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Mar 4, 2015 11:54 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Students Debate A Sons Of Italy Member About Columbus Day

Mar 11, 2015 11:04 AM

A group of Southampton seventh-graders held a spirited debate last week with a member of the Order Sons of Italy in America about the importance of Christopher Columbus—and whether he deserves to have a holiday named after him.

Louis Gallo, who is a member and chairperson of the Commission for Social Justice, an organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of Italian-Americans, visited Southampton Intermediate School last Wednesday, March 4, to address the students about their recent letter-writing campaign to change the name of the October holiday in the school district out of respect for the native people he slaughtered upon arriving.

While Mr. Gallo admitted that Columbus was no saint, he stressed to students his importance in American history, saying that while it is true there were already people living in North America and South America when he arrived in the Bahamas, Columbus also was responsible for introducing Europeans to “the new world.”

“I want you to understand the Italian-American view of Columbus,” he said. “From the vantage point of a 15th-century European, this was a discovery. They had no idea that the world he landed in existed, so when he discovered all of this—and it was a discovery from their viewpoint—it opened up a whole new land mass to all of these other European countries to come and investigate.”

The seventh-graders spent roughly an hour questioning Mr. Gallo, basing their questions on several weeks of study of the explorer—including a mock trial, by which they found Columbus guilty of murder. During Mr. Gallo’s visit, which took place during a class period held in the intermediate school library, the students asked him to address claims of rape, murder and kidnapping by Columbus and his men.

Columbus is misunderstood today, he said—he did what he had to do, according to his contract with the Spanish monarchy. Mr. Gallo also disputed claims that Columbus had used dogs to hunt native people, saying that natives often were used as slaves, and that it would have hurt Columbus’s profits to be cruel. “I don’t think it would have been to his advantage,” he said. “These people were enslaved. He was an ambitious person, but he was under contract. Was he motivated by ambition? You’re damn right he was.”

Not all of the students were convinced.

Twelve-year-old Nashota Williams, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, said Columbus’s actions do not justify a holiday. “You have to understand that he killed millions of natives,” she said. “He did terrible things. Different teachers teach different ways about Columbus, and our teachers showed us the good side and the bad side. He was not just all good.”

Mr. Gallo said there is no question that Columbus could be judged harshly by today’s morals and standards, but the visitor added that it doesn’t mean he should not be celebrated. He added that his organization staunchly opposes renaming Columbus Day, as the students want in their school district, maintaining that it would diminish an important part of Italian history in America. He suggested, instead, that the district devote a month to celebrating Native American contributions to society and the formation of the United States.

The United States, he said, was founded and built on the contributions of the Native Americans in the new world who taught European settlers how to farm and fish. The Shinnecocks, he said, helped to shape Long Island and New York by teaching newcomers how to hunt for whales.

“October is Italian Culture and Heritage Month,” Mr. Gallo said. “February is African-American Month, mid-September to October is Hispanic Heritage Month, and March is Women’s History Month. Why can’t we have a Native American month? We are all believers of inclusion and tolerance, so why don’t we have one? That is something that could be accomplished really easily here on the East End and in Southampton with the Shinnecock Indian Nation and the powwow.”

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Perhaps the kids would have been more open minded if Mr.Gallo was presenting the same time as their teachers were in the Fall. These teachers are teaching the students that Columbus slaughtered millions of people. More then one child stated this as if it were fact. A bit exaggerated ya think? Kudos to Mr. Gallo in a great historical presentation!
By April1 (156), Southampton on Mar 4, 15 12:28 PM
3 members liked this comment
The utter barbarity with which Cristoforo treated the indigenous people is beyond dispute. From amputating appendages of those natives who did not collect their quota of gold, to the outright slavery of those same people, is well documented. Most slaves did not survive the trip back to Spain. Columbus even served a short stint in a Spanish prison for his conduct.

Bottom line, his crew were acting under his orders as were his brothers.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 4, 15 6:51 PM
2 members liked this comment
Columbus did in fact slaughter millions of indigenous natives. Most students are being taught historically inaccurate information in their social studies classes. These students (and teachers) are taking a step in the right direction in realizing that students need to be presented with historically accurate information. I am glad that these students are fighting this battle and I hope something good comes out of it.
By eemmmily (4), Westhampton Beach on Mar 4, 15 2:50 PM
2 members liked this comment
Here ya' go (you'll like this Em):

Paul Revere rode about 20 miles. Israel Bissell about 350.

Croatan is no mystery. It was the name of an island populated by natives where the settlers went and were integrated into their tribe.

The Plymouth settlers engaged in massive amounts of grave robbing, taking whatever they could of value.

By the time easily 90% of the Indians were killed off due to a plague, most likely smallpox, settling the East Coast of North America ...more
Mar 4, 15 7:15 PM appended by Mr. Z
FYI: Were it not for the Iroquois Confederacy, our Constitution and our Republic would possibly not have come to be designed as it was. Gayanashagowa (Great Law of Peace) bears striking resemblance to our ideas of democracy and confederation. Also, it is documented that Canasatego, a leader of the Onandaga, was a speaker at the Treaty of Lancaster and suggested that "We" emulate their governmental structure.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 4, 15 7:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
Millions? Columbus himself? Or with the entire crews of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria?

Or are you insinuating that every single native of North America who died as a result of European exploration and settlement should be the responsibility of one Cristoforo Colon?

You do realize how ridiculous that sounds, don't you?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Mar 4, 15 3:42 PM
Forgive me for being juvenile...

Medical Definition of COLON: the part of the large intestine that extends from the cecum to the rectum
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 4, 15 9:47 PM
Don't laugh too hard. Its fairly well accepted that during Columbus's time as governor of Hispaniola (1494-1508) more than 3,000,000 people perished.

"Columbus's government was characterised by a form of tyranny," Consuelo Varela, a Spanish historian who has seen the document, told journalists."Even those who loved him [Columbus] had to admit the atrocities that had taken place." from Giles Tremlett (7 August 2006). "Lost document reveals Columbus as tyrant of the Caribbean"

Hitler ...more
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 4, 15 4:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
AT - The problem with your comment is that the generally accepted population of Hispaniola at the time was way less than 3 million, perhaps less than 1 million,so unless Columbus was importing a lot of extra people to kill he couldn't have committed the crime you or the afore mentioned teachers attribute to him.
By bird (829), Southampton on Mar 5, 15 7:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
The problem today is how the liberals have managed to change the history books over the past thirty years. The most liberal profession is teaching, which is brainwashing students. The native americans were not innocent in all of this either.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Mar 4, 15 4:53 PM
2 members liked this comment
Wow! Watch Fox News much?
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 4, 15 6:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
No, I prefer books by guys like Steven Hawking, Richard Feinman, Christopher Hitchens, or Neil Degrasse Tyson...
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 4, 15 6:17 PM
Arnold, try not to take advice from someone who has been banned; which is really hard to do here.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 4, 15 8:19 PM
Who's been banned? How are they still posting?
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 4, 15 9:49 PM
Philly's back :)
But now he believes in trolls :(
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 4, 15 11:18 PM
Damn those liberals and their insistence on presenting a factual history! You're darn straight Walt, those pesky natives are responsible , after all, who told them they could be indigenous!
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Mar 4, 15 5:49 PM
3 members liked this comment
Yeah and they keep goin on and on 'bout evolution and climate change and vaccines bein safe!
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 4, 15 6:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
Arnold, thank you for your perfectly stated response to VOS' post. VOS, please tell us what you feel you have to gain by ignoring history?
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Mar 4, 15 5:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
I won't ignore history nor will I accept, hook, line and sinker every opinion floated by a self anointed "scholar."

Please tell us what you have to gain by swallowing whole a statement that cannot be substantiated. If, on the other hand, you actually believe it's possible that Columbus is somehow responsible for the death of millions, pleas share with us the source of such a claim.

A bit of critical thinking goes a long way; be careful you don't sail off the edge of the earth ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Mar 6, 15 9:25 PM
Curious how the liberal agenda has rooted itself in schools, and how the focus is on correcting the inaccuracies of history, while those atop the liberal ladder can't appropriately define the origin of the atrocities that are happening today. Good on the kids for the challenge though.
I hope they also challenge the notion that Islamic terrorists should be called something other than what they are, and the foundation of their twisted ideology is in fact their religion.
In other words, be ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 4, 15 11:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
to double standard:

Actually, what is "rooted in schools", is the objective analysis of fact (which you confuse as a "liberal agenda" because of that practice's essential importance in Liberal ideology.) Right-Wing ideology, on the other hand, defends the ignorant distortion of any reality that doesn't suit its beliefs (Christopher Columbus's depravity, for example.)

In like manner, it is objective analysis of the facts that leads liberal politicians to refrain from gratuitously ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 5, 15 4:15 AM
Cherry picking 101
Available at a school near you.
"Truth over belief". Let's start there. Please tell the class how ISIS et al do not use Islam as the foundation of their crusade.
If you can't do that, then may I suggest a proper label for these wonderful creatures, Islamic Terrorist Jihadis.
See how that works? Chris Columbus was what he was and if you accurately label it that's fine. Just be consistent please and thanks.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 5, 15 8:48 AM
The knee-jerk reaction of the right wing to protect all historical fables always surprises me. "The founders were infallible". "Christopher Columbus was a hero". "Reagan was a conservative". What do they gain by blind allegiance to these mythologies? Are they so comfortable in their cocoon of ignorance that any deviation would simply blow their minds?
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Mar 5, 15 7:35 AM
If you like what you have you can keep it.
Any deviation is mind blowing.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 5, 15 8:50 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'm not a big Trotsky fan and I don't believe he deserves an American National Holiday any more than Columbus. At least Trotsky wasn't responsible for atrocities such as those committed by Columbus...He was an intellectual, political leader regardless that neither of us agree with his philosophies.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 5, 15 12:03 PM
It is very dangerous to lump all sects together. As Phil Sheridan said, the only good injun is a dead injun. Then proceeded to continue with the genocide of the American Indian. The ignorance was that their were many peaceful tribes.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Mar 5, 15 9:41 AM
Yep and the natives never killed and enslaved each other either.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 5, 15 2:16 PM
As usual another worthless reply from immature and contrary poster. Instead of learning about something ugly from the past, and not repeating it, all that counts is jamming their right wing righteousness.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Mar 5, 15 3:49 PM
Mf, how exactly are we repeating it? You obviously missed the point.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 5, 15 6:06 PM
Another tidbit from the website I cited above:

"With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

Columbus made La Taina, the land of the Tainos, into a living hell. It went way beyond simply killing those who fought Spanish rule. The Spanish had the Tainos:

cut up into pieces like sheep,
run down by hunting dogs and torn to pieces,
strung up and burned alive 13 at a time – in memory of Jesus and his 12 ...more
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 5, 15 11:45 AM
You're right and Muslims as well. Perhaps they look up to Colombus as a model to reach their goals in killing all us infidels.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 5, 15 1:31 PM
"Perhaps they look up to Colombus as a model to reach their goals in killing all us infidels."

I don't think Columbus is the model they use.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 5, 15 4:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Apples and oranges~ I am not condoning Columbus' actions, but you cannot judge events of over 500 years ago based on current values. They were not the values then. What took place in the 15th century is how things were done then. If it hadn't been Columbus, it would have been someone else from Europe. It was part of the natural human condition of the time. The important point here, is that Columbus "Discovered the New World", and that is why he has been honored for centuries, with holidays, ...more
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on Mar 5, 15 8:33 PM
Ain't America Grand!? Everyone can have an opinion and none of it really matters.
By GG Alin (11), Southampton on Mar 6, 15 8:39 AM
HH: your inability to recognize that Isis killing in the name of Allah ( Allahu Akbar- God is great) makes them Muslim defies logic. Are all Muslims terrorists or radicals bent on Jihad? Of course not, but some Muslims are, they are our enemies, enemies of all freedom loving people. Your blind adherence to PC speech is deplorable .
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 6, 15 12:46 PM
Columbus never discovered a "New World" He thought he was in India until the day died.
By prometheus (13), HB on Mar 12, 15 6:33 PM
Amazing how all the revisionists want to write history, as if they were there. Better to study and evaluate that what we know for sure today with technology and recorded history. Turn and twist it, Columbus discovered the Americas! Let the students, and those who lead them, have them debate today's world situations. That would be a good debate about atrocities we see rather than what we may want to believe about 500 years ago.
By jsosia (2), Southampton on Mar 15, 15 10:37 PM