Idle No More: The Columbus Argument

On Monday (12 October 2015), many settlers in the U.S. will celebrate Columbus Day.  Many of those same settlers will tell you with derision that the move to have Columbus Day abolished and replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day is insulting to them.  The argument they put forth is that they are just as native to America as Indigenous Peoples are, and they are reluctant to let go of that opinion.

Native Species v Invasive Species

The definition of what defines an invasive species is public knowledge — found in dictionaries, found in science books, found on websites, found on blogs, and more.

Invasive Species
Whether it’s the European red fox (introduced to North America in the 18th century) or the house mouse (also introduced to North America in the 18th century) or any other mammal (including settlers), an invasive species is still one that is not native to the land in which it now is domiciled.

Native Species Aren’t Native

The argument that Indigenous peoples arrived from somewhere else making them an invasive species is oftentimes floated as an argument by those who feel this argument is valid.  They will argue that, at most, Indigenous peoples supposedly crossed over the Bering Strait about 12,000 years ago.

In 2013, an exhibit in Brazil knocked that 12,000 year claim to the ground with the presentation of artifacts dating back at least 30,000 years.

According to archaeologist Niede Guidon, this discovery proves that when cave art began in Europe and in Africa, it began in the Americas as well.  It also proves that there were Indigenous peoples living in the Americas … and long before the Bering Strait theory hypothesizes.

The cave art was located in Serra da Capivara National Park, a UNESCO recognized World Heritage Park in Brazil.

When all is said and done, Indigenous peoples have been in the Americas at least 30,000 years (and most likely centuries more) which makes them a native species.

Comparing Flying Squirrels

There are 44 species of flying squirrels in the world.  Most of them can be found in Southeast Asia.  However, in the U.S., there are only two flying squirrels that are considered native to America:  The northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) lives  in the Northeast, down the West Coast, and in Idaho and Montana) and the southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) lives in the eastern U.S. from Maine to Florida and west from Minnesota south to Texas.

If two Red Giant Flying Squirrels (that are native to northern parts of India and Nepal through parts of southern China, Burma and Thailand to Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo) had been brought to the U.S. in the 18th century and their progeny were found in the U.S. in 2015, that still wouldn’t make them native to America.

It also doesn’t mean that because 42 species of flying squirrels live outside of the U.S., that the 2 species of flying squirrels that are native to the U.S. came from other regions of the world.  There’s no logic to putting forth such an assertion, especially if it’s based on the fact that there are  so many more species of flying squirrels outside of the U.S. than there are inside the U.S.

And naming a baseball team the Flying Squirrels doesn’t automatically make all squirrels in America native to the Americas either.

Invasive Species Are Naturally Bad

No, that’s not what’s being said.  What’s being stated is that an invasive species will always be an invasive species just as an indigenous species will always be an indigenous species.  Science has proven that invasive species can be controlled and managed, especially when the invasive species are large and pervasive.  Does that make invasive species naturally bad?  No.  What science has proven is that there are ways for invasive species to co-exist peacefully with indigenous species.  Science has also proven that indigenous species are to be protected so they can flourish.

Final Note

To those of you who celebrate Columbus Day, and who insist that renaming the day Indigenous Peoples Day is ridiculous, please consider for a moment or two what Columbus Day represents.  If you are a settler, you are an invasive species.  However, this doesn’t mean you cannot co-exist peacefully with the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.  What it means is that the relationship between the two needs to be better controlled and managed, and celebrations such as Columbus Day need to be removed.

Elyse Bruce



2 Responses to “Idle No More: The Columbus Argument”

  1. ninigiwaydinnoong Says:

    Columbus DAY??? according to the Portuguese, there is a whole other story. It seems that the crew of Columbus were mostly Portuguese and not Italian? It is also said that a 4th ship was sent by the Portuguese to catch Columbus before he arrived in “AMERICA” and assassinate him since, he would mess up trade which the Portuguese were already involved with…..
    Isn’t history fascinating… Why is it not in mans’ power to simply tell true stories instead of constant lies???

    • Elyse Bruce Says:

      The Portuguese did not send a fourth ship to catch Columbua before he arrived in America. The correct information is found in the Treaty of Tordesilla.

      Originally, Columbus tried to interest King John II of Portugal in financing his trip. He wasn’t interested in what Columbus was proposing, so Columbus peddled his project to King Ferdinand II or Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile (whose marriage to each other united their kingdoms).

      The Spanish Court turned him down, however, they kept him on retainer to prevent Columbus from taking his idea elsewhere (as he had done when he was turned down by King John II of Portugal. However, by 1492, Queen Isabella decided to finance the project, since Spain had conquered the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. She named Columbus Admiral, Viceroy, and Governor of any lands he should find.

      The voyage was a joint venture between Spain and private Italian investors lined up by Columbus.

      There was never any plot by the Portuguese to assassinate Columbus while enroute.

      What’s more, nowhere is it claimed that Columbus was the first European to discover the Americas. His voyage of 1492, however, is a fixed point that marks the beginning of European exploration of the Americas.

      The names of the crew members on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria were recorded, and the names have survived to this day. To this end, it is know for a fact that the crew members were comprised primarily of Spanish sailors.

      In fact, Alice Bache Gould (a renowned historical researcher) was able to trace the genealogy of all the crew of the first voyage, and she is regarded by scholars as the foremost authority on this subject. So while you may beg to differ with me, you will be hard-pressed to win your argument when it comes to Ms. Gould’s exceptional and exhaustive research.

      In 1500, Portuguese navigator, Pedro Alvares Cabral, sighted the coast of Brazil, which was of great interest to the King of Portugal. Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, working on behalf of the King of Portugal, determined that the new discovery was a new continent. German cartographer, Martin Waldseemuller, assigned the name “America” to what is now called Brazil.

      Yes, history is indeed interesting when based on facts, not conjecture and conspiracy theories.

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