Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Trial in the Death of Oliver's Mother

There was a death but there is no trial, no coroner report, no peer review, no investigation, no law suit.

But in classrooms, across the United States, children are having mock trials of Christopher Columbus.  My grand daughters are in the midst of this study at their school.   They read Morning Girl about a Taino Indian girl and are now trying Christopher Columbus of the death of her people.

Christopher Columbus is greeted by the Taino Indians who he described as friendly and welcoming.  In less than 25 years, most were killed and others fled to the mountains and the outer islands.  

I say to my grand daughter, they are still dying.  It was not Espanola.  It was Ayiti; the word the Taino gave the land where Columbus landed and created his first settlement called LaNavidad.  

And so I accuse Christopher Columbus of the death of Oliver's mother.  I accuse him of creating "Colonality of Power"; a system in domination remains in continued notions of superiority.  I accuse him of taking an island free of gender discrimination and embedding it with attitudes that helped lead to Oliver's mothers death.  I accuse him of Hegemony; a system in which oppressive values an ideas permeate a society without being imposed.  

Christopher Columbus was taken back to Spain in 1500 where he stood trial for the genocide of the Taino people.
Today many people ask how Haiti is, without ever making a connection to long lasting effects of Columbus's legacy.

I accuse him of leaving an on going form of post colonial oppression that won't go away; that leads to a system where Oliver's mother was not able to make decisions to help herself and her children.  

Today I am going to talk to their class about the Taino in Haiti and the lasting legacy of Christopher Columbus.   I will tell them about the ways they escaped to the mountains and how they helped the slaves with their fight for freedom.  I will tell them about the beautiful ways the people love the land and care for one another.  I will tell them about the things that were taken but also of the things that could not be destroyed.

This story and others like it, make children really sad which is why I believe so strongly in service learning as a teaching methodology.  It allows the children to learn the truth about Christopher Columbus and his relationship to Haiti.  It allows them to understand that Haiti's challenges were created by colonialism and not just an earthquake.  But it also allows them to try to do some small things to help.    I'll make them a Santa list of things babies, like Oliver, might need in Cabestore. I'll tell them how hard it is to get to the market and how they might not have the most basic of things that could help a baby.

One day,  God willing ( as the Haitians say )  I will pack their gifts and make may way back to Canestore and offer them to the mothers there.   In this way, the circle of giving and receiving in cycles of healing and compassion.

And I will tell these children, over the holiday, when someone comes into your house.  Quickly offer them the best chair and sit with them and share a story.  Offer them whatever little you have.   Each time you do this, you honor the Taino's and the best of Haiti and show Christopher Columbus he did not win. There as something stronger than swords and it survived in the remote villages and hamlets of Haiti.

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