Written by Ghost Dancer . . . a Creek Elder in Alabama
I would like to remind everyone that today, once again, America celebrates and honors the very first and traditional slaver to come to America. Recently, so much has been said about all the atrocities of our country’s past and the statutes commemorating leaders in American history who contributed to them and what they represent. We must reconcile ourselves and learn from the wrongs of the past.
But here is a man who was far worse than any of these and he is not even a legitimate part of our nation’s history, yet as a nation, we still honor and make a holiday for him. In reality, he was no more than a lost and unsuccessful mercenary slave merchant when he stumbled upon the islands off our southern coast. If we honestly consider this person’s history, he should be known more for slavery and plunder than anything. When he arrived, he was so ignorant that he called the people he found, “Indians” because he thought he was in India. On his return voyage back from the “new world” he took Native slaves.
As a direct result of this man and those who followed him, many, many millions of Native people suffered and died. Call the actions by their true names: the Natives were murdered, massacred, raped, robbed, tortured, crippled, enslaved, taken from their homes and lands, and kidnapped – all because of this man – and our nation gives honor to someone like this. Yes, this happened not just in this country, but throughout the continents of the western hemisphere!
Now it is my opinion that people need to see this person for what he really was and what he represents. He was not some great explorer. He was not some honorable person for whom anyone should make a holiday or celebrate anything he did. His words and excitement encouraged others to come, take slaves, rape, rob, murder, massacre, poison, infect with diseases, to plunder everything in the name of greed, lust, jealousy. Putting the sign of the cross on everything and blessing every atrocious act as the journals of the dons, captains, monks and priests who were there reveal, does not make it right!
Countries and religions in Europe who were all so poor and had nothing, became powerful and rich off the Native peoples and the land and all life on this side of the world. They were after gold, yes, but the plunder, of timber (ancient trees that are all gone), whole peoples which are all gone, plants and minerals, all to fill their pockets and make them richer.
Not once have I heard of any of these countries asking for forgiveness and apologizing to all Native peoples for what they did and nothing that was stolen has been returned, among them, ancient artifacts, treasures, sacred items, all hidden from the world and from the people they rightfully belong to and all their descendants.
This man became a disgrace to the queen and country he represented. He was exiled to the Caribbean, where he died in poverty in a pauper’s grave. So, go ahead and celebrate the holocaust this evil man brought upon this land and all of its life and the peoples who lived here.
Or – we could honor the First Peoples who rightly deserve to be remembered by celebrating with and for their descendants who are still here as part of our land and our nation.
© Ghost Dancer, October 9, 2017
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.
Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.