“Indigenous Culture Day” celebrates genocidal cannibals who were even worse than Columbus

Cranky writing is best writing!

The only reason why we started celebrating “Columbus Day” was to make the Irish and Italians feel like Catholics can be real Americans, too, not just Protestants.

“Columbus Day” isn’t really about celebrating Columbus. Not as a person. Nobody says, “Read this biography of a great man from infancy to dotage and try to be more like him!” Columbus day is about celebrating what Columbus did–find a New World and launch the Age of Exploration and discovery.

Do I care about Columbus Day? No. Don’t be silly. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually celebrates Columbus Day, but maybe the Italians are really into it. If so, I don’t begrudge them a holiday. However, I do care about Columbus’s accomplishments.

“But Columbus was an idiot who only found the New World by accident!” I hear someone protest.

Yeah, well, I don’t see you discovering any continents lately. Where does that put you on the intellect ladder? Also, Penicillin was discovered by accident, so I guess it doesn’t count, either.

Here, I’ll take all of the penicillin, and you can go play with rodents. We’ll see which of us survives the longest.

“But Columbus was an asshole,” someone protests. “He conquered and enslaved people!”

Guys, it was the 14 hundreds. Pretty much EVERYBODY in the 1400s thought it was okay to conquer and enslave people. If you start applying modern standards to people from the 1400s, you’ll discover that none of them meet your standards.

You want to celebrate “Indigenous Culture Day” instead of Columbus Day? Do you know what kind of assholes indigenous cultures were full of?

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Let’s hear it for the Aztecs, one of those peaceful wonderful indigenous cultures Columbus’s Spanish employers went and conquered as a result of his voyages.

They liked to rip people’s beating hearts out of their bodies as human sacrifices to their gods.

Also, they were cannibals who caught people, sacrificed them, butchered them, and then ate them.

The Spaniard’s pigs, however, they just killed and threw in a well. WTF do you do with one of those things? They didn’t know. Humans, however, they knew what to do with: eat them.

The Wikipedia records many documented cases of Aztec cannibalism:

  • Hernán Cortés wrote in one of his letters that his soldiers had captured an indigenous man who had a roasted baby ready for breakfast.
  • Francisco López de Gómara (c. 1511 – c. 1566) reported that, during the siege of Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards asked the Aztecs to surrender since they had no food. The Aztecs angrily challenged the Spaniards to attack so they could be taken as prisoners, sacrificed and served with “molli” sauce.
  • The Historia general… contains an illustration of an Aztec being cooked by an unknown tribe. This was reported as one of the dangers that Aztec traders faced. …Bernal Díaz’s The Conquest of New Spain (written by 1568, published 1632) contains several accounts of cannibalism among the people the conquistadors encountered during their warring expedition to Tenochtitlan.
    • About the city of Cholula, Díaz wrote of his shock at seeing young men in cages ready to be sacrificed and eaten.[1]
    • In the same work Diaz mentions that the Cholulan and Aztec warriors were so confident of victory against the conquistadors in an upcoming battle the following day, that “…they wished to kill us and eat our flesh, and had already prepared the pots with salt and peppers and tomatoes”[2]
    • About the Quetzalcoatl temple of Tenochtitlan Díaz wrote that inside there were large pots, where human flesh of sacrificed Natives was boiled and cooked to feed the priests.[3]
    • About the Mesoamerican towns in general Díaz wrote that some of the indigenous people he saw were—:
    eating human meat, just like we take cows from the butcher’s shops, and they have in all towns thick wooden jail-houses, like cages, and in them they put many Indian men, women and boys to fatten, and being fattened they sacrificed and ate them.[4]

    Díaz’s testimony is corroborated by other Spanish historians who wrote about the conquest. In History of Tlaxcala (written by 1585), Diego Muñoz Camargo (c. 1529 – 1599) states that:

    Thus there were public butcher’s shops of human flesh, as if it were of cow or sheep.[5]

Is that what you want to fucking celebrate? THIS IS WHAT YOU THINK WAS BETTER THAN COLUMBUS?

No, hunter-gatherers were not peaceful paragons of gender equality. Stop fucking saying that. It is a lie. There is no evidence to back it up. Primitive, pre-modern societies had absolutely atrocious crime rates. There are real live fucking cannibals living right now in the Congo rainforest. They eat the Pygmies (and each other.)

And this is supposed to be my fault? “White privilege” is the magic sauce that explains why some cultures produce penicillin and others produce cannibals.

Of course, the Aztecs are only one group. The Pueblo peoples also practiced cannibalism. Cannibalism was practiced among various coastal tribes stretching from Texas to Louisiana.

When Captain John Smith of Jamestown fame inquired about the fate of the lost Roanoke Colony, Chief Powhatan–you know, the Pocahontas’s dad, the guy who’d tried to kill John Smith–confessed to having massacred them all. Historians aren’t sure if this is actually true–Powhatan might have just confused them with some other guys he’d massacred–but the fact remains that Powhatan and his people went around massacring their neighbors regularly enough that, “Oh yeah, we killed them all,” was seen as a reasonable explanation by everyone involved.

It wasn’t too many years later that the Powhatan tried to do the same thing to Jamestown, killing about a quarter of the people there.

Celebrating Columbus was never about Columbus, and denigrating Columbus isn’t about Columbus, either. Celebrating Columbus is about celebrating American history and the contributions of Catholic-Americans to that history; denigrating Columbus is about denigrating American history and European contributions to it.

Who should be the America’s moral superior and successor? Whose successes should we celebrate instead of Columbus’s? Should the people of Mexico overthrow the culture of their evil oppressors and go back to holding human sacrifices in the middle of Mexico City?

Funny, I don’t see a lot of people trying to go live in Mexico, much less return to the actual lives of their indigenous ancestors. Most people seem to like having things like penicillin, cell phones, cars, air conditioning and sewers, and dislike things like cannibalism and constant tribal warfare. The process by which civilization was made was not pretty, but civilization is good and we should celebrate it.

We should not attack people’s cultural heroes just to denigrate their nation.

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving, since the backlog means that this post isn’t going up for a month.

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19 thoughts on ““Indigenous Culture Day” celebrates genocidal cannibals who were even worse than Columbus

  1. Since the Aztecs had developed agriculture and a state society, I suppose we should be glad it wasn’t they who invented the 3-masted sailing ship. I have to imagine the amount of cultural self-flagellating we see and hear is unprecedented. Happy Thanksgiving.

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    • I have heard that the large sailing ships were invented in response to Viking depredations, though it seems like the necessities of Mediterranean trade may have encouraged their development, too.

      Truly unprecendented.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

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  2. (Another old comment, going ahead and posting now:)

    …don’t forget about the Knights of Columbus, too.

    “Celebrating Columbus was never about Columbus, and denigrating Columbus isn’t about Columbus, either. Celebrating Columbus is about celebrating American history and the contributions of Catholic-Americans to that history; denigrating Columbus is about denigrating American history and European contributions to it.”

    …I agree on the former, but with the latter…I think a lot of people who denigrate Columbus do so because they *are* being overly literal about the holiday.

    And others do so because…well…

    …it’s like the 12th of July. Is celebrating the outcome of the Battle of the Boyne celebrating the fact that your guy won, enabling your group to keep your “religion…freedom and laws”? Or is it celebrating the fact that your guy won, enabling your ancestors, and now you, constantly to make “croppies lie down,” ensuring that they “shan’t have your liberty, do as ye will,” and making sure forever to keep “a foot on the necks of the croppy”?

    It’s…really both, and what any individual emphasizes depends on what most affects them. A Protestant would unsurprisingly focus on how desperate they were to survive, how they’d historically been massacred and persecuted, how their religion would now survive in their locality. A Catholic would equally unsurprisingly focus on how…desperate they were to survive, how they’d historically been massacred and persecuted, and how this Protestant victory led to their continued exclusion from full participation in their local society.

    Similarly, “Yay us, we spread civilization” and “Poor us, they created a society where people of a different color, culture and sensibility rule over us–and now they’re *celebrating* that fact!” are both…explicable…reactions to Columbus Day. (And like…you’re surely old enough to remember when the more widespread, noticeable message was the former…)

    …hope you had a good Thanksgiving. 🙂

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    • I don’t remember ever noticing any particular message associated with Columbus Day other than sales at the mall. It’s kind of a meaningless holiday to most people, I think. I get misty-eyed on Armistice Day, thinking of all the poor folks who died in stupid stupid WWI battles, but Columbus Day is marked by white folks posting about what a terrible person Columbus was. I wouldn’t mind dropping CD from the roster, but I don’t want to replace it with something just as bad.

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      • “poor folks who died in stupid stupid WWI battles”

        I just finished reading some WWI history. The British fought the Turks for control of Basra, Aleppo, Homs and other cities currently in the news. It makes you wonder just how far a Cradle of Civilization can fall and how many battles can be fought over the same piece of ground.

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  3. […] Much of the time, the explicit justification for religious rituals has little to do with why people actually observe them. Most Americans don’t really care about the Pilgrims one way or another; I bet most Jews don’t care about Haman anymore, either. Most Catholics probably think it’d be fine if the church just started publishing official documents in Italian, and even atheists give each other gifts on Christmas. The function of these rituals is often very different from their form–Thanksgiving is really about family togetherness, not Pilgrims. Likewise, the current push to get rid of Columbus day and replace it with Indigenous Culture Day isn’t really a statement that indigenous peoples were better than Columbus (after all, the Aztecs were cannibals.) […]

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  4. We must not forget though that the Aztecs were one of the most organized states in America. They even had universal education, which Europeans implemented centuries later and yet not consistently. They were culturally like ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, but they were above all a war state, like Sparta or Japan. I believe if they weren’t outright conquered, but still had some long-term contact with Europeans to exchange goods and ideas, they would be the Japan of America today.

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    • I often wonder what would have happened had the Americas continued developing in isolation for a few thousand years more before meeting the Europeans.

      The Aztecs are still around, but not doing a whole lot, tech-wise. I don’t think we can just blame that on them having been conquered, because Japan also got conquered.

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      • If you mean the events after WW2, then it is a very different scenario. Japan up to then had already been much advanced, even more than many western countries, also had a very large population base and didn’t have to battle the diseases american Indians faced. ON the other hand, from a population of 12 million in the Valey of Mexico, just 2 remained after the conquest, and mostly impoverished. Most of the nobble class, which drove most of the cultural development, were either killed or found themselves in poverty, dispossessed of their lands, and the lowly peasants just continued working for different but similar masters. Also, it is probable that many peoples of different backgrounds were mixed up in this conditions. And of course some centuries later, most of the Indians got mixed up with the Spaniards, so in sense they ceased to exist as a nation. There are modern nahuatl speakers today, if you mean about those, but they are few in number and disjointed. And we even cannot assertain if they are the descendants of the original Aztecs because nahuatl was a lingua franca for some time there. But the nahuatl they speak today is in most dialects a creolized and impoverished form, not the cultivated classical nahuatl of the period around the conquest.

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      • While the modern “pure” indigenous population of Mexico is indeed small, the majority of Mexico’s 120 million people are have mixed Euro/Indian ancestry. Wikipedia estimates the current white population at 9-16%, with whites comprising no more than 20% of the historical population. I think the indigenous peoples of Mexico have fared better, overall, than those of the US (compare the far smaller % of the US population that has any Indian ancestry.) So, yes, there are very few “Aztecs” around anymore, but unless they were disproportionately slaughtered compared to other indigenous populations or have been particularly isolated (totally possible, I guess,) they probably have quite a few descendants.

        Still, their organized culture got wiped out. We’ll never know what they would have done on their own.

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