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FIU Indigenous forum, march highlight darker side of Columbus Day

Wendolynne Perez, president of the FIU Global Indigenous Group, leads fellow students through campus Oct. 10 calling for the abolition of the Columbus Day holiday.(Stephanie Rodriguez photo)
Wendolynne Perez, president of the FIU Global Indigenous Group, leads fellow students through campus Oct. 10 calling for the abolition of the Columbus Day holiday.(Stephanie Rodriguez photo)

MIAMI — Columbus Day has been celebrated by Americans throughout history while a much larger truth remains hidden beneath the surface.

The documentary “Columbus and the Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” was shown Oct. 10 in an auditorium at Florida International University’s student union as part of the Global Indigenous Forum program. The film detailed the genocide of Indigenous people after Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World.

Bobbie C. Bille and Steven T. Newcomb speak at Florida International University’s Global Indigenous Forum film screening of “Columbus and the Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” on Oct. 10 at FIU in Miami. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)
Bobbie C. Bille and Steven T. Newcomb speak at Florida International University’s Global Indigenous Forum film screening of “Columbus and the Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” on Oct. 10 at FIU in Miami. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)

For centuries, America’s children have been taught Columbus discovered America in 1492. Contrary to popular belief, the land was already inhabited by and belonged to Native Americans.

The film, which is based on the book “Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery,” traces the origins of Columbus’s story and how he initially set sail from a Spanish port to find India in order to trade spices, how he got lost, conquered a new land, and murdered Native Americans.

The film’s primary focus is an ancient doctrine linked to Vatican Papal orders issued by Pope Alexander VI about seven months after Columbus’s arrival, which resulted in the claiming of non-Christian lands and their inhabitants, global domination and dehumanization.

The documentary discloses graphic details of how Indigenous babies, children, women and men were slaughtered, burned alive, enslaved, and tortured as the outcome of the 15th century’s orders, which declared war on the non-Christian world and instructed Christians “to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to reduce them to perpetual slavery, and to take away all of their possessions and property.”

The historical events debunk the history lesson taught for centuries and puts emphasis on what led to law systems in the United States and elsewhere in the world still used against Original Nations and Native people.

Bobby C. Billie, clan leader and spiritual leader of the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples, spoke to the audience about environmental and Aboriginal rights after the film concluded. As an advocate and educator of Indigenous peoples, his life is dedicated to working on behalf of the environment, sacred lands, waters and his ancestors.

FIU students held an open discussion panel with Billie and a Skype session with Shawnee/Lenape scholar Steven T. Newcomb, author of the book the film is based on and one of the film’s producers.

After the forum, about 10 FIU students staged a protest on campus as part of an ongoing effort to educate people about how Columbus treated Natives and to abolish the federal Columbus Day holiday that closes public libraries, courts, banks and post offices.
“We need to change the celebration of this holiday and recognize that it represents a larger tragedy much like the holocaust,” said Wendolynne Perez, president of the FIU Global Indigenous Group. “People need to know the historical truth about this holiday.”

One student even became emotional and cried as she spoke at the forum, revealing she is fortunate her ancestry did not suffer the fate of Native Americans and that she did not realize the level of adversity they faced before joining FIU student protestors on campus.

“When I was in elementary school I was part of an Italian language program, and we were taught songs about Columbus and how he discovered America and it was something that was heavily celebrated and taught to do and it’s just something that I realized was pushed onto to me and other children but it’s all a lie,” said Sofia Villalonga, a member of FIU’s Global Indigenous Club. “As I’ve gotten older and see the truth of how disgusting it is, we should just tell the truth about the history instead of this fairytale story about discovery.”

The first celebration of Columbus Day took place 300 years after his first voyage on Oct. 12, 1792 when New York’s Columbian Order—also known as the Society of St. Tammany—held an event to commemorate the anniversary of Columbus’s landing. After that, various celebrations around the country started popping up to honor Columbus’s Italian and Catholic heritage and are still celebrated today.

“Even today, the mentality of colonization still prospers with humanity destroying the environment, land, and water; Indigenous cultures are still in danger,” Villalonga said.

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Students walked across Florida International University’s campus holding vibrant signs to capture people’s attention after the film screening “Columbus and the Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” on Oct. 10. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)
Students walked across Florida International University’s campus holding vibrant signs to capture people’s attention after the film screening “Columbus and the Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” on Oct. 10. (Stephanie Rodriguez photo)

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