Utah District Court closed to remember ‘founder of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade’

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WEST JORDAN, Utah -- Columbus Day is meant to commemorate when Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in October of 1492.

But the holiday has stirred up debate in the past.

While known for his discovery, Columbus is also recognized for establishing a route between Europe and the Americas, which led to slavery and colonization.

On Monday, an unnamed Utah District Court employee pointed out the controversy in the holiday, with a voicemail recording that some didn’t find so funny.

If you called the jury duty line for the 3rd District court of West Jordan, a recording explained, “In honor of Christopher Columbus, the founder of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, court will be closed on Monday, the 13th of October.”

A spokeswoman for the Utah State Courts said the court executive for the district was notified of the message Tuesday morning, and it is believed that an employee was acting on their own volition when they left it.

“The matter is being investigated and appropriate action will be taken. We apologize to those who may have been offended by the message and assure the public it does not represent how the court does business,” said court communications director, Nancy Volmer.

But the message got a different response from one member of Utah’s Native American community.

“I would add to it not only the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, but also the slave trade here in America,” said Lamar Spotted Elk, vice principal at Jackson Elementary School in Rose Park.

As a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, for him, the holiday does not accurately convey the day’s controversial past to students in the future.

“I think there is a cognitive dissonance that occurs in our society when we heroify him, when we have a celebration,” said Spotted Elk.  “In America, where a big value is justice and truth, and when we don’t consider what Columbus has done and we don’t consider the impact and the actual actions that he did, I think it does a big disservice not only to our students and our schools, but also to the public.”

While Volmer said West Jordan’s line was the only one with such a message, Spotted Elk believes it’s an important message for people to hear.

“I think it provides a good context to talk about something,” he said. “I think there’s some validation and some affirmation for American Indians to hear someone understand.”


  • bob

    By the same logic liberal Democrat Woodrow Wilson is responsible for the Holocaust. (Signed the Treaty of Versailles.)

    Liberals are idiots. Columbus did what he did to find a trade route to China, not “slaves.”

    Are we also going to blame the Vikings for “slavery”? They got here before Columbus did.

    As for what happened to indigenous Americans, I hereby blame Global Climate Change for exposing the Bering Land Bridge and allowing people from Asia to cross over in the first place. (See? I can’t think like an idiot too.)

    • Steven Briggs

      Hey, umm, Bob? His original intentions don’t matter; what he DID matters.
      By your logic, so long as you didn’t intend to beat your wife, then it’s not something anybody should care about.

    • Kyle C Fleish

      Bob, you should probably actually look into what Columbus did, rather than his initial goals. You are correct, blaming global warming for allowing access to North America, rather than the people who actually committed the atrocious acts IS thinking like an idiot. Your ridiculous arguments lead me to believe that you won’t even attempt to find facts about what Columbus did, but just in case, here’s a quick reference: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day

      It may be a cartoon, but what’s in it is factual; plus, you seem like the type more eager to read a cartoon for information.

    • Bob

      If you’re looking for a rational argument don’t expect it from Steven or Kyle. They still believe in the global warming farce.

      • Kyle C Fleish

        Way to address the topic, Bob. It’s nice to know that I have somebody I can talk to (i.e. you) when I want to discuss the benefits of raping, mutilating, and killing people for money.

      • Bob

        Raping, mutilating, and killing people for money Kyle? And you’re trying to link it with Columbus? No wonder people don’t take you seriously.

      • Kyle C Fleish

        LOL. It appears that the only thing Bob knows about Columbus is what he learned in elementary school.

    • Kyle C Fleish

      From the link above: “Columbus’s gold exports [from the Bahamas] also resulted in the paralysis of the gold economy of the Gold Coast in Africa. This led to the rise of African slaves as the dominant commodity in that region, which inadvertently makes Columbus the father of the transatlantic slave trade.” You should totally read how he was able to acquire so much gold from the Bahamas. The argument isn’t “He found America, so he’s responsible.” Try educating yourself.

      • bob

        You’re right. The argument is that, because Columbus’s voyages led to a shift in gold production, the innocent Africans were FORCED to sell each other to Europeans.

        An argument that only a liberal could twist to make it the fault of Columbus.

        You can go to Mauritania right now, today, and buy a black slave from blacks….at the same slave markets where Europeans bought them centuries ago. Please explain how that’s the fault of white people.

      • Kyle C Fleish

        Yea, it was innocent Africans selling each other to Europeans. You’re pretty good at this history stuff, aren’tcha?

  • Unomancrimewave@hotmail.com

    It was appropriate coming from Utah courts. Everyone with the misfortune of having to deal with Utah courts, for they will be second class citizens for the rest of their life no matter what they try to do to make it better it won’t. Once you get a record you are a slave.

    • Stuart McDonald

      Behave yourself Unomancrimewave, don’t get a criminal record, and let some other fool deal with the consequences of their actions.

  • Mike

    Spotted Elk, you are entitled to your opinion, and yes the native American has been treated very poorly. However, were it not for European discovery of the new world, colonization and expansion to the Pacific, do you realize how your life would be? You would not be running a school, you would not have a fairly stable easy life. No, you would be hunting and gathering, fighting other tribes and wondering if you will find food for your next meal. Get hurt or sick, best you have is the shaman, medicine man, whatever you call them. Chants, smoke, dances may be some primitive medicine, but that is it. Would the native American have ever invented housing as we know it, transportation as we know it, schools or health care as we know it? Who knows, but in all probability the answer is no. Again, their life was so harsh that their energies were primarily devoted to survival.
    Bad things were done by people of all colors across this planet throughout history and continue today. Heroes of one ethnic group or racial group are the perpetrators of genocide to others. If God, or whatever supreme force you believe in, wanted us to live in harmony we would not have been instilled with a desire to explore, we would all look alike, etc. With frail and failed human nature involved, the mixing of ethnic groups or races does not produce a homogenized result. Just look at how our false belief in America being the world’s melting pot is in reality. It will be hundreds of years if ever that we ever truly become one people. To do so, we are going to have to remember our pasts in order not to repeat the errors, but we will also have to forgive and move on.

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