Robert Lentz's icon of St. Kateri Tekawitha, first Native American to be canonized-- a favorite matron saint of my own Katherine when she was still Christian/Catholic instead of a highly ethical and reflective spiritual but not religious teen.
In this icon she wears typical Iroquois clothing and a blue blanket from French traders. In her right hand she bears one of the most important symbols of her culture, the tree of peace. By the mid-15th century, blood feuds had almost destroyed her people. A holy man named Dekanawidah appeared, preaching peace and reconciliation. He taught that all people were brothers and sisters and that differences were better resolved by discussion than war. Through his influence, the five Iroquois tribes formed a unified government and stopped fighting among themselves. The symbol of the vision was a huge tree under which all peoples could find peace. When more people would come, the branches of the tree would simply grow longer. An eagle lived at the top of the tree and warned the people whenever peace was threatened. The tree, like all the earth, rode on the back of a giant turtle’s shell. More. Purchase.
I am tremendously grieved that so many states and cities still mark today as Columbus Day, celebrating the beginning of mass rape, enslavement, and genocide against Native Americans--which also led directly to the extension and massive growth of the African slave trade to the Americas to replace the slaughtered "Indians." This also led to the large percentage of Afro-Latina people especially in Latin America, often suffering from multiple and misunderstood forms of racism in this country as well. I am especially grieved that Catholicism--like the rest of dominant Christianity--fueled the hideous abuses with theological justifications about "sharing the Gospel," An especially egregious example was the Pope deeming himself absolute ruler of the physical as well as spiritual world and complacently dividing up the Americas between Spain and Portugal as "defenders of the true faith" against the Protestant English and Dutch colonizers.
I am proud of my own state of California for ditching it in favor of Cesar Chavez day on March 31, which I love is my Confirmation anniversary, of the cities that defy their state policy, and of Vermont for just replacing it with Indigenous People's Day statewide. Since Italian Catholics and the Knights of Columbus were primarily responsible for creating the holiday in the early 20th century it would be very appropriate for all of us in that faith community to join in the growing movement to transform the harmful celebration into a liberating one--and following through with concrete policy changes as well as surviving Native Americans, especially women, still suffer extreme injustice in so many ways. Speaking against the environmentally racist, universally dangerous, and police-brutality-endorsed Dakota pipeline is crucial as well.
Edited to add: A FB friend posted this short, clear, excellent piece revealing just how hideous Columbus was and how nauseating it is to have a public holiday--or any honor at all, especially from Christians/Catholics. Please do read it.