I am so proud of my city, Seattle, whose City Council just named Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. There are other sides to this story of discovery, things that were set in motion and disturbed forever. Discovery is like that. Columbus Day has become a celebration of Italian pride, and while I get that on some level, I feel strongly that this day needs to be seen in all its light. Every Columbus Day for years now, I’ve played two songs here in PTown,” Postcards”, and “Wounded Knee”. Postcards revisits and re-imagines his “discovery” and provides a what-if moment. What if his heart turned toward Paradise and he ordered the ships to go home without him, burned the maps so no one would know this place existed, and grew old there, lying peacefully in the sun and sand. “Wounded Knee” tells us what happened over and over as Manifest Destiny rolled over the people who lived here.
Columbus had wanted to sail east to find Japan and all its fabled riches, but was unable to get the funding for his venture. After hanging around the Spanish court forever, he finally got enough money for three small wooden ships, and sailors to man them. Armed with Portuguese maps, they sailed to the east and bumped into an island where lived the Taino people. The history of these indigenous people nearly disappears with this contact. Violence and disease pretty well took them from their home where they had lived until Columbus came. This moment in history is a hinge upon which swings the lives of so many. Discovery is like this. Claims are made that land has been “discovered”, while all along, people are already there, but people who had a different land ethic. This ethic said the land owned them, not the other way around. This ethic fell beneath the driving wheel of the landless Europeans who set out to take land for themselves, and take it they did, claiming it in the name of one country or another. This day known as Columbus Day, could now be given a new name, one that honors a woefully uncelebrated narrative…the other side, the Indigenous Peoples of this continent, the islands in between, South and Central America, Mexico, Tibet, Russia…the list goes on and on. It’s time, I think. Time to honor the rest of the story.