By Shannon Speirs
In a presentation that asked the question, “Who Welcomed Columbus?” students from local school districts learned that the history taught to them in school is inadequate in teaching the many contributions Native Americans gave to civilization.
The presentation, given Friday night at the Wilkinson Student Center, is a part of a series of lectures that discuss issues of the indigenous people of North, Central and South America called the Amauta Series. This lecture, titled “Who Welcomed Columbus?” revealed the highly developed civilizations that existed in the Americas prior to its discovery.
“Most of the time when we talk about history we concentrate just on Columbus,” said Antonio Arce, presenter and director of the Amauta Series. “We don”t see the other side of history about the native people who actually welcomed Columbus to this continent.”
Arce, a graduate of BYU, started these presentations in 1995 with the hope that all students would gain a better knowledge of the natives and that Native American students would gain more self-esteem and a better understanding of their ancestors.
“Many of our native kids, many of our native people, the information that they receive is so one-sided,” Arce said. “They don”t see themselves in history and how much they helped civilization itself.”
The history books available to students give very little information regarding the native people of the Americas. History in schools teaches that Native Americans were a primitive and savage people. People don”t know that before Columbus, the natives had written communication, navigation, architecture and irrigation systems, Arce said.
Eileen Quintana, the Title VII Indian Education Program manager for the Nebo/Juab School District, said that children do not receive a good education about the Native Americans that were present in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus.
“The history books that we have access to in the school systems were written by non-natives, and so we don”t have a lot of our history included in them,” Quintana said.
Quintana arranged for Arce to speak to the children after hearing his presentation given in a meeting a year ago. She said that Native American children should feel a sense of pride for the contributions of their people while listening to Arce speak.
Roy Talk, a Native American of Provo, came to this presentation with his two children who both attend Timpview High School. Growing up, his children have had the opportunity to learn a little about their ancestors.
“I think it”s really important for them [the children] to learn these things,” he said. “My kids have had history lessons also and they”ve had the opportunity to stand up and tell the truth and how we see things.”
Arce has traveled all over Utah in order to spread his message to those who want to hear it. His goal is to teach that the native ancestors are important to all who live in the Americas.
“My purpose in doing this is just to share with people what I feel is very important for them to know,” he said. “So maybe they will have more appreciation for history and maybe they will have more appreciation for native people too.”