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Honoring Christopher Columbus Today? Not So Fast…

It is way past time to change “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”

We were taught in elementary school that Christopher Columbus “discovered America” in 1492, and therefore, we should be so grateful that we should give him with his own “day” every 2nd Monday of October, closing government offices and having 50% off sales in his honor.

There is a growing movement in many states, however, to change the official holiday from “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”, to honor the many nations and cultures who were already on this continent and hemisphere before the Europeans arrived, and to remind people of the atrocities committed by Christopher Columbus during his four voyages here, when he at first thought he landed in India. And in case you didn’t know, he never reached the mainland United States.

IndigenousPeopleMap

Changing the holiday to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” starts to make a lot of sense when you learn the history after America was “discovered.” One of the first things to notice is how Columbus portrayed the natives in his journal. He described the friendly indigenous population as aggressive, and even as cannibals who drank the blood of their victims. Certainly, not a good payback for those who helped him and his men settle in a completely unknown land for them.

columbusNow that we started talking about his crew, there are a couple more of things people should know. First of all, can you imagine what kind of people decided to leave their home and family to embark on an adventure in a time where they believed the earth was flat? People who had nothing to lose for sure. A big part of Columbus’ crew were criminals running away from authorities, people with no moral standards or principles. It is not hard to image what happened next. Pillaging, raping, enslavement, and slaughtering were just some of the atrocities that the natives saw and lived through after Columbus and his crew arrived. Without any kind of control, government, or authorities in the new land, Columbus ruled at his pleasure.

As cruelty against natives started to become somewhat normal, Columbus started to have several detractors. News of the atrocities committed by him and his men along with his mismanagement of the island’s resources created enough outrage that in 1500, he was removed as governor, arrested, and transported in chains to Spain. But there is no happy ending, Columbus wasn’t punished, he didn’t pay for what he did. King Ferdinand liked Columbus so much, that he not only pardoned him but funded his fourth voyage.

After almost eradicating the indigenous population in different areas of the American Continent, Columbus also established a precedent for centuries of raping and pillaging by other European colonists. 

Does celebrating genocide sound right? No, it doesn’t. People shouldn’t celebrate that America was discovered, people should honor those who lost their homes, traditions, and lives. 

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