stated only factual history be retold, with no embellishments.