Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years (英語) ペーパーバック – 1998/9
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Provides resources for teaching elementary and secondary school students about Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America.
"The original edition made educational history by introducing a startling new view of Columbus. ... In the revised edition we get even richer material, a marvelous compendium of history, literature, original sources, commentary ... an exciting treasure for teachers, students, and the general public." -- Howard Zinn "author, of A People's History of the United States"
"Until we realize that history is comprised of the good, the bad, and the ugly, we will never be truly free. This book is an important step in unifying our common destiny." -- Maria Garza Lubeck "Children's Defense Fund"
"Rethinking Columbus provides a wonderful balance for those books that see things through only one eye." -- Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) "editor of the Greenfield Review"
"It's moving, thrilling! ... an essential resource for any teacher ..." -- Harriet Rohmer "director, Children's Book Press"
"Goodbye, Columbus? ... For too long, the story of Columbus has been all one-sided. But that is starting to change, possibly forever." -- San Francisco Examiner "San Francisco Examiner"
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That was one of the questions during our last parent/student Jeopardy! game at our school, and not a single adult knew the answer. I can certainly relate. I was in 6th-grade during the quincentenary (1992) of Columbus's voyage, and went to a fine school. All the same, I've had a lot of learning to do when it comes to the Columbus story. Strangely, unlike the exploits of Cortes or Pizarro—which pretty much every civilized person can agree were brutal and nakedly greedy enterprises—those of Columbus have somehow been sanitized, even sanctified, to the point where criticizing his actions engenders controversy. I do not understand why this should be so. Columbus himself certainly didn't duck the issue. How about this: "Gold is most excellent; gold constitutes treasure; and he who has it does all he wants in the world, and can even lift souls up to Paradise. Or: "Seeing some of them with little bits of metal hanging at their noses, I gathered from them by signs that by going southward or steering round the land in that direction, there would be found a king who possessed great cups full of gold...I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased." These are not obscure bits of hearsay, but primary sources, words from the man's own journals.
Facts in and of themselves should not be controversial, and I have yet to encounter a compelling argument as to why Columbus should be singled out from all the other conquistadors as a kind of boyishly curious, benevolent adventurer or—at worst—a kind of honorary Founding Father. He in no way embodied the principles of Jefferson and Franklin. In fact, when the Tainos showed the slightest resistance..."[Columbus] hastened to proceed to the country and disperse and subdue, by force of arms, the people of the entire island...For this he chose 200 foot soldiers and 20 cavalry, with many crossbows and small cannon, lances, and swords, and a still more terrible weapon against the Indians, in addition to the horses: this was 20 hunting dogs, who were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart." That comes from the friar Bartolome de las Casas, one of Columbus's contemporaries, a man considered by many to be the first great historian of the Americas.
I could certainly go on with an exhaustive description (chronicled by witnesses) of the various atrocities committed by Columbus, his brothers, and his small army. But what's more important is celebrating this much-needed book, one that is capable of guiding teachers at all grade levels in presenting Columbus in a more balanced way. The goal is not to traumatize children; that is not the aim of this book whatsoever. Here the conscientious teacher will find detailed lesson plans, poems, primary sources, and suggestions for presenting the Native side of this momentous story. Because the story IS important—in fact crucial—to our understanding of history, syncretism, religious traditions, and the exchange of ideas and technology. Why not avoid lies by omission, obfuscation, or outright falsehood? Historical figures aren't made of marble. They were human beings. They aren't sacred, and they don't care—one way or the other—what we say about them. We can affirm in the same breath that Columbus was both tremendously courageous and tremendously cruel, and not just by the standards of our time, but by his own as well. Knowing more about what Columbus did has no effect whatever on my love of country—why should it? He had nothing to do with our founding document or the principles we hold dear.
Teachers who tend toward the old "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" version of events—either because they don't know any better or because a more complete view of the past makes them uncomfortable—would do themselves and their students a great service by studying the lessons in the book. It's a marvelous anthology, and a solid step in the right direction in restoring justice to our curricula. As I see it, the study of history brings a three-fold benefit. It teaches us the nature of cause and effect (why things are the way they are), acts as a kind of intellectual self-defense against those who falsely claim that such-and-such did or didn't happen and, most crucially, allows us to broaden our capacity for empathy and understanding. This isn't about "revising" history or "dwelling on the yucky parts"—two perennial accusations against those who question a mythologized version of events. Of course, we can't bring the Tainos back simply by learning about them. But we can do our best to right an egregious historical wrong, and only as much as it can be righted—by teaching as truthfully as we can. Thank you for reading.
The Columbus experience is the convergence of three factors that proved tragic (and still do) to Native Peoples of the Western Hemisphere (Christian evangelism, emerging capitalism, and emerging western racism). One would be bad enough but it was a triple hit. Christian evangelism attempted and did destroy Natives' spiritual and cultural identities, emerging capitalism destroyed their land and lives when the natural world and the people in it are nothing more than commodities to be bought and sold, and racism that reinforced the dominator model in place for the last 500 years.
It is true that Columbus and his men were children of his time but you could say that of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan who left a swath of death and destruction across Europe. What ever their military and administrative prowess and genius they are not remembered favorably by Europeans. What ever ills they committed they both eventually left and did not leave a permanent spiritual or cultural scar that effects Native peoples today.
Hitler and Nazi Germany are not remembered for the Autobahn, the Volkswagen, rocket and jet technology but rather for the death and destruction they left in their wake.
This book is probably not going to change any minds of those throughly brought up in the Columbus narrative but at least Native peoples and more younger and more progressive generations can look at things in a new light and hopefully lay a foundation for a better next 500 years.