Tag Archives: Christopher Columbus

European Contact Killed So Many Indigenous Americans It Changed The Climate, Says Study

Columbus’ first set foot in the Americas in 1492.  

More than 50 million indigenous people perished after Columbus’s arrival

Prior to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492, the area boasted thriving indigenous populations totalling to more than 60 million people.

A little over a century later, that number had dropped close to 6 million.

European contact brought with it not only war and famine, but also diseases like smallpox that decimated local populations.

Now, a new study published in the journal Quarternary Science Reviews argues that those deaths occurred on such a large scale that they led to a “Little Ice Age”: an era of global cooling between the 16th and mid-19th century.

Researchers from University College London found that, after the rapid population decline, large swaths of vegetation and farmland were abandoned.

The trees and flora that repopulated that unmanaged farmland started absorbing more carbon dioxide and keeping it locked in the soil, removing so much greenhouse gas from the atmosphere that the planet’s average temperature dropped by 0.15 degrees Celsius.

Typically, experts look to the Industrial Revolution as the genesis of human-driven climate impacts. But this study shows that effects may have began some 250 years earlier.

“Humans altered the climate already before the burning of fossil fuels had started,” the study’s lead author, Alexander Koch, told Business Insider. “Fossil fuel burning then turned up the dial.”

More than 50 million indigenous people perished by 1600

Experts have long struggled to quantify the extent of the slaughter of indigenous American peoples in North, Central, and South America. That’s mostly because no census data or records of population size exist to help pinpoint how many people were living in these areas prior to 1492.

To approximate population numbers, researchers often rely on a combination of European eyewitness accounts and records of “encomienda” tribute payments set up during colonial rule.

But neither metric is accurate – the former tends to overestimate population sizes, since early colonizers wanted to advertise riches of newly discovered lands to European financial backers.

The latter reflects a payment system that was put in place after many disease epidemics had already run their course, the authors of the new study noted.

So the new study offers a different method: the researchers divided up North and South America into 119 regions and combed through all published estimates of pre-Columbian populations in each one.

In doing so, authors calculated that about 60.5 million people lived in the Americas prior to European contact.

Once Koch and his colleagues collated the before-and-after numbers, the conclusion was stark. Between 1492 and 1600, 90 percent of the indigenous populations in the Americas had died.

That means about 55 million people perished because of violence and never-before-seen pathogens like smallpox, measles, and influenza.

According to these new calculations, the death toll represented about 10 percent of the entire Earth’s population at the time. It’s more people than the modern-day populations of New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing combined.

The disappearance of so many people meant less farming

Using these population numbers and estimates about how much land people used per capita, the study authors calculated that indigenous populations farmed roughly 62 million hectares (239,000 square miles) of land prior to European contact.

That number, too, dropped by roughly 90 percent, to only 6 million hectares (23,000 square miles) by 1600.

Over time, trees and vegetation took over that previously farmed land and started absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide traps heat in the planet’s atmosphere (it’s what human activity now emits on an unprecedented scale), but plants and trees absorb that gas as part of photosynthesis.

So when the previously farmed land in North and South America – equal to an area almost the size of France – was reforested by trees and flora, atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels dropped.

Antarctic ice cores dating back to the late 1500s and 1600s confirm that decrease in carbon dioxide.

That CO2 drop was enough to lower global temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius and contribute to the enigmatic global cooling trend called the “Little Ice Age,” during which glaciers expanded.

Lingering doubts

“The researchers are likely overstating their case,” Joerg Schaefer from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, told Live Science.

“I am absolutely sure this paper does not explain the cause of the carbon dioxide change and the temperature change during that time.”

Koch said that some of the drop in carbon dioxide could have been caused by other, natural factors like volcanic eruptions or changes in solar activity.

But he and his colleagues concluded that the death of 55 million indigenous Americans explained about 50 percent of the overall reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“So you need both natural and human forces to explain the drop,” he said.

Koch said the findings revise our understanding of how long human activity has been influencing Earth’s climate.

“Human actions at that time caused a drop in atmospheric CO₂ that cooled the planet long before human civilization was concerned with the idea of climate change,” he and his co-authors wrote.

But they warned that if a similar reforestation event were to happen today, it wouldn’t do much to mitigate the Earth’s current rate of warming.

The drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide that happened in the 1600s only represents about three years’ worth of fossil fuel emissions today, Koch said.

“There’s no way around reducing fossil fuel emissions,” he said, adding that reforestation and forest restoration remain crucial, too.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.


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.

Christopher Columbus Statue Takes Hatchet To The Head In Detroit

Someone's not that excited to celebrate Columbus day

Someone’s not that excited to celebrate Columbus day. Reddit’s r/Detroit .

By Red Power Media, Staff

In what could be dubbed an act of criminal irony, a statue of Christopher Columbus in downtown Detroit has been vandalized just in time for this year’s Columbus Day.

Taped to the forehead of the Columbus statue was a hatchet as if it had just been struck. Red paint dripped down the head onto the Italian explorer’s chest.

A photo of the vandalized statue was uploaded to Reddit’s r/Detroit forum with the title “Someone’s not that excited to celebrate Columbus Day.”

The vandalism of the statue, located at Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street, right next to city hall, is symbolic of an increasing disdain for Columbus and the Federal holiday.

While Columbus is credited with crossing the Atlantic and discovering the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492, detractors view the celebration of his life as support for the genocide of the indigenous people in Latin American and the U.S. that ensued after the discovery.

The hatchet remained in the center of the statue’s head for most of Monday, until an out-of-town visitor from a group called the Delta Bravo Urban Exploration Team climbed the stature and removed the weapon about 4 p.m..

It was not clear when exactly the statue was vandalized.

Detroit police are still looking into the incident.

Indigenous People In Ottawa Want To Reclaim Thanksgiving Day, Columbus Day

Drummers perform at the first "Indigenous Resistance Day" at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa on Oct. 10, 2015. (CBC Ottawa)

Drummers perform at the first “Indigenous Resistance Day” at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa on Oct. 10, 2015. (CBC Ottawa)

CBC News

Seattle and Minneapolis renamed the American holiday Columbus Day as ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’

 It’s a movement in many American jurisdictions, and now people in Ottawa’s indigenous community want to reclaim Thanksgiving Day — also known as Columbus Day in the United States — to honour the cultures that existed in the Americas long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

The Odawa Native Friendship Centre held an “Indigenous Resistance Day” on Saturday, with a potluck, film screenings, music, and discussions.

Celebrating ‘resistance and resilience’

“It started off as kind of an anti-Columbus Day, but what we wanted to do was to have more relationships and dialogue with indigenous people from across Turtle Island, across the Americas,” said Odawa president Christopher Wong.

Thanksgiving’s a traditional day for indigenous people as a celebration of harvest.’Odawa Native Friendship Centre president Christopher Wong

“People [like] our Mayan and Aztec brothers, indigenous people from up north, Cree, Ojibway, Haudenosaunee, and just get them celebrate our resistance and resilience for surviving the last 500 years together,” he added.

U.S. cities like Seattle and Minneapolis have recently renamed the American holiday Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” to recognize the indigenous people that lived in the Americas at the time of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in 1492, when he was credited for “discovering” the so-called “New World”.

That holiday falls on the same day as Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, and Wong believes it’s a good opportunity for people on both sides of the border to recognize Indigenous cultures.

“Thanksgiving’s a traditional day for indigenous people as a celebration of harvest,” Wong said. “And we wanted to reclaim the harvest aspect of it.”

Recognizing the cultures that historically thrived here before Columbus is important for Tito Medina, who’s Maya-Mestizo and originally from Guatemala.

Odawa Morgan Hare, Christopher Wong, Tito Medina

Morgan Hare (left) and Christopher Wong (middle) are part of the Odawa Native Friendship Centre. Tito Medina (right) came to Ottawa from Guatemala in 2003. (Waubgeshig Rice)

“We have over 25,000 years of building our culture,” said Medina.

Medina, his wife, and their two young daughters came to Ottawa as refugees in 2003, and soon found a home among the city’s indigenous community.

Medina regularly shares songs and stories from his culture at community events.

“We are so grateful that we developed these kinds of links, and then to learn about the situation of the First Nations people here,” he said.

‘Not about blaming each other’

Saturday’s Odawa event brought together people from different indigenous and non-indigenous backgrounds. The hope was to start discussions about history and culture, in order to create a positive sense of community here in Ottawa.

“It’s not about blaming each other, but we talk about dignity, respect, love, compassion,” said Medina. “We need to know that after all these centuries, First Nations all across the continent have paid a big price in poverty, marginalization, genocide that is still happening.”

Wong believes the weekend gathering — which he hopes to make an annual event — offers the perfect opportunity to share at an important time of the year.

“Coming together as a community, reestablishing family ties and relationships, and getting ready for the winter,” he said. “In the same spirit, we want to invite all community members to come out and celebrate and prepare for the winter together.”


Native American Day 2015: Facts And History For North America’s First Residents, Before Columbus

Native American advocacy groups have pushed to change Columbus Day to Native American Day or Indigenous People's Day. Pictured: Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attended a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015. AFP/Getty Images

Native American advocacy groups have pushed to change Columbus Day to Native American Day or Indigenous People’s Day. Pictured: Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attended a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015. AFP/Getty Images

By Jess McHugh | IBTimes, Posted on Oct 11 2015

As people around the United States celebrate Columbus Day Monday, with government offices and most schools closed, many others will be hosting festivities for an alternative celebration: Native American Day. The relatively new holiday, celebrated in cities and towns across the country, was started as a way to honor the indigenous people who were living in North and South America long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

At least nine cities in the U.S. will be officially celebrating “Indigenous Peoples Day” this year, including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota, and Olympia, Washington, the Associated Press reported. Many of the festivities on this day involve celebrating traditions specific to the tribes of the region as well as educating other people about the culture and history of Native Americans.

The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain, landing in what is now the Bahamas in 1492. Columbus since has been credited with discovering the New World. Indigenous people from tribes across North and South America have protested his title as discoverer, pointing out that they had lived in the Americas long before 1492. Some scientists estimate the indigenous people in the Americas arrived at least 12,000 years ago.

Columbus’ journey led to thousands of Europeans from across the continent leaving to come to the Americas to make their fortunes. As more and more settlers arrived, the Europeans often used force to push Native Americans off their land. Europeans also brought with them many diseases to which the native population never had been exposed and to which they had no immunity, such as smallpox and measles. As many as 20 million Native Americans died in the centuries following the arrival of European settlers.

As a result of this painful history, many Native American activists have been pushing to have the name of the holiday officially changed for more than four decades. Advocacy groups focused on getting city councils to pass the resolution separately from a federal government that has not made the change.

“For the Native community here, Indigenous Peoples Day means a lot. We actually have something,” said Nick Estes, an Albuquerque resident who organized celebrations for the holiday following its recent passage by city government, the AP reported.

“We understand it’s just a proclamation, but at the same time, we also understand this is the beginning of something greater,” Estes said.