Friday, September 30, 2016

Teach The Truth About Columbus & Stop Celebrating Genocidal Maniac Day

Ella Sekatau, Naragansett tribal historian: "The truth is the truth is the truth. And it's just waiting to be discovered." From the documentary film Language of America: An Indian Story by Maine filmmaker Ben Levine.
If you've never had the experience of teaching the truth about the Columbus,  you might give it a try.

It can take a form as simple as a five year-old raising her hand during a Columbus Day presentation in Kindergarten to say, “My grammy says that Columbus was a really bad man.”

Or it could be reading and discussing the hair-raising first chapter of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. A rapist and slave trader who chopped off the hands of native people of the Caribbean islands who didn’t bring him gold fast enough, this well-documented genocidal maniac was just waiting for historian Zinn to reveal the sad truth: Columbus is not a person to be celebrated.

Now, if you’re a teacher emerging from the exhausting pace of the first month of school it’s hard to argue with a three day weekend in early October. When I taught high school social studies a Penobscot student asked me to help her organize an alternative to celebrating. With her parents and student volunteers she recruited, we convened a day of outdoor education, read some truth, and visited an extensive collection of native artifacts at Nowetah’s Indian Store and Museum in New Portland. (A Passamoquoddy artist who uses traditional porcupine quill methods to create beautiful baskets, Nowetah traveled and traded with native artists all over the continent to build her collection and she welcomes school visits. Check out the facebook page here.)
Maulian Smith, Penobscot leader of the Not Your Mascot, Maine Chapter campaign to retire the Skowhegan High School "Indian" mascot speaking at Indigenous People's Day, 2015.
In the intervening years Penobscot leaders have convened Indigenous People’s Day each October to further the effort of re-educating people, and last year the town of Belfast became the first in Maine to follow a growing national trend toward renaming the holiday.

One of the most popular tools for re-educating about Columbus is The People vs. Columbus ready-to-use curriculum materials available free on the Zinn Education Project’s website. I’ve used this tool many times with teenagers who enjoy the mock trial format and role play that explores, not only Columbus’ role, but that of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the crew members of the ships that Spain sent, and the system of empire itself.

The related text Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years explains:
Why rethink Christopher Columbus? Because the Columbus myth is a foundation of children's beliefs about society. Columbus is often a child's first lesson about encounters between different cultures and races. The murky legend of a brave adventurer tells children whose version of history to accept, and whose to ignore. It says nothing about the brutality of the European invasion of North America.

That text was banned by schools in Tucson, Arizona under legislation that abolished Mexican American Studies, a program targeted by conservative politicians. Despite numerous studies finding that native students and students of color are adversely affected when their history and culture is not taught, schools continue to serve powerful interests by suppressing the truth.
Photo credit: Rob Wilson from "Over 20 Arrested After Militarized Police Raid #NoDAPL Prayer Ceremony" Sep. 29, 2016 by Lauren McCauley,

How many of us are teaching about the coalition of native groups taking a stand against oil pipeline construction that in North Dakota that threatens the water supply for millions? The wisdom of indigenous people about how to live on the planet without crashing its life support systems is sorely needed as the potable water supply dwindles and record temperatures continue to climb. Why would we suppress their voices now?

Whichever tools you choose, and especially if you have a young audience, you could find the experience of reteaching Columbus exhilarating. Then, move on to reteach Thanksgiving!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pentagon Drones Kill Civilians in Afghanistan As Protesters Arrested At Beale Air Force Base

Drone protesters Sharon, Chris, Toby, Shirley, Barry, and Cathy.  All but Barry crossed onto the base.

My sister activist Toby Blome connected the dots in an email this morning:
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, the very day that activists were at Beale Air Force Base protesting endless wars and illegal drone killing, a U.S. Drone attack killed 13 civilians and wounded 14 others in Afghanistan.   
Initially the Pentagon claimed that most of those killed were "suspected militants," but a day later they are admitting to most or all being civilians.  (story here)  Who will be next?
Toby pointed me to an account of the arrests and the rationale for being arrested by Sharon Delgado on her blog post "Campaign Nonviolence Action at Beale" which I repost here:
This morning I was arrested with four other women at Beale Air Force Base after crossing onto base property.   We were taken by military bus to a building on base, given citations, and released.  We may be given an arraignment date and we may go to trial, although in recent months all charges for peace activists have been dismissed. 
We were wearing blue scarves and we had #enough written on our hands because we took this action in solidarity the Afghan Peace Volunteers and their blog Our Journey to Smile.  Afghan Peace Volunteers is a group of young people working for peace in Afghanistan.   I became aware of them when peace activist Kathy Kelly came with us to Beale a couple of years ago.  Our blue scarves and the #enough banners and words written on our hands are a response to their invitation “Join us to say #enough.” 
Before we were arrested, each of us explained what we have had enough of.  I explained that I have had enough of drone warfare.  (Beale is the home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.)  I have also had enough of the U.S. Air Force Vision for 2020, which is geared toward “full spectrum dominance” for the purpose of “protecting U.S. interests and investments” as “the globalization of the world economy… continues, with a widening between “haves” and “have-nots.” 
 I have had enough of the U.S. military enforcing a global order that is enriching the already wealthy, protecting the privileged, exploiting those who are vulnerable, causing massive suffering, and destroying this beautiful earth.  #Enough war. #Enough “accidental” (or incidental) killing of children.  #Enough suffering.  #Enough extrajudicial killing.  #Enough. 
We also took this action in coordination with the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions.  Over 700 separate Campaign Nonviolence Actions have taken place in recent days. 
If you want to know more about drones or past demonstrations and trials related to Beale, seemy past blogs on drones.   Follow my blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  
I note that yesterday Congress overrode Obama's veto of what's being called the "Sue the Saudis" bill that allowing families of those who died on 9/11 to seek relief in the courts. Obama presumably vetoed it because Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the U.S., a country to whom billions of weapons are shipped regularly. Similar to our other good buddy in the region, Israel, Saudi Arabia has a horrendous record of human rights violations. 

From RT's report on the veto: 
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has argued that allowing JASTA to become law could lead to US being sued in foreign courts and subjected to an “intrusive discovery process.”
Can I get an Amen?
Image result for 9/11 brooklyn bridge

Perhaps some good will come of the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism" law. Perhaps a court case will involve some authentic disclosure of facts surrounding the fire bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001. 
Perhaps it will also set a precedent for victims of state-sponsored terrorism and their families to sue the governments responsible -- including their own.