Native Americans Protest Christopher Columbus’ Ship Replicas in Traverse City

Native Americans protested the arrival of two Christopher Columbus’ replica ships in Traverse City on Wednesday night.

Members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians surrounded the ships and stood by on land as the Nina and Pinta pulled in. Some sign-carrying protesters in kayaks went to out “meet” the ships at West Grand Traverse Bay.

Officials with the tribe said the ships are a painful reminder of the past.

Timothy Grey of Traverse City called the replicas “floating monuments of a 500-year holocaust” and added that “being in a time period now where monuments and symbolisms of things in the past are so contentious….allowing these ships to dock here is dangerous.”

“That’s not right, those things should not be here, they are terrifying, they symbolize nothing but genocide, nothing more”  – Timothy Grey.

The ships arrived to offer tours for what some consider a celebration of American history.

Columbus ship replicas arrive. Credit: The Columbus Foundation

The tall-ship replicas from Christopher Columbus‘ sailing fleet — built and sailed by The Columbus Foundation — will be docked at Clinch Park Marina for tours Aug. 18-22.

A company statement from The Columbus Foundation said it wasn’t looking to create “heroes or villains,” but built the ships to create historically accurate replicas.

While the Columbus Foundation emphasizes educating the public on ship design and shipbuilding as central to its core mission, it alludes to controversy surrounding Columbus on its website under a heading titled “Best Reasons To Visit the Niña and Pinta.”

“In most ways, the boats are no different from any of the various tourist activities offered throughout the area by representing the past in present replica physical form,” the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians wrote in a press release. “But in several critical ways, they are uniquely damaging, because the replica ships represent the narrative of “discovery” of the “new world” by European claimants and the devastating consequences of the “discovery” for indigenous people. The Nina and Pinta are symbols of a standard and system of thought that should be repugnant to the American ideals of equality and property rights for all people. Indeed, Traverse City, along with other local and state governments, now recognizes “Indigenous Peoples Day” on Columbus Day to support this paradigm shift.”

The Maritime Heritage Alliance says this is a good time for the tribe to share their story and says this is an important reminder to everyone that there are two sides to every story.

The tribe will be at Clinch Park Marina throughout the weekend passing out information and protesting.

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