Columbus Haiku

So, like, you know, I mean, uhm . . . why does this man get a holiday named after him?

When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, not anywhere near what we call the United States today, the Arawaks ran to greet them, bringing them food, water and gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

“They . . . brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned . . . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features . . . .They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane . . . They would make fine servants . . . .With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

He later wrote:
“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts. Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.” 

On his second expedition he captured several hundred of the natives and chained them up in his ships to return them to Spain.  Most of them died en-route.  Christopher wrote:
“Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

Many of Columbus’ men had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.  While trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. The Spaniards took prisoners, they hanged them, beheaded them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began by using Cassava poison. Infants were poisoned by their parents in order to save them from Columbus and his men.

In two years, through murder, mutilation or suicide, half of the 250,000 natives on Haiti were dead.  Happy Columbus Day.

Back in my youth when I erroneously thought that Columbus landed on Plymouth Rock, I wrote this Columbus Day Haiku.  Despite this Haiku’s inaccuracies, it still holds truth. 

Out of Spain on ships
Was Christopher Columbus
Exploring new worlds

Hispaniola?  North
Or South America?  Eh,
It’s all the same place

Chris discovered it
Notwithstanding existing

Indigenous race
Crossed from the Bering Land Bridge
Many moons ago

Chris called them “Red Skins”
But they were Cherokee, Sioux,
Shawnee, Iroquois,

Algonquin, Mohawk,
Pawnee, Cheyenne, Apache,
Black Feet, Hopis too

At one with the earth
A proud and noble nation
Filled with the spirit-

Of Waken-Tonka:
Holy Creator Spirit
(An open secret)

Father Mother God
Creates the earth so all may
Live in harmony

Bees make their honey
Black Eyed Susan’s fill the fields
And mind their seasons

Natives farmed the land
They hunted bison for food
We hunted for sport

They shared their land, their
Hunting ground, and, gave us hope
We gave them smallpox

Who stands in the way
Of manifest destiny
And ethnic cleansing?

The savage heathens
They did not worship our God
Exterminate them

Take their land and food
Displace to reservations

Ply them with liquor
Live where we tell you to live
Take it or leave it

We all seek the same-
Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew:
Compassion and love.

Even Jesus said
“The Kingdom of Heaven is
Within you.”  Alas

We too much seek the
Messenger and fail to hear
The message: ”Serve and

Love one another”
To know, and yet, not to do,
Means we do not know

-Malcolm Kogut.


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