Who is an Indian?
Where can I start? There are Indians and there are Indians. There is India and there are Indian Reservations.
Let’s start the exploration with Native Indians.
I have wondered time and again, so many things have been changed/ corrected but not the error Columbus made.
Let’s talk about him, an Italian explorer, paid by the Spanish court to find a sea route to Asia, in search of spices and gold.
Columbus charted a course through the Atlantic ocean westwards to China and then India. Europeans, in those days, knew the Earth was round but did not know of the Pacific ocean nor the diameter of Earth.
In Oct 1492, he landed in the Bahamas. Later that month, he sighted Cuba, which he thought was mainland China.
In Dec 1492, he landed in Hispaniola, an island in the Caribbean archipelago, he thought he was in Japan and established Spain’s first colony with 39 of his men.
Hispaniola, holds 2 countries in the current day, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
In March 1493, he returned to Spain with gold, spices and the “Indians” he had taken as captives. He made the natives subjects of of the Queen and King of Spain and enslaved them with use of brutality.
This starts the [mis] understanding of Europeans as to who Indians were someone they were able to vanquish and dominate.
In May 1493, the Pope grants the King and Queen of Spain and their successors the official ownership of the New world, be it India or any other new land.
In 1478, the King and Queen of Spain, empowered by the Pope’s declaration, set up the now infamous, Tribunal of Spanish Inquisition. This replaced the Medieval and Papal inquisitions.
In 1514, the Spanish conquerors, develop “The Requirement” that forces natives to be converted to Christianity.
So, did Columbus discover the Americas? How could he? There were natives living on the land when he got there. And more importantly, he landed in the Bahamas, later Cuba and then the Dominican Republic and Haiti, never India nor continental USA! So, can one say he discovered the USA? No.
The first European to land in North America was John Cabot, for the British King. He landed in what is now Canada.
The first person to land on continental USA: Juan Ponce de Leon, who landed in Florida in 1513.
San Francisco Bay is discovered and claimed for the British sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, by a sea captain and slave trader, Sir Francis Drake in 1578.
So why do we celebrate Columbus day in the USA? Not sure.
Did he discover the Americas? no, he invaded them. It was populated by native Americans when he landed. He brought disease and he made them slaves, he killed them if they did not convert to Christianity. So it begs the question, why do we celebrate Columbus Day?
What does this have to do with Indians? You must wonder.
For one, sea route to India was discovered by Vasco de Gama, a Portuguese explorer. He left Lisbon, Portugal in July 1497 by the Portuguese King, to find a sea route to India and out rank the Muslims who had the monopoly of trade with India.
He landed in Kozhikode, in Kerala, India in 1498.
Did Columbus know he did not find the sea route to India before he died. Let’s look at facts: he died in 1506 and Vasco de Gama reached India in 1498 via Africa. It appears he would know but he did not. Maybe in those times news travel slower, makes one wonder!
This whole idea of discovery of India/America gets curiouser and curiouser, everyone still calls indigenous Americans, Indians, since the time of Columbus. More than 500 years after an error made by Columbus. Well, some indigenous Americans want to be called Indians. The name given them by early settlers, 500 years ago!
Where does this leave us? It is with these parting thoughts, I leave you to ponder as I continue my musings.
Share what you think, I would love to hear from you.