An address by Chief Harold Buster Hatcher to the Human Relations Council.
I know that Chief Thompson and I are hard to see. In my case, it’s a blessing to an audience, but it’s hard to deny that somewhere along the line, we faded away.
How did we become invisible? It was a gradual process. Before 1776, we were living here, happy and civilized. Everywhere you could see had houses, farms, gardens, pathways, and people living here. We even had ways to remember old times. We’d put memorandum, maybe a favorite toy of our child, under our mattresses and when we changed the straw (or whatever), we’d find it and the sight would evoke memories, maybe of our children when they were young.
It’s not just Indians. The Jews, Bahai, Muslims, and whatever, are also invisible in the Christian deep south too. Our Christian leaders think there is no way to worship but their way and even in official government meetings they pray to Jesus Christ.
I often thought about asking to lead the prayer in a government meeting once. I could get everyone waving their hands like a lot of folks do when they pray, and when I close the prayer, I could say, "and Satan I deliver these souls to you”.
Of Course, I am not a Satanist and I know better than to do that, but maybe someone would understand how others may feel if I did.
Anyway, Indians were conditioned to obey the white people. After the revolution, the new state of South Carolina just gave large tracts of land away to Caucasian people; maybe the Governor’s Brother, Cousin, or some prominent citizen. However, there were houses, fields, villages, and people living on the land when it was granted.
Of course, the new owner would want to make wealth on the new land and therefore, (s)he might venture out to those who lived there and tell them to move. If they didn’t, they were beaten, killed, and otherwise forced to obey. When they complained, they complained to deaf ears. We were made to go away and we faded a little more.
Louis and Clark, according to history books, discovered the route to the western shores of North America. The same history books tell us that they were led, fed, and protected by Sacagawea. They walked on Indian trails, were fed by good natured Native people along the route, but they discovered the route?
If I were crazy, I could pull someone’s wallet out of their pocket and claim it as mine; I could say that I found it. I could take money and credit cards and even tell the owner he has to pay the charges I make. If I had several thugs to support me, I might get away with keeping it, at least until the police arrived with more might and fire power, than I have.
The mighty can do as they please and then write the rules to make it OK. Columbus was not a good man, he was not moral, he was not a good sailor, and he was not the first European to arrive in North America.
However, we have a holiday for him and I don't think he deserves it.
I’d like to read a couple of excerpts from historic accounts of Columbus’ voyages.
Michele de Cuneo, who participated in Columbus's second expedition to the Americas:
While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful woman, whom the Lord Admiral [Columbus] gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin, she was naked — as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought she had been brought up in a school for whores.
The Voyages of Columbus centered on slaves, but slaves weren’t enough for Columbus or the Spanish monarchy. Columbus needed to bring back gold. Columbus and his crew believed there were gold fields in the province of Cicao on Haiti. He and his men ordered all natives 14 years or older to collect a certain amount of gold every three months. Natives who didn’t collect enough gold had their hands cut off. But it was an impossible task, because there was virtually no gold around; only a little dust in streams. Many natives fled and were consequently hunted down and killed by the Spaniards.
Bartolome de las Casas, a Spanish priest who accompanied Columbus describes how Spaniards rode on the backs of natives. How the Spaniards "thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades." Las Casas adds "two of these so-called Christians" met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys.
Here some history recorded by Laurance Bergreen:
The Indians destroyed their stores of bread so that neither they nor the invaders would be able to eat it. They plunged off cliffs, they poisoned themselves and their babies with roots, and they starved themselves to death. Oppressed by the impossible requirement to deliver tributes of gold, the Indians were no longer able to tend their fields, or care for their sick, children, and elderly. They had given up and committed mass suicide to avoid being killed or captured by Christians, and to avoid sharing their land with them, their fields, groves, beaches, forests, and women:
Indians were nothing to Columbus. But even with the knowledge of these atrocities, this country holds a holiday for Christopher Columbus, and hails him as a hero.
There are many real heroes in this Country who deserve to be honored, but we hold tyrants up as heroes, including Andrew Jackson, but that’s another story.
American Caucasian people would be insulted if the world held Adolf Hitler or Emperor Hirohito of Japan to be heroes of WWII. I doubt that holiday would last long.
Although, I will not throw away my $20 bills, to protest Andrew Jackson, I will work to stop the insult to my people brought by Columbus Day and to remove the face of Jackson from our money.
The United States Constitution was written over 243 years ago, and it sought to protect the rights of every citizen of this country. That’s why we have the bill of Rights.
In a democracy, some citizens are not part of a big voting blocks. Indians fall into the smallest minorities in America. However, we are still citizens. They say that the law is blind and is supposed to apply evenly to every citizen. The rights protected by the Bill of Rights according to Lincoln are inalienable rights. Lincoln must have had a government composed of people who stood by their oath. We don't.
I’m not sure what type of oath council members, mayors and such take, but the oath I took in the Army said in part,
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;
The key phrase being I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Yet, those elected to lead our states, our counties, and our country have no problem overlooking the rights that are denied to Indian people.
The Bill of Rights is part of our constitution, probably for every county, state, and any other entity with a constitution, but even with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, I am still denied religious freedoms that almost everyone else is born with and I am insulted that a tyrant such as Columbus, an immoral murder of my people, is hailed as one of this country’s heroes.
I am asking that Myrtle Beach be the first city in South Carolina to remove Columbus Day from its calendar. I don't care if it is replaced by Indigenous People's, or American's Day, or not renamed at all. I am only asking that it be called anything except Columbus Day Oh, I wouldn't like an Andrew Jackson's Day either.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak. It is time for Indians to be real people in this country and I plan to smell bad to politicians, until we are!
I say to them, that "the oath you took, to stand by the Constitution, did not exclude Indians", and I ask them "how do you justify standing by, watching while some of your constituents are locked outside!"
Chief Harold (Buster) Hatcher [email protected]