Columbus is a big part of Euro-American mythology and even though he was lost when he first landed in the West Indies, he is looked upon as a great explorer. Columbus, first setting foot on the island of the Arawak people, is often likened to Neil Armstrong first setting foot on the moon. In reality, Columbus had not discovered a "New World", but had discovered an ancient people living in the way of their ancestors. These people were part of the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. There is a popular Currier & Ives print from 1892, which depicts a fictional account of Columbus coming ashore, and it is what most Americans think of when they think of the founding of America and Columbus. This idealized image is what has been taught in American schools for many generations.
I did a response piece to the Currier & Ives print and Columbus’ legacy, in general. It is titled, Western Myths of Discovery. It is a work of acrylic glaze and paper executed on a gessoed 18” x 24”Masonite board. The image of Columbus is represented by the astronaut wading ashore as his three iconic ships await in the background. The images of the Native people are painted in the traditional flat style to represent the original traditional people whose land this was, since the beginning. The image of Jesus with his outstretched hand represents the Catholic Church's Doctrine of Discovery. This Papal Bull stated that lands discovered by Christian people and inhabited by non-Christian people were free to be claimed in the name of the Catholic Church which allowed missionaries to flock here in an effort to convert and extinguish traditional belief systems of the indigenous people.
I was so glad to hear the news that the Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission was finally able to work with the Mayor and the city council to have Columbus Day now recognized as Native American Day. This is an important and progressive step for Tulsa to take. In my opinion, this step is far greater than the one taken by Columbus and it is a wonderful thing to see our city advance in this direction along with many other major cities, especially in light of current race relations in some of the cities across this country. I know a lot of non-Native people are asking what the big deal is and of course it may not be to them, but it is to the nearly 30,000 other people who call Tulsa home.