In his Columbus Day proclamation, Mayor Nick Isgro stated that the arrival of Christopher Columbus “marked the beginning of relations between the Americas and the rest of the world” and “transformed the western hemisphere.” How true, and how incomplete. (“Area residents call Waterville mayor out over Columbus proclamation,” Oct. 1)

Columbus and many of the explorers who followed were responsible for killing millions of indigenous people, unintentionally (at least at first) by disease, and intentionally by warfare, massacre, and working them to death in silver mines and sugar plantations.

These “pioneers of progress and enlightenment” forced the native peoples to choose between conversion to Christianity or enslavement or death. Even after conversion, many native people were required to live as virtual prisoners under the notorious Spanish mission system, where they were physically abused for practicing their traditional customs, missing church services, or trying to escape. This is how Europeans introduced “Christian ethics” to the Americas.

To praise Columbus for bringing Christianity to the New World as if it were an unqualified benefit shows a lack of both understanding of history and sensitivity to the immeasurable sufferings of native peoples.

Nevertheless, I wish to thank Mr. Isgro. He has done more than anyone to convince me that renaming Oct. 14 “Indigenous Peoples Day” was the right thing to do.

Harry Vayo


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