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Christopher Columbus was no saint — and neither were the indigenous Americans

To the editor: Steven Hackel, a professor of history at UC Riverside, would have us believe that the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries were just sitting around peacefully. Such was hardly the case. (“Why L.A. is right to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day,” Opinion, Oct. 9)

The cruelty of Europeans in those dark times, including Christopher Columbus, was no greater than among peoples everywhere. The Europeans were just more successful.

In the Americas, the Aztecs slaughtered and oppressed rival tribes, which is is why some groups of people welcomed the Spanish when they arrived. The great institutions of democratic government, freedom of speech, religious tolerance and the rule of law were largely not found in indigenous America. They were brought to this continent (or developed here later) by those nasty Europeans.

It’s a shame that academics today are so dedicated to fostering identity politics and a sense of victimization that they have to adhere to an anti-Western orthodoxy based on fantasy history.

Bruce Merritt, Glendale

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To the editor: The late, great comedian and social activist Dick Gregory once put Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in perspective with this quip: “I can walk out on the parking lot today and discover your car with you in it. Huh?”

The more we learn, the more nuanced history becomes.

Columbus was a competent ship’s captain and explorer who used his leadership skills to dehumanize and enslave indigenous people. For that he can never be excused.

Ben Miles, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: Indigenous is defined as “originating or occurring naturally in a particular place.”

It is scientific fact that there is no such thing as “indigenous people” in the Western Hemisphere. We are all descendants of immigrants, whether by boat, plane or Alaskan land bridge.

Hackel’s references to “indigenous people who immigrated here from other regions” and “the first indigenous settlers to arrive in the L.A. Basin” are linguistic and factual nonsense. Like descendants of French, Portuguese or Chinese migrants, his “indigenous people” or “Native Americans” are also descendants of earlier migrations from other continents. These residents of the Americas are no more indigenous than kudzu vine or tumbleweed.

So, while it may be good and timely to celebrate Indian history and culture, “Indigenous Peoples Day” should be changed to something more truthful and accurate, such as “We Got Here First Day.”

James Willis, Oxnard

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