Columbus Day? No Way!

Growing up, I loved long weekends. I think most kids (and adults) do. Any reason to get off school was a good reason to me. “Oh the President was shot? Do I have to go to school?” “We’re going to war? That means I can stay home, right?

It wasn’t until my 4th year of college that I realized the school systems had been lying to us about one of our national holidays, Columbus Day. The only thing that we were taught as kids was that Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered America in 1492. That’s basically the reason for the holiday–that he discovered America. We owe our existence to him. This is a lie. Here are some snip-its from an essay that I wrote about the situation at hand:

The horrifying reality of Christopher Columbus’ legacy is rarely focused on in present day America. Americans celebrate Columbus Day with holidays, parades, erecting statues, etc, as they blindly commemorate a man who committed genocide on indigenous tribes of North America. Not only did Columbus not discover America, he also abused, tortured, raped, and killed the Lucayan, Taino, and Arawak tribes. Perhaps the most disturbing piece of information about Columbus’ destruction is that he recalled the native people as “handsome, smart and kind people…they offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no[2]”.

Currently, 80% of American high school text books characterize Columbus in a positive light (e.g. described as a brave explorer, positive influence on America), while only 20% shed light on the capture of the native people and their eventual displacement into slave trade. Movements such as AIM*, The Transform Columbus Day Alliance, and many Indian Resistance groups in South America are spreading the truth about Columbus and his legacy. These movements aim to destroy all beliefs that Columbus rightly discovered America and civilized a people with the “superiority of European values and institutions[3]”.

*The American Indian Movement, commonly referred to as AIM, has been one of the few leaders of a campaign discouraging the celebration of the national United States holiday. AIM activists argue that “Indian people remain at the bottom of every socioeconomic indicator…under continuing physical attack, and afforded the least access to economic, political, or legal redress[1]”.

It’s easy to turn a blind eye to this information. It almost seems un-American to acknowledge it. The truth is that Columbus helped perpetuate and form the beginning of slave trade and genocide of indigenous peoples. Would we honor him is he was alive today? Definitely not.

Columbus’ priest that he brought with him, Bartolome De Las Casas, wrote this in his diary after he had witnessed what Columbus and his men had done: “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel…my eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write[4]”.

[1] Morris, G.and R. Means, “Why AIM opposes Columbus Day and Columbus Day Parades.

[2] Kasum, E. (2010) “Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery”.

[3] Morris, G. and R. Means, “Why AIM opposes Columbus Day and Columbus Day Parades.

[4] Kasum, E. (2010) “Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery”


52 thoughts on “Columbus Day? No Way!

  1. A small price to pay for a 3-day weekend.

    You can say the same about any organization that conquers somewhere new. The Conquistadors, the Catholic Church, the Crusades, the British everywhere they went around, and so forth. And you can still find things wrong in the places they did conquer. Not saying it’s fact based, but the movie Apocalypto kind of has a message there at the end. These tribal people spend so much time fighting each other when there’s someone else out there even more powerful to kill them off in an instant. I’m sure if there is ever contact with an alien race the same thing is going to happen and we better hope we’re the invaders and not the ones getting wiped out.

    • Hah true.

      Yeah I mean, there has always been fighting and conquering and there probably always will be. I just think the way that Columbus went about it was so wrong. He could’ve been accepting and kind, but he chose to go the normal route that all the others went (the Conquistadors, the catholic church, etc.). We don’t celebrate any of them, right? So we probably shouldn’t celebrate someone who did horrible things regardless.

      I thought we had an unspoken agreement that you just agree with everything I say.

  2. History is the tale of the winners. And unfortunately, who we think of as the right people rarely win. Most holidays are celebrated for rather odd reasons, if you get right down to it. Here in England we have Guy Fawkes day, a day where we celebrate the fact that a Catholic guy was burnt to death on a stake. Yeah.

    Oddly enough, as I read your article I was reminded of the Simpsons episode where Lisa discovered the man they celebrated as Springfield’s founder was a fake and a fraud. I suppose that going back in history and looking at the roots of many traditions is a bit like that.

    • Yeah definitely. It just shocked me so much. I actually studied in England, and found this information out when I was across the pond! I thought I knew all about my country but I was so surprised and upset by these facts.
      But you’re right. The reason behind so many holidays don’t seem like good reasons to celebrate now. Yeah, it’s exactly like the Simpsons! Perhaps the Simpsons should be taught in school rather than the history that they’ve been teaching us!

  3. ZZ says:

    Yeah, from the perspective of 20th century hindsight, it’s pretty easy to judge, but Columbus was a product of his time and it’s unlikely that any other European would have acted differently, not in the long term.

    Plus, even if some other guy had come over and acted really compassionate and diplomatic, the end result would be similar. Most native American populations were wiped out by European disease rather than violence. They did’t know about germs then.

    • Yeah of course. But instead of assuming that someone else would’ve done the same and accept it, shouldn’t we stop pretending that it’s okay? We don’t celebrate Hitler even though someone else could’ve done the same thing as him. They did horrible things that shouldn’t be overlooked or forgiven.

      That’s true, but there was also an immense amount of violence that, if it had happened to Caucasians, wouldn’t be ignored.

  4. Excellent, Lily. Why, with this knowledge, isn’t anything being done to put an end to Columbus Day? I think it should be changed to Lucayan, Taino, and Arawak Day. It’s such an absolute horror that we continue to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to this abominable man. Blech….!

    • I agree! The other movements are trying to make Indigenous People’s Day happen which would be a great thing. But I don’t see any progress being made. 😦

  5. Reblogged this on A Gripping Life and commented:
    Let’s all join together to make our feelings known about this abomination of a “holiday.” It sickens me that we still, with our extensive knowledge of what happened, “celebrate” this day. Do what you can to tell people about what went down and set the record straight.

  6. Addie says:

    It’s an abomination Europeans took over this country by befriending the native Americans, then, gifted them with pox ridden blankets and introduced them to the joys of liquor. What was done here is shameful. What continues to happen to the Native Americans remains shameful. It’s as if we (representing those Europeans, etc) said, “Tell you what–we’ll take alllllll this land with streams and rivers and green grass and, in return, we’ll give you disease and 3 million acres of unusable kitty litter to live on, okay?”

    Well written, Lily.

    Happy Day Late Birthday!

    • Totes. It’s really sad. And I don’t get sad usually. But I have a real soft spot for people who have been abused for no reason. Sad times.
      Lol…see how nicely I wrote for my professors? Too bad I don’t remember how to write like that anymore…! Thanks Addie! It was a good day! 🙂

    • Yeah! It’s so stupid that we recognize him for discovering America when he didn’t even make it! So dumb. Glad you like the subject as much as I do!

  7. We can also add Thomas Edison to the list of people who we celebrate but in real life were absolute douches. He flagrantly stole most of the inventions he is most famous for. I just called Edison an Columbus douches. My 4th grade teacher would be so proud.

    • Ooo I didn’t know that! That’s interesting. I’ll have to do some research on that! Thanks Emily! Lol they totally are lying douches. For reals.

  8. We probably celebrate lots of people who don’t deserve it, wtf! I never liked history class, I felt I was being told lots of lies. 😦

    Did your birthday pass already? If so or if not, either way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! 😆

  9. Well said!! Since I could read and think, I’ve been angry at those people killing all the Indians. It’s such a sad thing that they threw away such a culture, such a way of life as they had. We could have been smarter if we only had listened to them… And seeing the fact that he described those people as really friendly is so sad…
    Damn assholes.

    • Thanks girl! Yeah it’s always been something that made me sad, but I couldn’t believe that we were celebrating someone who helped start these bad actions. I know! The descriptions of the people being kind is the saddest part for sure! 😦

  10. I am so thankful that you shared this with everyone, it is so interesting to see the ‘flipside’ of various historical curiosities. More often than not the type of History taught in schools the world over is ‘winner’s history’- taught from the perspective of those who prevailed, in a terribly positive light- Columbus being a case-in-point; Harry Truman dropping the atomic bomb another. Hundreds of thousands of people killed in under a minute is easily forgotten when he ‘won the war’.

    Oh God, sorry. I’ll stop myself before a rant comes spilling forth 😉

    • Glad you enjoyed it! I think it’s a very interesting side, and a very true one. It makes me sad that we hold these historic characters in such a happy light when they did such awful things.
      Haha no I love your rant! You’re passionate about the subject! 😀

  11. Bart Thomassen says:

    History is an interesting thing. Though Colombus was not a saint, he was a remarkable man and when we look at the totality of his life and its legacy, objectively the world is a far better place because of his discovery and voyages. I use the word discovery in its true sense, ie. to find out and publish. Certainly other Europeans had gone to the Americas, and natives of course knew something but neither group nor individual encapsulated the totality of the geography to the world until Colombus. The Vikings came and were obliterated, tribes came and went but to what end? Discovery is the correct term for Colombus. One should also remember that he made multiple voyages. He did not stop with the Caribbean.

    Though admittedly the Spanish were often extremely cruel they were largely out done by the natives they encountered. Contrary to the popular myth of today, the native peoples who inhabited the Americas were not peace loving nature worshippers but folk who lived and breathed battle. The great civilizations in Central and South America, (the Aztecs, Mayans, and Inca) thrived on human sacrifice and torture; and their priests literally clothed themsleves in the skins of the sacrificed. Blood painted inner chambers and mounds of skulls with as many as 20,000 human sacrifices in a single day in Tenochtitlan. In North America we similar practices. Slavery was endemic throughout and life was nasty,brutish and above short. All of these civilizations were destroyed by germs not by European aggression and violence, though there was no shortage of the latter admittedly.

    Had Columbus not come how would the world be today? Better? That is highly doubtful. Colombus was not Ghandi but neither was he Hitler. He was a man of his time who saw no contradiction between God’s will, slavery battle and enforcing the law. His was a time of good v. evil. Remember, 1492 was the year the Reconquista finally ended. A 700 year struggle with Islam terminated with the surrender of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella. The Spanish mindset was not one of turn the other cheek. Given all of this, I think it unjust to condemn Colombus as a monster. I celebrate the man as a flawed human who did great things and celebrate the day for what has come from it. The birth of democracy, liberty, mass prosperity and ultimately hope.

    • The aim of this post was not to discredit Columbus’ persistence as a discoverer, only that it is interesting that his glory is widely discussed but his shameful behavior during said discovery is rarely mentioned. I understand that life during the 15th century was nasty, brutish and short in comparison to modern day life both for the First Nations of the Americas and the conquesting Europeans. The story of Columbus’ discovery should be told alongside the cost of his conquest rather than sugar coating something that was anything but sweet.
      Also, the people that he took advantage of didn’t thrive on torture and sacrifice. Columbus himself wrote of how sweet the people were that he came to meet in the Caribbean. Not all tribes were brutal. And not all Europeans enslaved nations.

      • Bart Thomassen says:

        I concur history should be taught in its entirety but the value judgments one places, often selectively and on people and cultures hundreds or thousands of years past seems less than correct. The native peoples inhabiting the Islands were stone age people and no they were not known for human sacrifice, that is true but they were not pacifists. The Taino had conquered and subdued the Islands in the past and when Columbus arrived, the Caribs were in the process of doing the same thing. Further, the Caribs were reported as being cannibals and were very war like. Whether they actually did eat human flesh and for what purpose is highly debated.

        And yes all European nations (the whole world in fact) did enslave nations at some point in their histories. During the two great periods of European expansion and colonization vast numbers of nations and people were enslaved or indentured by all the exploring nations. From serfdom in the east to the black African slave trade and native American slavery in the Americas, to the de-facto slavery extant up to the French Revolution and Napoleon in Europe, every body was involved in slavery.

  12. Columbus was a horrible guy. I also remember reading in one of my kids 5th grade history books how Pizarro went around “collecting” the gold. (They conveniently left out the part where he skinned people alive if they didn’t cough up!) I remember reading once a book that had excepts of different diaries of women who came out west. And this one woman wrote about how when they got to the Columbia river, the indians who lived there literally carried the men, women and children across this marshy area, that they would have never been able to get through on their own. Our forefathers need to hang their heads in shame the way they treated the Indians. They certainly weren’t as noble as history has made them out to be.

    • He was indeed! Yes! I remember learning about Pizarro as well! Those damn conquistadors! That’s such a sweet story abut the indians carrying those people. It made me feel shocked and depressed to know the truth about what happened. You said it, Linda.

      • Linda Vernon says:

        I know, that kind act of those Indians really stuck with me. I can’t remember the name of the book, darn. Your post has made me want to read it again.

        Just had a thought . . . who does Canada think discovered them?

      • Oooh that’s a good question! Umm err…I don’t know! I know that Vancouver was named after Captain Vancouver, so I’m just going to assume each city was discovered by a different explorer of that name. Ex. Captain Toronto, Captain Montreal, Captain Yukon….etc. Makes sense, right?! Lots of captains…

  13. Mostly I’m just appalled that a scumbag like Columbus has a day that interrupts what is the otherwise phenomenal “Month of Lily.” Now THAT is nervy. In fact, when I’m done writing this comment, I’m going to go write my congressman… because I know all about hope and change. And if not, I’m hopeful that my congressman will at least recycle my letter.

    • Best comment award goes to YOU! I am appalled as well. How dare dead Columbus take away from the beauty that is the Month of Lily? Is there a way to bring him back from the dead just so we can kill him again? You write the letter, I’ll start finding weapons.

      • Love and Lunchmeat says:

        You bring people back to life just to kill them again? I’m a little scared of you now… The bureaucratic method I was proposing was going to be very clean and ascetic.

        No judgement though. I’m sure he’s killed thousands more than you have…

  14. Le Clown says:

    Your piece made me think… The real people/actions behind a holiday, and as Emily said, celebrating douches… This is where Le Clown will not divulge his birthday….
    Le Clown

    • Lily says:

      Haha divulge your birthday all you like! I will fully celebrate.
      Yeah, it’s sad to know that my country is celebrating a man who didn’t do a lot of good. In fact, he did a lot of bad. But that’s not what we’re taught. Hmm.
      Glad it made you think! Thanks for stopping by!

  15. arkenaten says:

    Found you over on Colonialist’s blog.
    It has always amused me how credit for discovery has always gone to ‘Explorers’, in the Columbus, Dias, Livingstone vein. The hoopla and hoorah and riches bestowed upon these limited few is quite astounding. I mean, it’s not as if there were no indigenous folk there all along.
    But then, merely living there, never counted, did it? 🙂

    • Hello! Your comment went into my spam for some reason and only saw it now! I totally know what you mean. It’s crazy that these explorers get showered with all the credit. Surely other people were brave enough and perhaps not as thieving and conniving as them that could’ve discovered land better? Hmm…

  16. Pingback: Thanksgiving (Canadian Style) « Lily In Canada

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