When You Ask Italians to Give Up Columbus

From the July/August 2018 PNL #861

by Jack P. Mann

Island people (Sicilians, Irish) are vulnerable to looters, conquerors,

Storms, imperial schemes, thugs.

Its an old story for our people; it breaks our heart

And compromises our integrity, more; our souls.


When you ask Italians to give up Columbus

You need to know how we lost our soil and our souls.

We were tough people: small in stature and bent by work and the fear

Of the padrones, the landowners,

and their Mafioso who kept us all in check by terror.


A very long time ago the Roman empire went on a conquering spree

(It’s always the empires and their want-to-be’s)

against Native Italians (Sicels, Elymians, Apuani, Ligurians, Celts and many more).

In order to survive, we made a desperate pact with the empire’s thugs.

Let my child live, let me take care of my family, our land, I won’t ask much more.

I’ll forget. I’ll pray.


For a long time, Italians of the south, Calabrese, Siciliani

managed as farmworkers and fishermen, paying “protection” to stay alive.

Crop failure, diseases, land grabs and globalization put them over the edge.

Millions left for America. They were not often welcomed.

Most shunned them, even the unions. They came poor and would stay poor unless:


They organized. One such effort became The Knights of Columbus;

a mutual aid society; A form of health and life insurance for the poor.

It was started by An Irish priest, the eldest of 13 children, 6 who had died in infancy

or childhood, a father whose illness and death left them paupers.

The Knights of Columbus took its name in the 19th century when Non-Native

Americans bought the lie that Columbus was a brave and brilliant hero

and Italians said, “look, he’s one of us,”

We saw it as an entryway into the American dream.  To becoming fully “White.” 


Which eventually meant: losing awareness, compromising our intelligence,

Denying the Holocaust on this Land, Ignoring Columbus the rapist who set it off,

Forgetting our connection to the earth and each other. And to the Creator.

Joining a global catastrophe rampantly destroying the only home we have together.

NO!  Let us Remember.


Let us celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day together

Let us break bread: Fry Bread and Pizza Frite.

Let us look at the Columbus Legacy with a good mind and a healing heart

Let us share our stories of oppression and resistance.

Let us remember the Peacemaker and Francis of Assisi.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Elder Brother Sun, Grandmother Moon.



Jack is a long-time SPC member, especially with Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, and a poet and maker of blessings. He is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Studies at SUNY ESF and the author of Arming the Heavens, the Hidden Military Agenda in Space; Privileged Goods: Commoditization and Its impact on Environment and Society; and co-author of Ending the Fossil Era.