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Anti-Racism and Equity

Good Shepherd Services is committed to doing the work to become an anti-racist multicultural organization. Please come back and visit our page for more updates about the work we are doing to get there.

We recently decided to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October. Please see our statement below:

Good Shepherd Services has decided to follow the bold leadership of other states and cities across the United States in naming our observance of the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The LEAD Council proposed this change and it was sanctioned by the Executive Team. As Good Shepherd looks to step into a deeper anti-racism, justice, and equity framework, the Executive Team recognizes the importance of this decision, which was not made lightly, but rather with the well-documented historical context of Columbus’ legacy.

In order for us to begin to remedy the generational harm and trauma caused by those of the past, including problematic historical figures, the truth must be told. If we continue to deny the roots of racism, we deny people their rightful space to heal. Darkness must be brought into the light. In a series of clips presented by The Cut in 2015, a group of Native Americans were asked to share their thoughts about Christopher Columbus. Many used the word, “pain”. Dewolf and Geddes (2019)* stated: “Many parts of US history, especially the unsavory and damaging parts, have often been systemically and purposefully buried. While doing so is understandable, hiding the shameful truths of history paints a false and incomplete picture of who we are today and where we came from. To heal wounds of racism, we must see racism for what it is and subsequent impact.”

Truth-telling and naming what has created a legacy of trauma, the near complete erasure and invisibility of an entire population feels particularly urgent in our current socio-political climate. Dewolf and Geddes go on to state, “racial disparities…represent symptoms of the collective wounds” of historical oppression and racism. We want to share some history of Columbus with you, so you are aware of why Columbus Day carries with it a heavy burden for many psychologically, emotionally, and through racial disparities. The truth is not an easy one to hear and, therefore, we encourage people to practice self-care and read as much as they can.

  • In 1492, post being commissioned by the queen and king of Spain, Christopher Columbus accidentally encountered the Americas. He found himself in the Caribbean on an island a part of what is now known as the Bahamas. Prior to his arrival in the Americas, many others had encountered the Americas, including the Chinese, Vikings, and Africans.
  • On his first day, he enslaved 6 native or indigenous people known as the Arawaks or Taino Indians. He called them Indians because he presumed he landed in Asia. Columbus wrote in his journal: “As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.” He enslaved them because he believed they could guide him to where the gold existed. This was in part informed by the fact that the indigenous people wore gold earrings. On his future sails to Cuba and Hispaniola, he would encounter more hints of gold, which later became part of a report that he gave to the Spanish monarchy in exaggerated proportions. As a result of the report, on the second trip, the Spanish monarchy gave him 17 ships and 1,200 men.
  • Their mission was to bring back slaves and gold. Columbus returned to the Americas and set-up base in Haiti, also known as Hispaniola. Within two years, half of the 250,000 Arawaks that lived in Hispaniola were murdered, mutilated, or committed suicide. Any resistance led to death by horrific measures. Those that survived were enslaved and used as labor and servants of the Spaniards. And of those that were forced to travel to Spain, half did not survive the journey. The remaining half were sold into slavery.
  • After 60 years, only a few hundred Arawaks remained alive, highlighting the mass genocide of the indigenous people of Hispaniola. Once indigenous, enslaved labor was called into question by Bartolome de las Casas – a priest who helped conquest Cuba and transcribed Columbus’ journals – the enslavement of the Africans to substitute the enslavement of indigenous people began. In 1500, Columbus was taken back to Spain and tried for mismanagement. He made a fourth trip back to the Americas thereafter, but lost his title.
  • Columbus never actually set foot on the lands known as the United States today. What he did to the Native people of the Caribbean, others did to Native people in Brazil, the modern-day United States, and Central and South America. Genocide, slavery, and disenfranchisement became common practice as colonization spread across this hemisphere. With Columbus came the creation of a color-coded and racialized hierarchy that undergirds the modern-day United States.
  • In 1937, the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal, Catholic, Italian-American organization, successfully lobbied President Roosevelt to make Columbus Day a holiday. It became one then and was celebrated on October 12th. By 1968, Congress voted to make it a public holiday for all states. It would take place on the second Monday of October.
  • In 1977, the United Nations held the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. It was the first time that larger conversations were held regarding not celebrating Columbus. It was not until the 1980’s that a United States took a radical stance against Columbus Day. In 1990, Governor George Mickelson of South Dakota decided to declare Columbus Day Native Americans’ Day and made it the year of reconciliation. They were the first state to take on bold leadership and demonstrate the act as a pathway to reconciliation and healing from racial trauma.
  • In 1991, Berkeley, California was the first city to change it to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and then came Santa Cruz, California (1993). In 2014, Seattle joined in, followed by Minneapolis, Denver (2016), Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Francisco, Portland, and even Columbus, Ohio (2018). Three states have also declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day a statewide holiday: Alaska, Minnesota, and Vermont.

Good Shepherd Services joins those cities and states to stand on the right side of history.

Sources:
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
https://www.citylab.com/life/2018/10/why-cities-turned-against-columbus-day/572338/
https://www.argusleader.com/story/davidmontgomery/2014/10/13/native-american-day/17194651/
https://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-columbus-day-why-do-we-still-celebrate-20151012-htmlstory.html
https://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-controversy
They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima
The Little Book of Racial Healing by T.N. DeWolf and J. Geddes*

Sincerely,
The Executive Team

 

What We Stand For

Good Shepherd Services respects the dignity and worth of every person and rejects intolerance, inequity and injustice in whatever form it may take.  We value black lives and the lives of all people of color.  We stand with our LGBTQ community members, with immigrants, with refugees, with indigenous peoples, and with peoples of all faiths.  We stand in community and together with all persons who are the targets of intolerance, inequity and injustice. We are against hate in all of its forms, and we stand in firm opposition to any action, statement, or belief that seeks to deny individuals of dignity, respect, rights, or opportunities.

“A person is of more value than the world.” – Sister Mary Euphrasia Pelletier