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”