Columbus forgiven as part local Native American gathering in Carbondale |

Columbus forgiven as part local Native American gathering in Carbondale

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Granting forgiveness to Christopher Columbus doesn’t come easy for Ramon Nenadich.

Born of the Taino people indigenous to the Caribbean islands, his ancestors were the first to witness the “holocaust” brought by Europeans after Columbus’ historic landing in that region in 1492.

“At first, this concept of forgiving Columbus was very hard for me to process,” Nenadich said during a press conference Monday at Carbondale Town Hall called to announce the outcomes of last week’s XI Native Gathering of the Americas.

“His ship was sinking, and we saved their lives,” Nenadich said. “We gave them food and welcomed them with open arms.

“The next year, they came back and started to extinguish us,” he said. “So, for me it was hard to understand.”

But the symbolic gesture, offered by tribal leaders during one of the most inclusive assemblages of indigenous people ever to convene, became part of a central theme of the recent gathering.

As part of the proceedings, a special ceremony for forgiving Christopher Columbus’ spirit took place on Sunday, Dec. 6, at Sustainable Settings Ranch outside Carbondale, according to a press release distributed at Monday’s press conference.

About 100 delegates representing indigenous nations from North, Central and South America attended the gathering, which took place from Dec. 3-8, partly in Carbondale, with meetings also in Fort Collins and Denver.

That central theme, “Healing all wounds between the peoples of the world and with Mother Earth,” will carry over into a number initiatives that are also in the works locally and on a broader scale.

One is the establishment of a Special Commission of Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Reparation, which is proposed to be set up both locally and internationally to come up with ways to heal centuries of wounds between the native and non-native people of the Americas.

“The commission will begin a process of dialogue between the indigenous and nonindigenous peoples in order to create a new level of understanding so the mistreatment, marginalization and colonization of the indigenous peoples can be brought to an end,” Nenadich said, reading from the press release.

“After over 500 years of continuous colonization, impoverishment and displacement from our ancestral lands, we understand that the only way to settle the differences between the indigenous peoples and the nonindigenous is through a serious and profound dialogue in which the diversity of visions can be set over a bargaining table with the purpose of reaching positive results in the least time possible,” he said.

Locally, the commission will likely involve some of the organizers who helped with last week’s event, as well as elected officials and any others who believe they can bring ideas to the table, he said.

“We don’t want this process to a be a confrontational one,” Nenadich said in explaining the commission’s purpose. Nor are their any specific conditions being asked in the way of reparations, he said.

One possible outcome locally could be the renaming of Mount Sopris in a way to honor the Ute people who once lived in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“This was my first time in this valley, and when I saw the sacred mountain I knew immediately that she is alive,” Nenadich said. “She’s not just any mountain.”

Reparations should not be on the level of money, he said, but rather “from the heart, and on the level of love and understanding.”

Other initiatives the grew out of the gathering is the proposed creation of the International Foundation for the Advancement of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Autochtone University, which would have a campus in Carbondale, as well as in South Dakota, Mexico, Puerto Rico and several Central and South American countries.

Autochtone means “the original peoples of the place,” Nenadich said.

“We wish to have a campus here focused on healing, to educate and train healers from all over the world,” he said. “The circle will remain here, because it is a strong circle of light.”

Several international gatherings are in the works for next year, including another Native Gathering of the Americas in Cayambe, Ecuador, next March; the first Symposium on the Ecological Crisis and the Mayan and Hopi Prophecies, in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico; and the first International Congress on Decolonization, Sovereignty and Rights of the Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland. What would be the first World Congress of Indigenous Peoples is being planned for 2012 in Peru.

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