It seems as though we are being assaulted on all sides by those who don’t give two hoots about history, or haven’t a clue about why it is important to our culture. People who should know better either want to change it, destroy it, or ignore it.
First, we read in the Great Falls Tribune that Columbus Day will likely be relegated to the trash-bin of history where it will take its place along with confederate heroes from the Civil War and the historic structures of Palmyra that ISIS militants have decided through some misguided logic are offensive to Mohammad.
Montana House Bill 219 sponsored by Rep. Shane Morigeau was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday and now moves on to the Montana Senate. Does history even care that Rep. Morigeau “dreads the coming each year of Columbus Day”? Does he even know what it represents? I think not.
What seems to matter most to Rep. Morigeau is that he thinks the holiday celebrates an event occurring over 500 years ago where a single man mistreated some indigenous people while laying claim to the New World for his Spanish benefactors. Yes, Columbus was charged with finding riches and returning them to Spain, but his accomplishment goes far beyond the small amount of gold he secured for the Spanish crown.
Probably Rep. Morigeau hasn’t a clue about the history of Columbus Day and why it was established as a national holiday, but count him in as a card-carrying member of the PC police and history be damned.
If Rep. Morigeau and others would like to take Montana in the direction of other states like Hawaii, Oregon and South Dakota, in the elimination of Columbus Day he should be aware of a couple of important facts. First, Columbus never set one foot in what we now call America.
Secondly, history is replete with examples of indigenous peoples in America conquering and taking neighboring tribes as slaves, stealing their land, brutalizing and raping women, engaging in human sacrifice and torture as well as committing atrocities including acts of cannibalism. All of this before any Europeans even knew the New World existed. To my knowledge, Columbus never dined on another human being.
The Tribune also reported another history related story, “A Bit Cold, But Signed Sealed And Delivered”. “Final beams of Great Falls High School Hub addition put in place. I guess we have completely forgotten the utter destruction of the historic campus on which the hub addition was predicated. A forest of mature ash trees destroyed, the south campus defaced and asphalt replacing the lush green campus to make room for a parking plan that was criticized by the Montana State Historic Preservation Office.
Of course we would expect Superintendent Tammy Lacey’s picture to accompany the article because it’s all about her, but what about school board trustee Jeff Gray whose picture of him signing the “topping out” beam at Great Falls High School was prominently displayed in the Tribune article reporting the event?
Trustee Gray demonstrated his dislike for history by voting not to support the well-deserved nomination of the Great Falls High School campus as a historic site on the National Register of Historic Places.
In spite of Jeff Gray’s attempt to scuttle the nomination, it passed, but has been severely eroded by the poorly designed Hub addition and lack of professional planning for the campus. In the end, trustee Gray has been part of a successful attempt to destroy an important part of local history.
Another part of local history that is being compromised is the University of Providence, formerly known as the University of Great Falls, and before that, the College of Great Falls, and before that, the Great Falls Commercial College. The president, and UP board of trustees have elected to eliminate a number of programs valued as core elements of the previously fine liberal arts institution.
Gone will be Accounting, Art, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, English, HISTORY, Sociology, Theater and Business Arts, and Theology. I know, a Catholic university eliminating Theology, right? You guessed it, it’s all about the money, but if UP wanted the best of both worlds, tuition revenues and maintaining a dedication to a liberal arts education, they would seriously consider establishing a UP law school. A law school benefits from a well-rounded liberal arts education, and I believe a UP law school would be very successful in attracting students from Montana and many other parts of the Northwest. After all, The Sisters of Providence list as their Core Values: Compassion, Dignity, Justice, Excellence, and Integrity.
Maybe these three examples of the destruction of history is all the more reason to teach it.