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The Last Day of Freedom


Every year on October 12th America commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus. This arrival, usually referred to as discovery of America, was the starting point of the seizure of the whole continent by the Europeans. As a result, the lands were settled and developed in the course of history. Until today different major nations originated in the Americas, including the leading economic and military power of the world, the United States. Reason enough to celebrate October 12th.

When Columbus landed in America, there were already peoples and civilizations and for the descendants of these October 12th has a different meaning. In Argentina the indigenous referr to this day as the “El último día de libertad en América”, the last day of freedom in America. A day that reminds of millions (about 15-80 millions) indigenous people who lost their lives. A day that commemorates the enslavement and forced labor in mines. A day that reminds that gold, silver and land were worth more than human lives.

For many Westerners, who have traditionally strong ties with America, this may sound provocative. The days of conquest are long ago and today, America’s immigrants can no longer made responsible for the deeds of their ancestors. This is certainly true. Nevertheless, it is often forgotten that the occupation of America destroyed the indigenous structures completely and that it still has devastating consequences. Thus, the Amerindians of North America live on the margins of society and still fight for legal rights, which have been granted to them by the conquerors. In some countries of Latin America the indigenous make up the majority of the population (eg Peru), but until today they have no political power. Likewise, it shows in economic terms, especially when it comes to access to natural resources and large estates. Here, the indigenous people are at a disadvantage and have only possession of at most second-rate floor.

European immigrants in America have built up a lot and given much to the world, that must be recognized. At the same time, these immigrants also destroyed a lot and the consequences among the Native Americans can be seen and felt to this day. It is time to work up the past and at least symbolically give the Amerindians a positive sign. The U.S. under President Obama has promised a severance to the indigenous population of 3.4 billion dollars. This is an important step, but history must also be worked up so that the indigenous people can finally regain their dignity, their rights and freedom.

About David X. Meier

David X. Meier has a Master's degree in Social Anthropology at University of Zurich. One of his special interest are ethnopolitical occurrences and issues and the hope that the awareness of ethnical issues will help to establish peace and understanding.

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