A few weeks ago the U.S. observed Columbus Day, a holiday which many have questioned. Outspoken critics have rejected the notion that Columbus ‘discovered’ America and ushered in an era of civilization, arguing instead that his arrival resulted in the domination and genocide of thousands of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and Native Americans in the US. These critical responses led to protests, which have coalesced into sporadic policy changes throughout the US. Some cities like Minneapolis and Seattle have replaced Columbus Day with “Indigenous Peoples Day,” and some states, like South Dakota and Hawaii, have reclaimed the holiday to honor their respective indigenous peoples. The protests continue to grow, which means that now is an opportune moment to involve your students in these critical conversations.
It can be challenging for educators who try to “rethink Columbus,” because there is a shortage of classroom material and children’s literature that tackle this issue from the perspective of indigenous peoples. Too few of our textbooks and novels ever address the other side of the narrative – who was it whom Columbus encountered? The voices of the Taino, the people who first greeted Columbus, are never told. I would wager that many have never even heard of the Taino people, which is shocking given the pervasiveness of Columbus’ version of history.
That is why this week I present to you a children’s book that tells a different story of the arrival of Columbus: Encounter (ages 6-12), written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by David Shannon, is told from the fictionalized perspective of a boy who was part of the Taino, the first tribe to have interacted with Columbus. Continue reading