Monday, July 05, 2004
Columbus' Story Getting Native Voices in Denver Curriculum-Denver Post

I can't imagine anyone who thinks the treatment of Native Americans, by certain Europeans, in hind sight was humanitarian.

Incidentally, those early Europeans, besides Spaniards, were mostly English, Scots, French, Dutch, German, etc, and you would be hard pressed to find Italians.

But I hope that the Native American will not be "romanticized", and that their practices of Aggression, Conquest, Slavery, Rape, Pillage, and Human Sacrifices will be also told.

The "story" needs further prospective, as to whether Columbus' Courageous Voyage should be held any more responsible for the actions of the Spaniards, and other Europeans, than Enrico Fermi, who designed the first atomic pile and produced the first nuclear chain reaction in 1942, be held accountable for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Nuclear Bombs.

Or Karl Benz who designed and built the world's first practical automobile to be powered by an internal-combustion engine, be declared responsible for 43,000 auto deaths per year.

You get the idea. The possibilities are endless.

Will the "story" include that Columbus was sent back to Spain in chains and on trumped up "charges" because he treated the Native Americans as "equals" which infuriated the representatives of the Crown, and the conquistadors who thought of them only as pagan savages?

Also, Italians did not arrive in the US in any numbers, until the first wave in the 1840s, (350 years after Columbus), again in 1860s, and the big wave in 1880-1920, and these Italians were overwhelmingly "exploitees" NOT "exploiters".

Further, it should be made a part of as part of the curriculum, that the history of  Italian Immigration is full of pitiful circumstances that the Italian Immigrants were subjected to.

The number of "Indentured Servants" (read slavery), Miners, Railroad workers, Sweat Shops, yes, and Row crop workers overseen by Blacks with rifles in the Carolinas.

Piled on top of the dreadful work conditions, there was the discrimination, the degradation and humiliation, the slurs that associated Italians with everything evil, tawdry, and despicable. And that Negative Stereotyping is still rampant today.

Yes, Native Americans, have your story told. But in doing so, don't needlessly "trash" Columbus, (merely as a "symbol" of European expansion).

Are you Really looking for THE whole Truth, or your "Selected" Version of the Truth?

Or are you merely attempting to trade your "new" Propaganda, for the "old" Propaganda?

If so, you can not lay claim the moral "high" ground. You are merely becoming the New resident of the moral "low" ground.

Denver Post
By Karen Rouse
Staff Writer
Monday, July 05, 2004

A group of educators is using a national model to create a Christopher Columbus curriculum that pulls Indians from the margins of history and looks critically at the idea of identity in historical events. Traditional lessons of Columbus reflect the identity of the Europeans on the ship with Columbus, said Stephanie Rossi, a Wheat Ridge High School history teacher.

But there is also "the perspective from the shore," Rossi said. The Arawak and Taino Indians on what are present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a different story, she said.

What hasn't been told, Rossi said, is how indigenous people were killed by Spaniards who traveled with Columbus or were enslaved, or how women were raped for payment.

The curriculum, which will be available to schools this fall, uses a framework designed by the Massachusetts-based Facing History and Ourselves to examine moral choices made in history, said Bill Fulton, director of the Facing History Project at the Public Education and Business Coalition in Denver, which is overseeing the project.

There is a network of about 100 public and private teachers in the metro area who have used the Facing History curriculum in the past who will likely use the Columbus lessons, Fulton said. Eventually, the group hopes to develop a textbook around what it calls the "American Genocide."

The concept of identity emerges throughout history, Fulton said. In any event, there are victims and perpetrators, rescuers and bystanders and scapegoats.

Those roles exist in the workplace and on playgrounds, he said. In schools, Rossi said, students identify as athletes, "the freaks," jocks - or those who are "in" or "out."

Native Americans were viewed as inferior to Columbus because "they were not white or Christian," she said.

The project is significant in Denver, Fulton said, because Columbus Day celebrations have been the source of tension between Italian and Native American-led groups in the city for more than a decade.

While some celebrate Columbus as an explorer who introduced Europeans and Christianity to the Americas, others say his legacy is of slavery, genocide and rape.

Glenn Morris, a leader with the American Indian Movement of Colorado, which has protested Columbus Day parades, and a chairman of the political science department at the University of Colorado at Denver, said historical documents show Columbus traded African slaves and oversaw the slaughter of Indian people.

"People should be asking why they haven't been told that part of the story," said Morris, who is contributing to the project.

Curriculum developers say lessons are grounded in research and historical documents - such as Columbus' own diaries and the journals of Bartolome de las Casas, a priest who witnessed and wrote about the treatment of Indians in the West Indies - and aren't designed to bash Columbus.

"We're going to look at the actions on both sides ... and try to understand him, too, not necessarily condemn," said Lance Rushton, a social studies teacher at P.S. 1 Charter School in Denver. "It's about balance."

"It's calling for accountability in the education system" and will meet state and district standards, said Darius Smith, president of the Colorado Indian Education Association.

In Denver Public Schools, lessons on Columbus traditionally occur in middle school and can vary depending on the teacher, said Gilberto Muñoz, social studies coordinator for the district.

"There's a lot of diversity in the teaching ranks of how they perceive this whole issue," Muñoz said. "Depending on the school, the book may have a modern interpretation of Columbus. Others stick to the more traditional version, that very sanitized version: He came here, he discovered America, left a huge mark on the world and history.

"They definitely don't mention the slavery, massacres and the whole other side."

The district is currently updating its history curriculum to encourage discussion of the perspectives and competing biases in history, he said.

"Almost everything in history can be debated," he added.

George Vendegnia, a founder of the Sons of Italy-New Generation, which has organized recent Columbus Day parades, said he supports teaching a full account of history.

Vendegnia said Italians "were looked down upon" in the early 1900s. When efforts to honor Italians through Columbus were made, they embraced it, he said.

"We fought in the wars, worked in the coal mines and took the jobs no one wanted," Vendegnia said. "They thought Columbus was a great hero ... (and) said you Italian people ... should have this day."

When activists protest the parade, Vendegnia said, he feels it is an assault on his free-speech rights.

Fulton said the group is looking to include Italian voices in the project, too.

The curriculum developers say they hope the curriculum will launch debate and encourage students to decide what their role will be in society.

And if history teachers exclude Native Americans from the Columbus story, Rossi said, she hopes her Native American students will have the courage to tell them: "'That's not how it happened for my people."'

Two views of Christopher Columbus

As hero

A group of state senators last year adopted a resolution commending Colorado cities, specifically Denver and Pueblo, that celebrate Columbus Day. The resolution, sponsored by Senate President John Andrews, credits Columbus for having sailed from Spain with three ships, a crew of 90 and spotting land on Oct. 12, 1492. Before the explorer landed, the resolution said, there were no accounts in European literature of the American continent. It adds that Columbus' journey resulted in the first intertwining of European and American cultures, and the establishment of European colonies in the New World. According to the resolution:

1892: President Harrison issued a proclamation to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus' journey.

1907: Casimiro Barela, one of the state's first Latino senators, worked with Angelo Noce, an Italian resident of Denver, to establish Oct. 12 as Columbus Day, a public holiday.

1937: President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed Oct. 12 as Columbus Day.

1971: President Nixon declared Columbus Day to be a national holiday to be observed on the second Monday in October.

2001: President Bush issued proclamations recognizing Columbus Day.

Source: Colorado General Assembly

As destroyer

Members of the Transform Columbus Day Alliance have sought for years to have Columbus removed from Denver's Columbus Day parade. The group says he set "in motion a 500-year legacy of continuing genocide, racism and destruction of the environment:"

1989: The American Indian Movement of Colorado announced a four-year campaign to explain why Columbus Day is harmful to American Indians.

1990: The Federation of Italian-American Organizations announced the resurrection of the Columbus Day Parade after a more than 30-year absence. AIM asked them not to name the parade after Columbus. The federation refused. Both sides agreed to allow AIM to lead the parade with anti-Columbus signs, and hold talks later. Those talks never happen.

1991: The federation sponsored another parade, and four AIM members were arrested for blocking it.

1992: AIM again asked parade organizers to remove Columbus' name from the parade. The federation refused. Activists prepared to confront the parade, which was canceled the day it was scheduled. No parade was held until 2000.

2000: More than 100 activists were arrested for protesting the Columbus Day parade, but charges were later dropped.

2001: Because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, only 40 people participated in the parade, but the first All Nations/Four Directions March was held to celebrate all cultures.

2002: Columbus Day parade and another All Nations march were held.

2003: AIM supporters asked again for references to Columbus to be dropped. When members of the Sons of Italy-New Generation refused, the protesters turned their backs and walked away.

Source: Transform Columbus Day Alliance

Staff writer Karen Rouse can be reached at 303-820-1684 or,1413,36~53~2253449,00.html#,1413,36~53~2253449,00.html#

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