With this narrative structure, the reader of both the poem continuously understands the story from the point of view of the American Indian and is thus forced to a new political understanding of the popular American holiday known as Columbus Day.
Armstrong’s “The History Lesson” is presented from an omniscient point of view, giving the reader a sense of intimate knowledge and detached perspective as if watching a movie from the top of the sky. “Out of the belly of Christopher’s ship / a mob bursts” (Armstrong, 1-2). The sense that the image is being presented metaphorically is conveyed as this mob goes “Running in all directions / Pulling furs off animals / Shooting buffalo / Shooting each other / left and right” (Armstrong, 3-7). There were not enough men on Columbus’ ships to have accomplished this, nor did they spend enough time in the new world to have participated in much of this, but through Columbus’ ships the Europeans determined to conquer and claim this pristine paradise. The bare facts of events are presented, but given a new viewpoint, the viewpoint of what can be seen without an understanding of capitalist commerce. “Between the snap crackle pop / of smoke stacks / and multi-colored rivers / swelling with flower powered zee / are farmers sowing skulls and bones / and miners / pulling from gaping holes / green paper faces / of smiling English lady” (Armstrong, 21-29). From this detached, otherworldly narrative perspective, the activities of these small people, openly and avidly destroying the very structure upon which they depend is utterly baffling to the reader thus removed.
This poem provides an unmistakable Native American viewpoint. Armstrong provides several inferences to the fact that she is speaking from an Indian perspective. More than just the characterizations of the men who come from Columbus’ ships, the narrator of the