Native Americans Protest Santa Maria Replica


The Santa Maria is a floating classroom for 10,000 Ohio school children who visit the replica every year. Linda Ketchum is the Santa Maria organization’s executive director

LINDA KETCHUM: Columbus Ohio is the largest city named after Christopher Columbus and in 1991 the businessmen here in Columbus wanted to do something special to commemorate the 500 years since Columbus’ voyage

SOUND: BOISTEROUS CHILDREN Students from schools in Madison and Pickaway counties were among several groups who took Columbus Day tours of the ship. There they learned about the day “that changed the world forever.” But according to a staff member of the Native American Center of Central Ohio, the anniversary is not one to be celebrated

LEAH WHITAKER: We do not recognize the Monday holiday. We recognize October 12th as the day when Columbus came to the Americas and we don’t celebrate it’s a day of mourning; it’s a day to recognize the deaths of our relatives over the 500 years SOUND: DRUM, MARCHERS

About 50 people followed a Native American drum group marching to the Santa Maria in protest. One of the banners they carried read: “Native American Holocaust 1492.”

MARK STANSBURY: This is the annual Indigenous Peoples Day Observance

Mark Stansbury of the Community Organizing Center

STANSBURY: This is the 513th year since 1492. Anybody remember what happened in 1492? Ocean blue right. And made it purple with all the blood that he spilled.

The students may have learned more about history than their teachers had expected as they watched the Columbus Day protest. The Native American Center’s Leah Whitaker says that’s exactly the point of the demonstration WHITAKER: I think it’s to bring about awareness about what this boat represents and how insulting it is to have this boat in Columbus.

Native American Center head Mark Welsh was quoted earlier this week saying the ship ought to be dismantled and burned. After several years of the group’s protests, the Santa Maria’s Linda Ketchum knew what to expect this Columbus Day

KETCHUM: We’re free speech it’s all right, I have not a problem with that But she bristled at the description of the Santa Maria as a slave ship

KETCHUM: There were no slaves on the Santa Maria. Anything that happened when Christopher Columbus was here is no different than what people that were here before him were doing so There was already slavery amongst the Native Americans when he got here

A speaker at the rally said he hoped historical information about Native Americans would be added to the ship’s tours. There’s also been talk that that opposing forces could join together for future Columbus Day events. But Whitaker thinks that’s unlikely

WHITAKER: It’s really ignorant to ask us to be part of this holiday that for Native Americans represents slavery and celebrates genocide of the people and the ship and the name of the city itself just represents what Americans are blind to.

Sam Hendren, WOSU News