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America’s Indians Plan Protests to Mark Catastrophic Clash of Cultures With AM-Columbus Voyage

October 13, 1991

QUETZALTENANGO, Guatemala (AP) _ Sarah James will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to America by giving up electricity, speaking only her native Indian language and memorizing her family’s oral history.

″For at least one week, I want everything to be like it was before (Columbus) came,″ said James, who lives in Arctic Village, a town of 150 Indians in Alaska.

She was one of some 500 native Americans and guests who met here last week to organize protests over the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival.

James, 47, says the Europeans brought diseases and settlers who took Indian land. She says the diseases and attacks on Indians have reduced her Gwichin tribe, 100,000-strong when Columbus arrived, to 7,000 today.

″I can never forgive what happened to my people,″ she said. ″People say we should celebrate science and culture. But we had these things before Columbus got here.″

James battles what she calls the ″Anglo invasion″ by opposing oil and gas development on caribou breeding grounds in northeast Alaska. She said the quincentennial celebrations show that white people ″are still in control″ of Indians.

Indian protests include a weeklong labor strike throughout the Americas as well as protest marches wherever replicas of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria come to port. Spain launched the replicas Sunday on their voyage westward.

″It is a disgrace,″ said Franklin Diaz, a delegate from the Dominican Republic. ″The money they are spending could take care of all the health care needs in my country.″

The native Americans gained support from black Americans at the meeting, who point out that Columbus’ explorations ushered in an era of slavery.

″We see ourselves as together with the indigenous people because we have both suffered equally from the effects of the invasion and colonialism,″ said Desmond Smith, an Anglican bishop from predominantly black Belize.

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