Statement by Gaen hia uh, Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation, Snipe Clan), President & Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance:
“Governor Cuomo, in calling for adding the statue of Christopher Columbus to the State Register of Historic Places, and calling for its inclusion on the National Register, has once again demonstrated his unwillingness to listen to the legitimate concerns of more than 100,000 Indigenous peoples living within the borders of New York State, and many millions more living within the borders of the United States.
The statue of Christopher Columbus is indeed a ‘powerful symbol,’ one that represents his crucial role in inaugurating a systematic campaign of genocide, enslavement, exploitation of children and the taking of countless lands from the millions of Indigenous peoples who originated and lived here when the European explorers first arrived to the so-called ‘New World.’ Columbus’ diary demonstrates these degradations are core to what he believed and did.
Perhaps we should not be surprised since the Governor has been willfully insensitive to the concerns Indigenous peoples and our neighbors in upstate New York have expressed at the state’s failure to deal with the environmental disaster that still afflicts our sacred Onondaga Lake and other part of our natural world after more than a century of exploitation of our environment.
The Governor’s willful intent to keep promoting Columbus after knowing the death, destruction and domination his voyage brought upon these lands and Indigenous peoples is unconscionable and outrageous. The irony is that this is a move we would see come from the Trump administration who issued a statement glorifying Columbus yesterday. We continue to see that human rights too often get overlooked in the political realities of an election year.
The Governor should look to the more than 90 cities, counties and other governmental jurisdictions that have renamed Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day, a call to justice and honor that would have honored him and the people of New York. The Governor has not met with the Onondaga Nation nor the Haudenosaunee Confederacy; that would be a truly historic action to begin the process of healing the wounds afflicting our land, our peoples and our spirit that were set off by Columbus’ voyage 524 years ago.”