There's more than one way to look at the historic legacy of Christopher Columbus, students in a class offered by Haskell Indian Junior College were told Tuesday night.
About 20 Haskell and Kansas University students, KU researchers, and Lawrence and Topeka residents were present for the first meeting of the class, called "The Columbian Legacy," in Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.
The Columbian Legacy, which will focus on alternative viewpoints on Christopher Columbus and his impact on the ecology and people in the Americas and Europe, is believed to be only the second time Haskell classes have been offered to non-Native Americans, said Hannes Combest, educational assistant to the Haskell president.
COMBEST SAID the first such classes were held in Palm Springs, Calif., last summer, after the Haskell Board of Regents approved offering extension classes for non-Native Americans last spring.
The Columbian Legacy, which coincides with the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the Americas, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday nights through April in the Mayflower Room at the church.
Students will be required to read selected passages about Columbus and interpretations of his legacy. Class discussions will comprise a large part of the class, said Dan Wildcat, one of four Haskell instructors for the course.
He said people still have a chance to enroll in the class when it next meets Tuesday. Those enrolling will receive transferrable college credit. The fee for the class is $180.
In addition to Wildcat, the class will be taught by Haskell instructors Rob Daugherty, Ray Farve and Venita Chenault-White.
ON TUESDAY, Wildcat gave an overview of the class, saying "I guess it's going to be what I might call . . . a balancing of the historical perspective."
Wildcat said that when students leave the class, they hopefully will have a better understanding of Columbus' impact on the native people and ecology of North America.
"I hope that you will have a different perspective," he said.
Wildcat said instructors would attempt to dispel myths about Columbus that have been taught through a Eurocentric historical view.
"But I don't want to replace a Eurocentric view with a Nativecentric . . . or any other kind of centric view," he said. "The point is to talk about different interpretations."
Wildcat said Columbus' landing in the Americas traditionally has been seen as a positive event by Europeans and as detrimental for native people.
"IF YOU think about it as an exchange, let's look at what was exchanged," he said.
Wildcat said Columbus returned to Europe with food such as beans, corn, potatoes and squash; gold and slaves.
In return, he said, Columbus and other Europeans brought devastating diseases, political oppression and religious intolerance.
Wildcat said it was important for non-Native Americans to overcome a sense of guilt.
"We need not feel guilty . . . if we raise our consciousness to some of these issues that are still around today," he said.