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.
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.
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.