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American Indians to protest Columbus

While many people will be honoring Christopher Columbus and the discovery of the North American continent, American Indian groups will be protesting the 500th anniversary of the discovery.

The American Indian Issues and Action Committee, dedicated to raising awareness of the issues confronting American Indians, is kicking off a boycott of the merchants from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at The Pier in St. Petersburg, in hopes of getting the statue of Columbus removed from the entrance to The Pier approach.

The group's protest will come just two days after the Native People's Information Exchange holds a rally to protest Columbus' anniversary.

"We consider it a conflict of church and state," said Darryl Barking Dog, an Ojibway and local committee co-director. "The statue was donated by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, and it is standing on city land. We think it's offensive, and the Knights of Columbus should take it off The Pier and put it on their own land."

The boycott is supported by the American Indian Anti-Defamation Council, a national organization headed by activist Russell Means, who is leading a protest at the Columbus Day parade in Denver, the home of the original Columbus Day celebration in the United States.

Three Eagle Cloud, a Taino Indian originally from Puerto Rico, is building a gallows that will be set up near the statue.

"The statue is offensive to us," said Eagle Cloud. "It represents the devastation Columbus inflicted on our people and the environment.

"I have written all the people on The Pier, the Chamber of Commerce, city of St. Petersburg, the Knights of Columbus and the NAACP."

The group hopes to continue the boycott until the city removes the statue of Columbus.