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Whose History Matters? Students Can Name Columbus, But Most Have Never Heard of the Taíno People

Whose History Matters? Students Can Name Columbus, But Most Have Never Heard of the Taíno People

Bill Bigelow

Early in my high school U.S. history classes, I would ask students about “that guy some people say discovered America.” All my students knew that the correct answer was Christopher Columbus, and every time I asked this question, some student would break into the sing-song rhyme, “In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” — and others would join in.

“Right. So who did he supposedly discover?” I asked.

In almost 30 years of teaching, the best anyone could come up with was: “Indians.”

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As the quote goes “History is written by the victors”. The Taino no longer exist. From a historical perspective, they serve as one of many history’s example of what happens when civilizations collide. They may have carved beautiful canoes, but the first duty of a civilization is to survive.

But, in the grand scheme of things, they are a footnote at most, just like most civilizations.

Yes, it’s cold, but so is history.

Those who do not learn from history are not just doomed to repeat it. They’re doomed. The 500 year-old genocide program against native populations is still going on. Even though the conquerors “let” them build casinos.


From the article:

“Contrary to some scholarship, the Taínos were not all killed off by Columbus and subsequent occupiers, and today members of the Taíno diaspora along with people in the Caribbean who claim Taíno ancestry are reviving and celebrating their culture. According to Christina M. González, writing in the fall 2018 issue of American Indian, the Taíno revival began around the quincentenary of Columbus’s arrival. The renaissance focuses on language, art, religion, pharmacology, agriculture, fishing, cooking, and, of course, rethinking Taíno history.”

Against all odds, I would add.

The genotype has survived. I’ll be interested in seeing if the culture revives. If so, more power to them!

I encourage folks to commemorate the myth of “Columbus” by downloading their choice of Papal Bulls from the period behind theDoctrine of Discovery and arrange for public readings on Monday. And join with folks who are calling for the Vatican to rescind them. The churches around the world that are already taking action need full fledged public support.

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This is a very sad story that needs to be told.

HI Meimac–read Howard Zinn! : )

I make the observation that with all of the Settler Nations out of Europe, using that infernal “Doctrine of Discovery” as a template, the Indingenous peoples in each region had their fates tied directly to the type of resources found there.

In the Southern regions which were settled by Spain, the locals lived in places that were either rich in gold or resources or living on lands suited to plantation type economies. In order for the Spanish to extract wealth they had to extinguish the local populations to seperate them from their Gold or their lands. This lead to genocide in the Caribbean basin and slaughter and enslavement in the areas held by the Inca and the Aztec.

The Colonial powers of England and France both looked on Spain with envy and the rush was on to find those “Cities of Gold” in the mid latitudes (settled by the British and becoming the United States of America) and the regions further North, settled by the French and becoming Canada.

No Cities of Gold were found in the regions settled by the English , but arable land was plentiful and in order to sieze the wealth of those lands the local peoples had to be extinguished so that the lands could be used to grow things like Cotton in the regions in the South , or simply privatized and the ownership transferred to landless settlers from Europe.

The region settled by Canada was NOT all that arable. It did not support Plantation type economies and it was hard to get settlers to migrate to the region because of the Climate. The wealth to France came primarily from the fur trade and in order to access those furs the French needed to live alongside the Indigenous peoples so that the Natives could bring in those furs. The French were then threatened by the more populous regions to the South of them in what became the thirteen colonies wherein remaining on friendly terms with the Native peoples became even more important.

None of this was because the French more enlightened as one can see from how they acted in their Caribbean Colonies where they every bit as brutal as were the English and Spaniards. The reality is that the wealth of these nations and of those who settled them, did not come about because they were somehow “Enlightened” or of “Higher and more Noble Character”. It was nothing more then theft on a grand scale.

My Grandfather told me something when I was a child I will always remember. It happened after watching some show TV where they spoke of the “hard working Migrants” coming from Europe to build “better lives for themselves” and so an and so forth and how they created wealth out of nothing. He said this was bullcrap. He said he worked JUST as hard when he was a young man in Poland and got nowhere because ALL of the land and all of the wealth was owned by someone else. These were the one percent of the day. The ONLY reason he was able to make a new life in Canada was because land was GIVEN to him. Land that once belonged to the First nations people and that this was “Wealth Redistribution”.

The Capitalist economies of Canada, The USA and the regions settled by Spain by the Spaniards was based on theft. It was “privatizing” that which was once held in Common by a given tribe and redistributing the control of this wealth to those arriving from Europe.

Private property IS theft.



There have been many, many accounts in the CD comment section that I’ve seen over the past number of years as to the exploitation, greed and lust for power and domination throughout the valley to tears called human history. But never have I read anything so lucid, cogent and so spot on as what you presented. You have my thanks. I can feel the Doomsday Clock moving back a few ticks. Your comments not only attested to a honest and unadulterated picture of history but put the lie to apologists of the status quo who make oblique assertions that changes throughout history are mostly for the better, as well as intimations about survival of the fittest, fabricating the vulgarity that there are no victims, just some natural order of things. It’s for those reasons of vacuous morality and misplaced common sense that the Doomsday Clock came into existence in the first place.

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So sad that this true history is not taught sufficiently to not just our young but all of us !

TheTaino peoples where called “those that lived in God.”

The Native Americans peoples called our culture Wetiko…a sickness of the spirit or eating oneself ,consuming and devouring the life of others for individual or the dominators cultural survival.

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The wisdom From those old indigenous cultures like the Taino are so important to our survival of the human species.
If we do not blend their highest spiritual understandings into our own culture with a balance of modern technology we are doomed to self annihilation.

They called them “The peoples that lived in God .”

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so? genocide is civilized?

"The great lie is that this is civilization. It is not civilized. It has been literally the most blood thirsty, brutalizing system ever imposed upon this planet. That is not civilization. That’s the great lie, is that it represents civilization."–John Trudell

No, the definition of a “civilization” has nothing to do with how moral or immoral it is. “Civilization” merely denotes

the society, culture, and way of life of a particular area.

It has nothing to do with moral judgments. As a practical matter, more “successful” civilizations tend, if anything, to be less moral than those they replace, at least on a historical basis, at least by present standards of morality.

[quote=“WWSmith, post:3, topic:56235”]

the first duty of a civilization is to survive
from your earlier post makes it seem that we have a *duty* to be more brutal because that's the key to survival.

what kind of life is that?

No, we don’t have a duty to be “more brutal”. We have a duty to be able to prevent others from being brutal to us. Survival does not have to be a zero sum game. In fact, if one can believe the statistics in Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature”, we’re actually doing better at being less brutal, so there is hope for civilization yet!

shut the fuck up bitch stop talking about histor its assss

Columbus sez: "With gold it is even possible for souls to open the way to paradise.”

Well. It appears some things never change.

This is incorrect. We did survive genetically, albeit mixed.I just had my DNA test and I assure you. We survived. I could give you a thousand links but commondreams it won’t let me bc I’m a new user.

Hello Bill Bigelow
Happy Indigenous People Day to you! I saw your article shared in my Taino Facebook group and I want to thank you for publishing this. I’m a novelist, and I’m on a mission to share this information to a slightly different audience than you, although teaching it in schools is the first step. I wanted to tell you that we’re in synch with this idea of beginning history in 1492. I’d like to be able to reach you directly for a quote for a future project, because I’m going to keep writing about it. I have a piece up today in McSweeney’s on this subject. After hearing a man here in Connecticut complain about Puerto Rican evacuees after Hurricane Maria I wrote this article about Puerto Rico’s indigenous legacy, published today in McSweeney’s, called One Small Blow Against the Encroaching Totalitarianism: Native and American by Sandra Rodriguez Barron. Commondreams won’t let me add the link, unfortunately. It’s also on my wall on Twitter, @RodriguezBarron.