Kevin Gover, Pawnee, began his TEDx Talk with the Christopher Columbus song “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
“When you’re in elementary school, you don’t question what you’re learning, you assume the teacher knows everything,” he says. “So I know that Columbus discovered America in 1492.”
The Columbus myth is one of our “origin stories” he says, pointing out that a large painting of the discovery hangs in our nation’s capital. That painting hangs about 400 yards from where he works as the director of the National Museum of the American Indian.
“Think about how powerful that notion is, that Columbus discovered America. There was nothing here, there was nobody here until Columbus arrived,” he tells the crowd.
Gover goes on to discuss the First Thanksgiving myth and how Squanto learned English. The real Thanksgiving story continues about 50 years after that First Thanksgiving. “About 50 years later, there were new generations of Pilgrims, new generations of Wampanoags, and the Wampanoags had sold so much of their land to the Pilgrims that they had fallen into poverty themselves. And they lashed out, and there was a great conflagration known as King Philip’s War,” he says. “King Philip’s Warwas perhaps the most devastating war in the entire history of North America in terms of the percentage of people who were killed in this conflict. The tribes of New England were virtually wiped out. Those that weren’t wiped out were confined and no longer the powers they had once been.”