Friday, October 12, 2012

Mixed Feelings

    

        Betsy is our host today for Poetry Friday at her blog, Teaching Young Writers.  Run right over to this blog to read and love so many beautiful words!  

       Today is my birthday, today, October 12th, Columbus Day!
        I don't say that about Columbus Day much anymore, unless I have a lot of time to explain.  When I was a little girl I thought it was really special to have a birthday on a really special day.  By the time I was in high school, I knew a little more about Westward Expansion and the story of American Indians.  In college, I had the pleasure of a poetry class with John Neihardt, poet laureate of Missouri at that time, and the author of Black Elk Speaks, an eye opening book for me.  I dug deeper.  Now, all these past years as a middle school teacher, I've tried hard to help students learn what is the real truth of Columbus and other explorers, or other people who were explorers and took the land.  It's important to inspire the search also for as much truth as can be found when digging deeply.  And, important to examine old books to question and verify.  


       So, to celebrate my birthday, I give the gift of a poem by Jimmie Durham, Columbus Day, found on a site that gives a small background of the poet and the poem.  I don't know this poem, but from my search, I gather that it has been quite controversial through the years.  It was first published in 1983.
                                            Columbus Day

                             In school I was taught the names

                             Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro and
                             A dozen other filthy murderers.
                             A bloodline all the way to General Miles,
                             Daniel Boone and General Eisenhower.


            The remainder of the poem can be found on the link here.  You may also want to read the post for this year on Oct. 8th, our celebrated Columbus Day, from this same site, American Indians In Literature.
            I will celebrate today, but just my birthday, not Columbus Day.

29 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday!! Wishing you many happy returns, Linda!

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  2. Happy Birthday, Linda!

    What an interesting poem! I agree that it's important to dig deeper to find the truth behind the oftentimes sanitized version of history that we are fed in school. Nice to know you are encouraging your students to pursue the truth, and not accept things at surface value.

    I knew nothing about the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy until I was an adult -- it was never taught in school. Pretty shocking. President Clinton issued a formal apology on behalf of the US, but many Hawaiian activists feel it is too little too late.

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    1. There is much to learn & question, for always, Jama. Thank you!

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  3. Happy Birthday, Linda! Wishing you all the best!

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  4. Happy birthday, Linda!

    And thank you so much for sharing that heartbreaking poem -- and for teaching students to look more deeply at "the facts." I know that my own perspective on a lot of things - including Columbus - changed after reading Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.

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    1. Yes, Zinn is powerful & for the older students-an awakening. Thanks, Renee!

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  5. Wishing you a wonderful birthday, Linda!

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  6. Am off to my retreat--will try to read more later!

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  7. Yay for Linda! Happy Birthday!!! Joyous wishes, my friend!

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  8. Palju õnne sünnipäevaks! Happy Birthday!

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    1. Hey Terje-Thank you for saying this in your language-very special!

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  9. "And nothing can stop
    The wind from howling those names around
    The corners of the school."

    AMEN.

    I just read Charles C. Mann's 1493 and learned a boatload of new-to-me history. So glad it is still remembered and we can still "discover" it.

    Happy Birthday! Thanks for celebrating Columbus day in this way.

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    1. Thanks Andi. There seems to be so much we don't (or didn't) know. I will keep the book on my list!

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  10. Wow. Strong poem, Linda. I am also born on a holiday -- George Washington's birthday. There's a lot to like him for, but Washington *was* a slave owner, not how we like to view the father of our country. I understand your mixed feelings.

    Have a wonderful birthday. Go out there and make it your own!

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    1. So great to hear that we have that connection! It really is exactly as I wrote-good to examine perspectives always. Thank you Laura.

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  11. Happy Birthday, Linda! We need poems like these to remind us of injustices. I enjoyed reading the whole poem and agree with Jama's choice of lines.

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    1. Thanks Joyce. I love the power of the lines too.

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  12. Dearest Linda, Happy Happy many returns of the day. :) Be fabulous on your birthday! Much love and sunshine and glittery smiles that stretch on to infinity. :)

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    1. Thanks for the special wishes, Myra. It was a lovely day with staff, cupcakes too! But a long evening yesterday and a long day today, so won't be up too late tonight!

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  13. Happy birthday Linda! Hope you have a wonderful birthday!
    My first 3 years of teaching were in the NWT in a small native community. I loved it up there and got to know the local people well. I still have a love of native art and a concern for native issues. Great poem to share. Thanks - hadn't seen it before.

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    1. Interesting to hear a little of your own background and special interests, Beverley. This poem is a special one to me now, and I loved sharing on my 'Columbus Day' birthday.

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  14. You outline important issues so well for your students I can almost hear your questioning and probing to motivate them to research the truth themselves. Awesome. And...HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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    1. Thanks Betsy, for the comment and for hosting!

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  15. Thank you for sharing this. I shared two poems with my seventh graders on Friday. The first one, "Columbus," by Joaquin Miller, presents Columbus as a hero. The second was "Lament of an Arawak Child," by Pamela Mordecai. Now I want to show them this one, too.

    Hope you had a happy birthday!

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    1. How wonderful, Ruth. I'm so glad to hear that others feel they must do something to help students know that all they read and hear, and see, needs to be questioned. Perspective is an easy thing to dismiss, so teaching that there are other ways to look at things is so important. Thank you!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!