October 12, 2009
Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza
New Haven, Connecticut 06510
Dear Supreme Council, Sub-Councils, and Members:
Most of what was known of Christopher Columbus in 1881, the year when the Knights of Columbus was founded, has now been shown by historians to be myth.
In fact, the true story of Columbus is one of genocide. The historical record clearly shows that Columbus and his marauding band enslaved, beat, raped, tortured, and murdered Indigenous Peoples and then used Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus' arrival on Hispaniola, he and his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000.
This is the event “celebrated” each year on Columbus Day.
From a humble beginning, your organization has now grown to more than 1.7 million members worldwide--the largest lay Catholic organization in the world. The Order’s years of service to those in need are renowned. However, the role you played, in 1934, in requesting the establishment of this shameful national holiday cannot be ignored.
We Americans do not celebrate Milosevic Day. We do not celebrate the “meeting of cultures” in Rwanda. We do not celebrate Pol Pot or Adolph Hitler. Imagine their victims’ pain and the public outcry if we did.
Why then do we honor Christopher Columbus?
We understand that you are men of faith and hold this man in high esteem for “bringing Christianity to the New World”. The reality, however, is that this man opened the Atlantic slave trade and launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history. Rather than being motivated by religious fervor or altruism, Columbus was motivated by self-interest and greed fueled by his failure to achieve his goal and a desperate need to repay his investors. His ships brought missionaries to this region, it’s true, but also a cargo of death and destruction from which the First Nations of the Americas have never recovered.
It isn’t often that the mistakes of the past can be undone, but that is the opportunity before you. If you truly embrace and seek to further a “culture of life,” as you have resolved to do, have the courage of your convictions.
Renounce Christopher Columbus:
1. Select a new, more suitable designation for your organization (perhaps the name of your founder Father Michael J. McGivney), but a worthy title under which to continue your good work; AND
2. As you did in 1934, make your voices heard in the halls of Congress and the White House. Withdraw your support for this shameful national holiday.
Gentleman... Once a man knows the truth, how can he turn his back?
A nation that celebrates Christopher Columbus, celebrates and thereby condones his horrific deeds... and this we must never do.
In Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples,
Friends of Peltier
Time to set him free... Because it’s the RIGHT thing to do.
A Call to Action
You’ve heard it said: True change occurs from the bottom up. Reach out to, educate, and create a dialogue directly with the Knights of Columbus membership. You can identify a local council at http://www.kofc.org/un/findCouncil/index.action.
Knights of Columbus Headquarters
1 Columbus Plaza
New Haven, CT 06510
Telephone: (203) 752-4000
Please also contact your Members of Congress to ask that the celebration of Columbus Day be discontiued. Propose instead an annual National Indigenous Peoples Day.