Denver, CO -- Oct. 7 - 10, 2005

Resisting from the four directions through prayer and activism

DENVER - As dusk gave way to a full moon, 80-year-old Yank Badhand led the march from the south, carrying the banner of the American Indian Movement, as thousands marched in from the four directions carrying the flags of black, red, yellow and white.

To the sounds of the American Indians’ Four Winds drum and the Danzantes Aztec dancers’ drums, people of all races, from all walks of life, converged at the site of four fires burning, many carrying candles in the night and chanting for an end to Columbus Day.

It was the night before the Transform Columbus Day rally and it was a time for prayers and honoring cultures at the Four Directions March.

When the Four Directions March culminated in Cuernavaca Park, Glenn Morris, co-founder of the event, said, "I can’t see the end of this crowd here. It looks beautiful here.

"We do not have to celebrate killers; we do not have to celebrate genocide. This is a movement to liberate Denver from the legacy of Columbus and to liberate it from Colum-Bush," Morris told the cheering crowd.

Robert Cross, Lakota, offered prayers for the marchers and told the gathering it was important because of the children. This is the message that the spirit told him in ceremony.

"The spirit said, ‘You are living in your children’s past.’ In order for your children to move into the future, you must assure them that you at least tried," Cross said.

Cross said when he was young and attending school on Pine Ridge, he was never told the truth about his peoples’ history. "It was never about me or my people, it was always about the other side."

Although Cross leads ceremonies, he said, "I consider myself a scout, someone to clear a path. I need to make sure I didn’t leave a way for the enemy to get in." He said he comes from a long line of scouts, his peoples’ traditional name is "Has White Face Horse."

Lakota elder Wallace Black Elk and Columbine massacre survivor Richard Castaldo from Littleton, both traveling in wheelchairs, were joined by Indian leaders and activists including Charles Bear Robe, Kenny Frost, Russell Means, and JoAnn Tall.

Uniting with American Indians, Peace Jam and the Red Earth Women’s Movement, Denver City Councilman Michael Hancock spoke to the gathering, assuring them of his allegiance to abolish Columbus Day. He said his values did not end when he was elected to the city council.

"What is in our hearts is true, it is correct and it is time," Hancock said, pressing for friends in the state legislature to draft a bill to do away with Columbus Day.

Attorney Kathleen Cleaver, former Black Panther and Afro-American activist, young poets from the Ambassadors of Hope, Raging Grannies of Denver, Boricua Poet Sommer Peers and activist Nita Gonzales were among those joining the united effort against the celebration of Columbus and the racism and genocide he represents to indigenous peoples.

Leading the marches as he has done in past years, Badhand said Columbus promoted slavery and the torture of American Indians.

"Indians discovered Columbus; it wasn’t the other way around."

The next morning, Badhand again led a protest march from a local college campus to the downtown capitol for the daylong Transform Columbus Day protests and rally on the steps of the capitol.

During the gathering on campus, Ben Kaufman, a local high school student, read his essay questioning why Columbus was allowed to rape women and chop off the noses of Indian people.

Pointing out that Columbus kept a journal about watching Native people screaming as they were "broiled on a grill," Kaufman said, "Columbus was the first American terrorist."

Russell Means said when a delegation met with the Denver mayor, a large police presence was promised. Means told him, "We have power because we are non-violent."

"Today is our last effort to get parade organizers to exhibit some kind of humanity and common sense," Means said as protesters gathered on the morning of Oct. 11.

Means said the nucleus gathered would abolish Columbus Day and its hate speech. In its place, they would create a cultural gathering of "All Nations."

Ward Churchill said the ancestors tortured by Columbus were here; those whose heads were used for kickball near the World Trade Center in Manhattan were here; those whose scalps were taken for bounty in every state were here; those who died from the small pox on blankets were here.

"They will be with us," Churchill said.

Churchill said the approach would be different next year if the Columbus Day parade again rolled down the streets of Denver.

"The fire next time. It is a matter of vision; it is a matter of respect."

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